Housing News Roundup: March 30, 2017 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: March 30, 2017

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The Suburbs of Dense, Transit-Friendly Cities Offer Cheaper Homes and Better Schools

A New York Times Upshot article that provides data visualizations for several cities shows that suburbs surrounding large cities with more developed public transportation often have cheaper housing and better schools. The visualizations show the relative cost of housing per square foot, the relative quality of schools in terms of average grade levels above or below for student test scores, and commute time in minutes. The suburbs for cities with more developed public transportation buck the national trend of higher test scores being associated with higher home prices. Cities like San Francisco and Boston have many suburbs with lower prices and better scores, and several of these are within a 30-minute commute of the city. Although these cities have fewer households with young children, they retain their value with families, likely because of the amenities dense urban centers provide. The trade-offs largely fade for cities that are more car dependent, like Chicago or Minneapolis, where the suburbs are similarly priced, but tend to offer stronger schools.

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Source: New York Times

New Report Quantifies the Cost of Segregation in the Chicago Metropolitan Region

Racial and economic segregation in the Chicago region cost $8 billion in annual GDP, according to a new report by the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Urban Institute. Chicago has the fifth-highest combined racial and economic segregation levels compared with the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. If segregation levels decreased to the national median, the report finds, the Chicago region would earn $4.4 billion more in income, homicide rates would decline 30 percent, and 83,000 more residents would have a bachelor’s degree. “When we have the segregation levels that we have, it’s very easy to lump problems that we see to certain populations and make it easy not to interact with those parts of the cities. This leads to a lack of understanding that really forms a lot of what we see today,” explained Marisa Novara, a coauthor of the report. The Metropolitan Planning Council and Urban will identify and propose policies to accelerate the creation of more inclusive communities because if the status quo continues, it will take decades for the city’s segregation levels to reach the national median level.

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Source: WTTW

Poverty Conditions Affect Students’ Performance on State Tests

Students in New York City’s Renewal Schools must overcome unstable housing conditions to succeed on state academic tests. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal Schools program provides additional academic coaching and social services to struggling city schools, an initiative that has demonstrated signs of success. P.S. 67, a renewal school that serves students in the Ingersoll and Whitman housing projects, experienced 10 percent and 13 percent increases in the number of students who passed the state reading and math tests last year, respectively. But other schools still struggle, such as P.S. 298, where almost a third of students are homeless. To improve students’ performance on these standardized tests, P.S. 298 offers additional preparation for students on the weekend, providing breakfast to students and their parents, but only 20 percent of the third, fourth, and fifth graders in the school attend. Because test scores are used to help determine which renewal schools remain open in the final year of this initiative, some are calling to adjust how the tests demonstrate success because, as Norman Fruchter of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University, explains, “We don’t know…a lot about how to improve schools in which essentially kids are coming from a whole wide range of poverty conditions.”

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Source: The New York Times

New Development Will Provide Long-Term Housing for Domestic Abuse Survivors

The YWCA Evanston/North Shore is opening a 16-unit apartment building for domestic abuse survivors, addressing a shortage of long-term housing for survivors. Most emergency shelters force survivors to move out after a few months, causing more than 60 percent of women who leave these shelters to become unstably housed. “When people have experienced domestic violence for significant periods of time, they have a lot of issues they need to resolve. A few months [to address them] is not enough time,” said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The YWCA plans to use housing vouchers to help cover the housing costs for residents in this development, only requiring survivors to pay 30 percent of their income in rent. The YWCA will also provide resources and training for residents to find employment or permanent affordable housing. “Providing housing and employment resources provides the stability, education, and independence needed in order to break the cycle of violence,” explained Iris Barrios, the housing and employment specialist who will work with the residents of this new development.

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Source: Chicago Tribune

Los Angeles Officials Want to Study Ways to Protect Residents from Freeway Pollution

Officials in Los Angeles have requested a study to examine how development restrictions, design standards, and similar measures could protect residents from traffic pollution. Over 1.2 million people live within 500 feet of a freeway in Southern California and suffer from increased risk of asthma, cancer, heart attacks, preterm births, and other conditions. “We’ve had report after report…about how living next to a freeway is detrimental to people’s health. We need a comprehensive study,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, one of two city councilmembers to introduce the motion for this study. Mayor Eric Garcetti supports exploring new regulations to protect those living near freeways, but he and other local politicians oppose limiting the development of homes, expecting restrictions to worsen the state’s housing shortage. But the proposal calls for the analysis to strike a balance between the current housing affordability crisis and the impact on residents of developing near freeways. “We should look at both zoning requirements and technology to ensure that people who live in housing always live healthy,” said Mayor Garcetti of the proposed study.

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Source: Los Angeles Times

Pooling Resources Will Allow Nonprofits to Compete for New York City Real Estate

To compete with for-profit developers in New York City’s real estate market, a group of community-based nonprofit developers are joining together as part of JOE (joint-ownership entity) NYC. JOE NYC, a membership organization, has brought together 10 affordable housing developers with at least two more members pending. The organization intends to make it more affordable for nonprofit developers to preserve and create affordable housing. For instance, instead of applying for renovation loans individually, member organizations can merge their housing portfolios and apply for a larger loan, lowering the interest rate and making renovations more affordable. In addition to reducing costs for member organizations through collective action, the group plans to acquire Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties to preserve buildings’ affordability as tax credits expire and help other nonprofits win bids from city agencies. Frank Lang of a member organization explains the significance of JOE NYC, despite its being a pilot program: “There seems to be a focus on scale and expediency now, so by combining our resources, we’re able to maintain our individual identities, but place these assets into a vehicle for public purpose.”

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Source: Next City

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