Housing News Roundup: April 18, 2019
Local Organizers Building Momentum for Rent Control Policies across the United States
Recent policy activity in California, Colorado, New York, and Oregon showcases the growing interest in rent control. Sarah Treuhaft, managing director of PolicyLink, attributes today’s political momentum to the rental housing crisis and the rise of tenant organizing. In opposing rent control, Jim Lapides of the National Multifamily Housing Council cites “decades of research showing there are much better ways to do this and that [rent control] is counterproductive.”
Source: Next City
NYC Taking Steps to Address Lead Exposure in Public Housing
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) launched a new initiative to identify apartments contaminated with lead paint. The initiative will use X-ray devices to test for lead exposure in the 135,000 apartments that have not yet been inspected. The announcement comes after mayor Bill De Blasio reached a settlement with federal prosecutors in January over a lawsuit regarding the housing authority’s failure to comply with lead inspection requirements. The NYCHA interim chair Katheryn Garcia noted that “this is a first step toward a lead-free NYCHA and part of our mission to provide residents with safe homes.” The inspections kicked off this week, and the housing authority aims to conduct 7,000 inspections every month through 2020.
Three Experts Weigh In on Renting versus Buying
To help inform potential homeowners, experts outlined the pros and cons of renting versus owning a home. Alanna McCargo, vice president of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, pointed out that although renting offers more flexibility, homeownership is the primary driver of wealth among Americans. “Families have built wealth for generations and financial security over time as a result of their owning a home.” Today, access to homeownership is easier than in the past, with the average down payment down to 5 percent. Although research shows homeownership doesn’t necessarily make people happier, owning a home does provide fixed monthly housing costs and a sense of security.
County Officials in Los Angeles Are Using Rapid Re-housing to Address the Homelessness Crisis, but It May Not Be Enough
Nearly 18,000 people have been placed in homes in Los Angeles through the county’s rapid re-housing program. The program provides flexible housing assistance for up to two years, with tenants gradually taking on the rent themselves. While only 7 percent have returned to shelters, lessons from New York and national research show that most people with rapid re-housing remain housed for the first few years but continue to struggle with paying rent. In New York, more than half of the 33,000 families involved in rapid re-housing ended up in shelters. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority officials recognize this challenge and note that rapid re-housing “doesn’t address the fact that our cost of living in Los Angeles is far outpacing our minimum wage.” The county needs to build more than 500,000 affordable units to meet the demand.
Rent Relief Act Reintroduced to the Senate
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has introduced a new version of her signature housing legislation, the Rent Relief Act. If passed, the bill would create a new refundable tax credit for renters who spend at least 30 percent of their gross income on rent and utilities and would be available to households earning up to $100,000. Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition applauded the legislation: “A new tax credit for renters—like the one proposed today—could transform lives, providing millions of the lowest-income people with the breadth of opportunities that start with an affordable home—opportunities to climb the economic ladder, improve their health, and allow children to do better in school.”
Source: Housing Wire