Housing News Roundup: March 3, 2016 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: March 3, 2016

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Overcrowding Rates in N.Y.C. Rising

Overcrowding in New York City is on the rise as the city struggles to meet local housing demand. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, nearly 280,000 New York City dwellings—or 9 percent of all households—are overcrowded. This is up from 8 percent ten years ago. The boroughs with the most crowding are the Bronx and Brooklyn, but five of the neighborhoods with the most crowding are in Queens. Crowding is especially prevalent in neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income and immigrant populations. In the Elmhurst and southern Corona communities in Queens, one-fourth of the housing is overcrowded. In a statement accompanying a new report titled Hidden Households, Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, says, “The problem of crowding is stubbornly increasing. And while we could all use a little more room to breathe, we must give special attention to those who are most at risk for the negative effects of crowding, including bad health, diminished economic opportunity, and increased risk of homelessness.”

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Source: New York Times

Housing Challenges Hit Small-Town America

Small cities and vacation communities are struggling to meet the affordable housing needs of their residents, as retirees, millennials, telecommuters, and young families increase residential demand in smaller communities. According to Stockton Williams, executive director of the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, “A lot of people are looking to both downsize and retain the ability to live a somewhat urban lifestyle, but not have to do it in an expensive or congested place like it is in a downtown of a large city.” As housing costs increase, long-time residents and community workers increasingly struggle to afford housing near their jobs. Plans to develop more housing have sparked controversy in Traverse City, Michigan, and Portland, Maine, as opponents express their desire to maintain community character. Breckenridge, Colorado, which experienced affordability pressures with growing demand during the 1970s, enacted deed restrictions to maintain housing affordability. Without action to add and maintain affordability, the growing challenges facing these communities will only increase. It is “very difficult to rebuild community once workforce and families have left,” says Breckenridge planner Laurie Best.

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Source: Next City

Persistent Challenge of Homelessness in Minneapolis

Despite success in reducing homelessness among veterans and in decreasing unsheltered homelessness, Minneapolis and Hennepin County now have a larger homeless population than when their ten-year plan to end homelessness began in 2007. Advocates point to rising housing costs and the lingering effects of the Great Recession as contributors to the rise in homelessness, particularly among families. Foreclosures forced many out of their homes, and the region has an insufficient supply of affordable apartments suitable for families. “There is a real gap in affordable housing for desperately poor families,” says Daniel Gumnit, CEO of a family homeless shelter provider. “The market doesn’t support that kind of housing.” Advocates say the success of the county’s plan is a matter of will. “I think it’s both the political will at all levels of government to put those levels of investments in the solutions, and it’s the community will to demand that that’s what we want,” says Cathy ten Broeke, who previously led the plan

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Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Concentrated Economic Inequality Worsens in United States

Despite the ongoing economic recovery, more than 50 million Americans live in economically distressed communities, according to a new report from the nonprofit Economic Innovation Group (EIG). The analysis is based on the Distressed Community Index, which tracks seven variables from U.S. Census Bureau data including poverty rates, housing vacancy, unemployment, and changes in the number of local businesses. The analysis found that one-fifth of all zip codes are economically distressed. In distressed zip codes, an average of 55 percent of adults are not working. The EIG study highlights the difference between spatial inequality (the concentration of economic advantage in certain neighborhoods) and income inequality (the concentration of income in certain households). Larger cities like New York and San Francisco have higher rates of income inequality, but spatial inequality is higher in cities characterized by low-density development, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Antonio. Just nine of the largest 100 U.S. cities have seen economic growth spread among their residents. These cities of inclusive prosperity include Madison, Wisconsin; Scottsdale, Arizona; Plano, Texas; Irvine, California; and Virginia Beach, Virginia

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Source: CityLab

Chicago Voucher Holders Fight for Time

Between 2014 and 2015, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) sharply increased the number of housing vouchers awarded, but the CHA’s 90-day voucher utilization deadline presents difficulties in a tight rental market. According to CHA CEO Eugene Jones, families often try to rent units that do not meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) quality standards. In addition to difficulties finding a decent-quality property that will accept a voucher, voucher holders may face discrimination as many are racial or ethnic minorities or families with children. Stringent background checks and financial screening also may prolong the housing search. Voucher holder Sandra Edwards missed the deadline when searching for housing in a lower-crime area, but successfully fought the CHA to receive more time. Several residents are currently suing over the tight deadline. “If there are extenuating circumstances, we take a look and make a judgment call. Every case is different,” says Jones. “The last thing we want to do is make someone homeless.”

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Source: Chicago Tribune

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