Housing News Roundup: September 14, 2015 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: September 14, 2015

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Seattle Mayor Seeks to Expand Affordable Housing Tax Break Program

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to expand the city’s multifamily tax exemption (MFTE), which provides developers meeting certain criteria with a property tax break for 12 years. It currently requires that 20 percent of housing units developed be reserved for low- and moderate-income residents, which Murray would like to increase to 25 percent. The program also ensures that tenants not pay more than one-third of their income on housing and utilities. However, the program has its critics. In 2012, a review of the program found many violations and led to a change of management and reforms. Nick Licata, a council member critical of the program, said, “I’d rather see the for-profit housing developers contribute through inclusionary zoning and linkage fees than MFTE because those alternatives result in more permanent housing.” It is unclear if Murray will get his wish; the MFTE is set to expire in 2016.

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Source: Next City

NYC Uses Data to Tackle Homelessness

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is using the same data-gathering system to address homelessness as it used to drive down crime in the 1990s. NYPD precinct commanders are now required to inform their superiors about homeless activities like panhandling and encampments. Data from 311 calls regarding homelessness are also being tracked. Many believe the new focus is a sign that the police department plans to add data on homelessness to the Compstat program, which currently only tracks arrests and summonses, but the NYPD says it only plans to pass the data to city agencies focused on alleviating homelessness. Although the homeless population in New York City is holding steady, the number of 311 complaints about homelessness have risen 59 percent since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office at the beginning of 2014, and he has vowed to work on the problem.

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Source: New York Daily News

Maps Show Minimum Wage Not Sufficient for Families

New maps created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that in the vast majority of places in the United States, the minimum wage does not support a family. MIT’s Living Wage Calculator determines the difference between what is considered a living wage and the minimum wage in each county. Users can choose three types of household: a single adult, a single parent with one child, or a parent with a nonworking spouse and two children. The data show that in no location in the United States does the minimum wage support a single parent with one child or a parent with a nonworking spouse and two children. For single adults, in only one state does the local minimum wage exceed the cost of living—Washington. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the maps show it is the most difficult for the working class to make ends meet in major metropolitan areas.

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Source: CityLab

In New York City, A Paradoxical Relationship Between Luxury Buildings and Shelters

The relationship between luxury and shelter development in New York City sheds light on the paradoxes of housing in the Big Apple. The Zeckendorfs, a family with a long history in real estate development, built 114,000 more square feet in their luxury 15 Central Park West property in exchange for constructing an off-site shelter as part of complying with tax and zoning regulations. The shelter Semiperm is run by the Settlement Housing Fund, houses mothers and children and provides them with up to 5 years to get back on their feet. While the program is sometimes criticized for leading to shelters that built in distant locations devoid of jobs or opportunity, the Zeckendorfs believe that off-site projects are more feasible and that the lower costs of more distant locations enables the shelters to be larger. However,  many Semiperm residents feel that it’s precisely the proliferation of luxury buildings is making the city so unaffordable for working-class people in the first place.

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Source: The New York Times

Affordable Housing Bond Measure Looks Unlikely for Bay Area

The complexity of executing a bond measure designed to fund affordable housing in Oakland, CA may prevent it from being voted on in Nov. 2016. When California cancelled the redevelopment program in 2012, the state lost around $1 billion in affordable housing funding. The timing was especially difficult for the Bay Area, which had just started to experience an affordable housing shortage. Dan Sawislak, executive director of Resources for Community Development, says “Right now it’s not a question of meeting need. It’s a question of rebuilding the funding mechanism so you can start moving projects along.” While bond measures are believed to be a promising funding tool for both housing and infrastructure projects, questions remain about what agency would administer a bond measure for affordable housing. The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California has decided instead to focus on raising funds on the county level in 2016.

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Source: Contra Costa Times

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