Housing News Roundup: December 7, 2016 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: December 7, 2016

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California Nonprofit Addresses the Housing Crisis Faced by Farmworkers

Current and retired agricultural workers are among those struggling with a lack of affordable housing near farm communities. According to Dr. Marc Schenker of the University of California, Davis, “Many years ago, farm owners provided housing. That ended 20, 30 years ago, and the result is farmworkers are on their own to find housing. That situation, combined with low wages, results in poor housing conditions.” To address this housing crisis, Mutual Housing at Spring Lake provides 61 apartments and townhomes to 210 people who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income from agricultural work. Because of federal subsidies, eligibility is limited to those with current immigration documentation. The community at Spring Lake is slated to expand beyond its 100 planned apartments, as Mutual Housing is applying for funds to construct an additional 39 homes.

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Source: ABC 10

Lack of Housing Hinders Job Growth

Rising housing costs are slowing the job growth in San Francisco and the East Bay, according to Beacon Economics’ new estimates released on Monday. Beacon estimates that job growth in the East Bay will be 1 to 1.2 percentage points less in the coming year than the job growth figures reported from October 2015 to October 2016. This slowdown corresponds to the expected cooling of San Francisco’s rental market, as multifamily permitting is estimated to decline 18 to 24 percent. Single-family home price appreciation is also only expected to experience modest gains. Additionally, East Bay home prices are expected to increase 5.6 to 6.2 percent. According to Beacon, “The influx of highly educated professionals has been a primary driver of growth, but as the rising cost of living in the area chips away at wage advantages, net migration is expected to dramatically decline over the next few years.”

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Source: San Francisco Business Times

Dangerous, Illegal Living Arrangements Emerge from Lack of Affordable Housing

High housing costs push struggling artists into illegal living arrangements, such as the warehouse that recently caught fire in Oakland, California, killing many of its residents. While Oakland used to be an affordable alternative to high-cost San Francisco, rents increased 70 percent in five years, bringing the city’s median rent to $2,899. While middle-income workers may move out of the city, low-income groups, including emerging artists, may instead see little choice but to live in “industrial [properties], recreational vehicles, and even boats.” Thomas Dolan, an Oakland architect, describes the living arrangements of those in warehouses as “a kind of unholy alliance in which these buildings are leased with a ‘nod nod, wink wink, nobody lives there.’ It’s a precarious situation where tenants exchange cheap rent for substandard housing —and if they rock the boat, they’re out.” Complicating the situation further, if these warehouses are made legal living spaces and are brought up to code, their rents often explode, displacing the building’s residents. This trend toward illegal living arrangements for artists is also occurring in other high-cost cities, such as New York City and Seattle. Despite the dangers, those such as Josh Hershberger, a previously homeless tattoo artist and muralist who found housing at the warehouse that caught fire, describe, “This was my home. It was my foundation.”

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Source: The New York Times

Teacher Shortages and High Turnover Negatively Affect Low-Income Students Disproportionately

Many low-income students lack access to a steady, stable teacher and instead receive instruction from multiple substitute teachers with varying experience and knowledge.  Detroit Public Schools still needs to hire 135 teachers, or 5 percent of its total teaching staff, three months into the school year. With only 90 substitute teachers, principals and school staffers must fill the gap in staffing. But as Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary of civil rights at the US Department of Education, explains, “This is not an issue that we see in high-income communities. We know that we are shortchanging our kids and that it’s not a phenomenon that is equally borne across our school districts.” In 2012, the Obama administration began to require districts to track teacher absenteeism. The data confirm that teachers in high-poverty schools were absent more often than in low-poverty schools, but the data failed to account for “late hiring, midyear teacher turnover, or teachers missing from the classroom entirely.” Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute attributed this problem to low-income districts hiring inexperienced teachers who are not equipped to handle the problems associated with students in high-poverty schools. For instance, “many students come to school already behind academically and facing serious challenges in their lives, many of which are beyond a teacher’s control.” Additionally, budget cuts usually force districts to lay off inexperienced teachers first, which affects high-poverty schools more severely. The US Department of Education is attempting to address this problem by requiring schools to provide equitable to stable teachers, but according to David Sapp at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, “Until that gets…resolved, there’s only so much that can be done to close the achievement gap.”

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Source: The Washington Post

Freddie Mac Creates a Pilot Program to Match Impact Investors with Nonprofit Housing Providers

Freddie Mac is beginning a pilot program in the Twin Cities to increase equity available to nonprofit housing developers by connecting them with impact investors. Nonprofit housing providers may reduce the cost of affordable housing by acquiring “no-frills buildings” that, with slight renovations, can provide housing for low-income households. But private investors are more nimble competition for the same multifamily housing stock. While subsidies often require complex and time-consuming underwriting, Freddie Mac’s new program attempts to streamline the underwriting process, which attracts impact investors to these affordable housing projects. Cory Albert of Freddie Mac said, “We’re creating the infrastructure to help impact investors channel their capital.” This will allow nonprofits to expand their supply of housing and the services that nonprofits also provide their low-income clients. Brad German, also of Freddie Mac, explained, “We believe this effort could have real potential to attract more money from direct-impact investors for affordable housing preservation in communities across the country.”

 

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Source: StarTribune

New Bill Would “Ban the Box on Housing Applications” in Washington, DC

A bill that would require landlords to extend a conditional housing offer before asking about the applicant’s prior convictions has advanced out of committee in the Washington, DC, City Council. With 60,000 residents in the District having a criminal record and 8,000 more residents being released from correctional institutions each year, many housing applications could otherwise be quickly rejected, fueling housing instability. Under this bill, after a housing offer is extended, a landlord can inquire about convictions that would be pertinent to the tenancy, such as fraud, assault, and violent crimes. The landlord may rescind a housing offer if there is a “substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory” reason related to the applicant’s criminal history. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said of the bill, “Folks who have records are generally not given the same consideration in employment or housing. This is a very important step that is designed to address that—not to give them any more consideration than anyone else, but to level the playing field.” But others on the council, including Councilwoman Mary Cheh, oppose the bill, citing that the complexity of the law could lead to unintended consequences. McDuffie hopes to pass the bill before the entire council before the end of the legislative session, becoming one of just a few cities that enforce such antidiscriminatory measures.

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Source: Next City

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