Housing News Roundup: September 21, 2016 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: September 21, 2016

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Presidential Candidate Cites Affordable Housing as Key to Ending Poverty

In a New York Times op-ed, Hillary Clinton notes that while poverty rates are going down and incomes are rising, “we still have work to do” to end poverty for American families. A central part of Clinton’s description of her poverty plan is creating more affordable housing by expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and emphasizing reinvestment in neglected communities, including those with long histories of poverty and those with large minority populations. The reinvestment plan would draw from a 10-20-30 proposal from Rep. Jim Clyburn, which has generated bipartisan support. Under the proposal, 10 percent of federal investments in communities would go to places where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the federal poverty level for at least 30 years.

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Source: The New York Times

Energy Insecurity Threatens Residents’ Health

Energy insecurity and households’ financial inability to heat, cool, or otherwise power their homes, poses health risks for residents. The lowest 20 percent of earners in the United States spend about 10 percent of their monthly income on electricity, over seven times more than that paid by the top 20 percent of earners, leaving an estimated 16 million US households energy insecure. Insufficient heating and cooling causes residents to experience asthma attacks, chronic anxiety, and depression. Additionally, families who create makeshift solutions with candles for light or open ovens for heat put themselves at greater risk for house fires. An energy rating system to inform renters and owners of energy costs before moving in, greater support from federal programs, or stronger state and local regulations could reduce the financial hardship experienced by low-income residents because of energy costs. More importantly, energy efficiency needs to be not only “for the environment’s sake,” but it also needs to address “the human toll when families are forced to meet their basic energy needs.”

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Source: CityLab

Increased Funds Could Increase Affordable Housing near a New Revitalization Project

The Atlanta BeltLine revitalization project would use an additional $7.5 million to increase housing affordability in adjacent areas, attempting to decrease displacement. As part of a campaign for a new $50 million bond that would help fund BeltLine development, 15 percent of that funding would finance affordable development. While repurposing old railroad thoroughfares into new public parks, trails, and other transportation pathways, the project plans to build 5,600 affordable units along the revitalized areas; only 560 have been built thus far. A segment of the project, the eastside trail, has already experienced significant increases in housing costs. Targeting additional funds for affordable housing would attempt to alleviate the problem noted by Atlanta city councilman Andre Dickens: “What is affordable today may not be affordable tomorrow.”

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Source: Next City

Public Housing Repairs Attract Private Funds through the Rental Assistance Demonstration

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a 20-month evaluation of the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which uses private capital to renovate public housing, addresses capital backlogs, and keeps the units viable as affordable housing. Using $2.5 billion in private investments, the program repaired over 19,000 public housing units between 2012 and 2015. This equates to $9 in private investment for every $1 in public funds. The public-private partnerships worry some advocates, especially when property ownership is given to private operators who work with the public housing authority on the condition that the rent for the units remain below market levels. However, without this partnership, approximately 10,000 units per year would become uninhabitable because of disrepair. HUD secretary Julián Castro said, “The Rental Assistance Demonstration is attracting substantial investment in a budget environment where public dollars simply can’t keep pace with the growing backlog of capital needs.”

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Source: The Wall Street Journal

Impact Fees and Property Tax Increase Pass through Denver City Council

The Denver City Council voted to increase property taxes and impose an impact fee on new construction to fund affordable housing. After hearing public debate over two competing pieces of legislation, the city council chose not to delay a constant funding source for affordable housing another year but pass revenue-generating measures that will provide affordable housing development plans with $15 million annually for 10 years. Amendments to the legislation allow the impact fee to be raised in three years and require the program to be reauthorized. Next year, a comprehensive housing plan will be developed and will direct the funds to specific projects. Housing advocates view this as a victory, but developers claim that this is an undue burden that will be passed on to consumers. However, including the impact fee “makes sure those making money off the city’s boom pay to offset the rising housing costs that have come with it.”

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Source: Denverite

Help for Low-Income Renters Is Not Available

The lack of housing affordability coupled with a shortage in government housing assistance programs leaves many low-income renters severely housing-cost burdened. According to the 2013 American Housing survey, 52 percent of renters living below the federal poverty level spent more than half their income on rent. Alex Schwartz of The New School states, “Low-income people simply cannot afford low-income housing.” While government programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8, and public housing alleviate housing affordability problems for some eligible households, the programs fail to keep pace with demand. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that 75 percent of families who rent their homes and qualify for government housing programs are not provided assistance. In contrast, tax incentives for homeowners account for most of the tens of billions of dollars the government spends annually to subsidize housing. Whether in support of additional government assistance or regulatory relief and market solutions, both sides agree that “for many of these families, the issue isn’t that they don’t qualify for help. It’s that the help they need isn’t available.”

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Source: FiveThirtyEight

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