Housing News Roundup: August 19, 2015
Brookings Report Shows Mixed Results for Housing Vouchers
A recently study by Elizabeth Kneebone of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program analyzes the locations of housing voucher-holders between 2009 and 2013. Her research shows that voucher holders live in neighborhoods with 10 percent more poor residents and 21 percent more minority residents than average. However, these disparities tend to be starker in the formerly industrial parts of the Midwest, Northeast and South, while voucher holders in many regions in the West live in more economically integrated neighborhoods. Critics say vouchers are not as portable as they were designed to be, because many landlords do not accept them and residents have difficulty identifying more economically prosperous neighborhoods. However, statistics show that voucher holders do secure housing in neighborhoods with less concentrated poverty and more racial integration than people living in shelters, public housing or transitional housing.
Source: The Atlantic
Report: Compared to 1970s, First Time Home Buyers Rent for Twice as Long and Pay More for Homes
According to a report released this week by Zillow, most first-time home buyers purchase a home that costs 2.6 times their annual income, about 50 percent more than in the 1970s, when they bought homes priced at around 1.7 times their annual pay. Experts say the increase in relative cost is largely due to stagnant wages; while the median income for first time home buyers today is about the same as in the 1970s, the median cost of a first home is $140,000 while it was only $87,300 in the 1970s (adjusted for inflation). With larger down payments, and other competing bills like high rents and student loans, young people are having difficulty saving enough to put down on a first home. First time buyers are renting for an average of six years before buying a home–twice as long as they did in the 1970s.
Source: The Washington Post
Higher Density Proposed in Tacoma, WA
Despite the difficulty Seattle Mayor Ed Murray faced when he proposed a similar measure, neighboring Tacoma, Washington is considering a measure that would allow denser building in neighborhoods currently zoned for only single family homes. The city is currently considering changes to its comprehensive plan, of which the zoning change would be a part. The change would result in a wider variety of lot sizes, and result in smaller homes like detached in-law suites and cottages. An associate planner for Tacoma, Elliot Barnett, says “This can add a little bit of life to the street, a little bit of density, but also just a broader range of housing choices.” The city is looking to its older neighborhoods for guidance, which were built before current zoning rules and are marked by more variety.
Opinion: Housing Segregation Still a Major Issue
David Person argues that June’s Supreme Court Decision on disparate impact as well as regulatory changes to the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act by the U.S. Department of Housing and Development are sorely needed. Recent cases of housing discrimination as well as continued racial tensions underscore the fact that the issue is alive and well. For instance, Los Angeles County recently settled with the Department of Justice regarding charges that officials in 2008 created a plan to push black residents out of Antelope Valley. Person says racially discriminating ordinances from the early 20th century as well as blockbusting laid the groundwork for the segregation and concentrated poverty that exists today. Such discriminatory practices deprived the black population of critical wealth-building opportunities, much of which he believes is at the root of recent racial violence and protests.
Source: USA Today
HUD Inspector General Report Sparks Policy Changes
In response to criticism it has received in the wake of a scathing Inspector General report, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to remove tenants from public housing that earn more than the income requirements. An anonymous senior HUD official says, “It may be legally acceptable, but it is morally unacceptable for people who could pay market-rate rents to be in public housing.” The agency is reaching out to over 3,000 housing authorities and encouraging them to create policies that will evict over-income tenants. Saul Ramirez, CEO of national Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, views the criticism as a political attack from conservatives, and as an overreach by the Inspector General. Ramirez and other housing advocates believe higher income tenants are critical to keeping public housing from become isolated enclaves of poverty, and remind people that housing authorities can choose to charge over-income tenants higher rents.
Source: The Washington Post