Housing News Roundup: March 9, 2017 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: March 9, 2017

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$6 Billion Cut Considered for HUD in Fiscal Year 2018

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development could face a 14 percent cut in the department’s budget under a preliminary fiscal year 2018 budget obtained by the Washington Post. The cuts, which total more than $6 billion, would shrink public housing operations 13 percent, cut around 32 percent from the public housing capital repairs budget, and eliminate all funds for the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs. Vouchers, assistance to homeless veterans, and housing programs for the elderly, disabled, and Native American communities would also face substantial cuts. Budget comments suggest that some community development activities may be funded in a separate infrastructure package.

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Source: Washington Post

Environmental Pollutants are Linked with Health Difficulties for Infants and Children

Environmental pollutants are associated with health problems, and even death, for infants and children in Philadelphia. A new World Health Organization report attributes the deaths of approximately 570,000 children under age 5 worldwide to diseases related to indoor and outdoor pollution and secondhand smoke. The Philadelphia infant mortality rate is decreasing, but it remains higher than other major US cities. Marilyn Howarth of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Excellence in Environmental Toxicology explains the link between infant mortality and pollutants: “The kind of pollution children and babies experience can be very substantial. Given any respiratory condition they may have, pollutants may overwhelm such struggling systems…what you have is a baby that might have otherwise survived.” Other effects of environmental pollution on children and infants, such as new cases of elevated blood levels and asthma hospitalization rates, are dropping in the city, and low birth weights are holding steady or have decreased slightly. But black children living in Philadelphia’s lowest-income neighborhoods still experience these problems disproportionately.

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Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Legislation in Kentucky Would Increase Segregation by Requiring a Return to Neighborhood Schools

A bill in the Kentucky state legislature would require that students be able to attend the school closest to their homes, but a return to neighborhood schools would effectively eliminate desegregation efforts in Jefferson County. As part of a desegregation order, Jefferson County created a voluntary program that allows parents of elementary school students to choose which school, including science and arts magnet schools, they prefer their child attend, regardless of its distance from their home. Jefferson County continued this program after they were released from the segregation order in 2000, but this bill, which passed the House and is pending a vote in the Senate, would concentrate low-income and minority students away from their counterparts. This could further expand the racial achievement gap in the Jefferson County, because students attending mixed-income schools perform better academically than their neighbors who attend high-poverty schools. Despite the bill’s consequences related to segregation, the debate over this legislation centers around the distance students must travel to school. Busing costs and students’ time are of significant concern to the bill’s supporters, but others like Hannah Drake, whose daughter received a full scholarship to the University of Kentucky after traveling across town to a better school, says that the travel is worth it. “It was taxing, but when you look at it, what is the alternertive? To send them to a school in your neighborhood which is predominantly African American and has economic challenges? They’re not going to get the same kind of education,” she said.

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Source: Washington Post

The Potential for Displacement Grows in the Bronx, despite Increases in Affordable Housing

Construction of affordable housing developments in the Bronx is increasing, but is accompanied by a growing concern of displacement for current residents. With a decline in prices for market-rate units in other parts of the city, developers are taking advantage of population growth and inexpensive land in the South Bronx and new government policies to build thousands of units of affordable housing and accompanying amenities, such as shops and parks, in the borough. But Maria Torres of a community development corporation in the Bronx notes, “It’s like a Catch-22. We’re excited all these changes are happening. But with them will come a lot of people who will take advantage.” A new study by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) confirms this concern, finding that Bronx residents are more likely to be displaced because of rising costs of living than any other borough in New York City. The report, which examines 31 counties in the tristate area, reveals that 71 percent of Bronx census tracts are at risk of impending displacement. With 56 percent of residents paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing and 36 percent of households earning less than $25,000 a year, those living in the Bronx are particularly susceptible to cost-of-living increases. But the RPA’s report offers recommendations to mitigate displacement, such as increased regulations and subsidies.

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Sources: New York Times , Curbed New York

Investments in a Housing First Approach Would Save Money on Homeless Services

Providing permanent supportive housing for homeless people in Orange County, California, would save the community $42 million a year in health care, law enforcement, and other expenses, according to a study by David A. Snow and Rachel Goldberg of the University of California, Irvine. The county spent $299 million on homelessness services and related costs during a 12-month period in 2014 and 2015. Hospitals and emergency departments experienced the largest financial burden, with homeless services costing $77 million. Although the researchers found that the average annual cost for a homeless person was $45,000, if the most costly 10 percent of homeless people were removed from the analysis, the average cost would fall to $10,000 a person. The study reveals that investments in a Housing First approach would help the county, which now pays more for costly emergency and short-term solutions, save money. Snow echoed this sentiment when discussing emergency shelters. “It’s really a stop-gap. It’s not any kind of solution,” he said.

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Source: The Orange County Register

Researchers Call for Solutions for Barriers to Economic and Social Mobility

In a new report, researchers at the Penn Institute for Urban Research call for skill-building programs and primary education reforms to be long-term solutions for barriers that hinder economic and social mobility. Recent trends show that high-skill workers are moving to central cities in pursuit of newly created high-productivity jobs, which increases the cost of living in those areas. Many low-skilled workers are forced to outlying neighborhoods with few opportunities. This leads to the concentration of poverty within certain neighborhoods. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people living in neighborhoods with poverty rates over 40 percent rose 72 percent. These two trends increase gaps in economic and social mobility in cities, preventing many from moving to areas with more opportunities. While housing vouchers can be a short-term solution, a more permanent solution is needed because “a long-term affordability-driven increase in divergence in location by skill and income level would have implications for social inclusion.”

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Source: Houston Chronicle

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