Housing News Roundup: December 17, 2015 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: December 17, 2015

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Community Solutions for Improved Longevity

Homelessness and violence can shorten individuals’ life spans by as much as 25 years, according to experts at a recent solutions-focused forum hosted by USA Today and Cigna. “Most of what makes you healthy does not occur in the doctor’s office. It occurs out in the community,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Community Solutions and Cure Violence are among the community organizations that employ creative approaches to address homelessness and violence. Through their efforts to connect homeless individuals with stable housing and their use of ex-offenders as part of a violence disruption strategy, these groups have addressed public health issues in Brooklyn, Chicago, New Orleans, and Hartford, Connecticut. Increased financial commitment and local involvement can help these approaches become lasting solutions.

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Source: USA Today

Can a Project's Income Mix Be a Fair Housing Violation?

The city of Pittsburgh and its planning commission, Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Sports & Exhibition Authority were named in a recent fair housing complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Hill District Consensus Group alleges that the redevelopment plan for the former Civic Arena site would exclude most of the city’s African American population. Although 20 percent of the development’s 1,200 units will be affordable, most of the affordable units are for households earning 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and none of the units will be targeted for those earning less than 60 percent of AMI. The group bases its argument on the fact that the median income for the city’s African American population is $20,946, about 40 percent of AMI.

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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In NYC, Adding Affordable Units Makes Market-Rate Housing Work

A new mixed-income rental development in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood will include apartments renting for as much as $50,000 per month and studios renting for as little as $800 per month. Including 22 rent-restricted apartments in the 106-unit building qualified the development for the city’s valuable 421-a tax break. “421-a is the only viable structure in which the industry can build rentals in New York City because of the real-estate taxes,” according to Bryan Cho, an executive vice president at the Related Companies. The property’s amenities will include a library, playroom, and fitness center. An analysis by the Independent Budget Office valued the property’s tax break at approximately $837,000 in forgone tax revenue per year. The program’s detractors argue that this is an inefficient way to create affordable housing.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

Severe Shortage of Accessible Rental Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Americans with disabilities are disproportionately feeling the effects of the rental housing shortage. Over 7 million renter households include an individual with a disability, according to analysis by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Researchers found that only 1 percent of the nation’s rental housing includes all five basic accessibility features: step-free entryways, single-floor layouts, wide doors and hallways, lever door handles, and lower-height electrical switches. The accessible housing shortage is most pronounced in the northeast, where most of the building stock is older. While modifications and design changes are technically feasible, implementation has been stymied by a lack of financial incentives and/or code requirements. Instead, the burden of making units accessible falls to persons with disabilities and their families.

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Source: CityLab

Study: Gentrification Can Benefit Existing Low-Income Residents

Gentrification can lead to public school improvements, crime reduction, and an uptick in locally-owned businesses, yet low-income residents may be price out before seeing these benefits. A new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia examined gentrifying neighborhoods in Philadelphia to learn about the impact on residents. Researchers found that low-income families move frequently, regardless of the neighborhood’s income mix. In gentrifying communities, however, families have more opportunities to improve their lives if they can identify a way to stay. “Big picture, the takeaway from the study is that there are benefits and risks associated with gentrification,” according to Eileen Divringi, a researcher with the Federal Reserve.

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Source: WHYY News

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