Housing News Roundup: September 29, 2016 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: September 29, 2016

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New Studies: Housing Shortage Will Hurt California’s Economy

Housing scarcity in California will slow the state’s economic growth, according to studies by the University of California, Riverside, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As California approaches full employment (i.e., nearly everyone who wants a job has one), businesses in the state will have fewer people to hire, prompting the need to draw from the national labor market. However, the supply of housing in the state fails to keep pace with the demand created by these new workers: permits for new construction are down compared with last year. According to Jerry Nickelsburg, an author of the UCLA report, “The high cost of living in California discourages some migration to the state.” The UCLA report also says that because of this housing shortage, job growth will be 2 percent in 2016 but fall to 1.7 percent in 2017 and 1.1 percent in 2018. Nickelsburg clarifies these findings by saying, “It sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it’s actually a decision by Californians to restrict the rapidity of growth. Additional migration means more congestion and more pollution.”

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Source: Los Angeles Times

White House Report Offers Localities Tools for Spurring Housing Development

The White House released a housing development toolkit on Monday that calls for localities to modernize their zoning and land-use policies to increase the housing supply. “When unnecessary barriers restrict the supply of housing and costs increase, then workers, particularly lower-income workers who would benefit the most, are less able to move to high-productivity cities,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The tools include those that would increase density, hasten permit processes, and ease restrictions on accessory dwelling units. According to Mark Calabria of the Cato Institute, “It’s important that the president is talking about [zoning policies]. Local restrictions on housing supply are a crucial economic issue. I would say it’s one of the top 10.” The administration’s 2017 budget request to Congress includes $300 million in grants to assist localities with zoning reforms.

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Source: POLITICO

In Poor Rural Communities, a Lack of Proper Plumbing

A lack of proper plumbing is a shockingly common feature of rural poverty. Less than half of the population in Lowndes County, Alabama, uses the municipal sewer system. In a nearby county, 35 percent of homes had raw sewage on the ground because of failing septic systems, and an additional 15 percent lacked even a failing system, according to a survey by Kevin White at the University of South Alabama. The high costs of installing a septic tank, which the county’s clay soil exacerbates, and lack of funds for municipalities to install sewage lines force many residents to simply run a drainage pipe from their toilet to an area away from their homes. This creates major health concerns for residents who must deal with standing sewage in close proximity to where they live and contend with sewage backing up into their homes during rainstorms. State law places the responsibility of sewage collection “squarely with the homeowner,” according to Parrish Pugh, an official with the Alabama Department of Health. The health department issues requests, warnings, and citations to seek compliance. An effort at stricter enforcement in the early 2000s left some residents facing arrest and criminal records. “There are some options that may be available, but it’s going to cost thousands of dollars, and most people here can’t afford it,” says White. “The answer, quite frankly, is not out there yet.”

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Source: The New York Times

New Grants Offset the Effects of Gentrification in Two Schools

As families move because of rising housing costs, local schools feel the effects as reduced funding from per-pupil formulas. Through grants from the Mile High United Way and the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, two Denver schools will receive supplemental funds this school year for staff to help offset the negative effects of gentrification. With the grant, Swansea Elementary School will preserve its full-time school psychologist who may otherwise have been cut to a part-time role. Garden Place Academy will use the money to create a family liaison position to increase parent participation at the school. Both positions are intended “to fill the gaps that are created through the rapid changes these neighborhoods are experiencing,” said Anna Jones of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative. Last year, 90 percent of the schools’ students qualified for free or reduced-price meals. Swansea Elementary School principal Gilberto Muñoz opted to use the funds to maintain the school psychologist because of the challenges students are facing as the neighborhood changes. “Some of the things they’re facing would challenge most adults. So teaching them how to manage that is essential, and having a professional that does that for you is really helpful.”

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Source: Chalkbeat

Health Care Competitors Come Together to Invest in Housing

A coalition of nonprofit health care providers in Portland, Oregon, is working together to fund three new housing developments. The combined $21.5 million investment blends community benefit funds from Legacy Health, Oregon Health and Science University, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Providence Health and Services Oregon, and Adventist Health Portland. The developments, which will be operated by Central City Concern, include a mixed-use property with supportive housing and a health clinic, a workforce housing development, and a development with priority for displaced families. The project’s announcement comes shortly after Oregon requested a renewal of its Medicaid waiver, allowing Medicaid funds to be spent on housing projects for targeted populations and $1.25 billion in additional funds. On bringing the competitors together, Ed Blackburn, executive director of Central City Concern said, “Everyone was wanting to do something and do something big. They didn’t need any convincing.”

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Sources: Portland Business Journal, Portland Tribune

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