Housing News Roundup: April 15, 2015
The Working Poor and Public Assistance
Many people with low-wage jobs still rely on food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance, according to a new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California. Researchers found that approximately three-quarters of people using programs to help the poor are in working families. “The low-wage business model practiced by many of the largest and most profitable employers in the country not only leaves many working families unable to afford the basics, but also imposes significant costs on the public as a whole,” said Sarah Leberstein, a senior staff lawyer with the National Employment Law Project.
Source: New York Times
‘Luxury Workforce’ Housing Being Used to Spur Growth
An apartment tower set to open next year just outside of New York City plans to bring luxury amenities to individuals and families who qualify for affordable housing. The 159-unit development will include large floor plans, wraparound picture windows and stone kitchen countertops, as well as shared spaces such as a gym and a cinema room. The project’s developers and city officials of Mount Vernon hope the new “luxury workforce” housing spurs an economic resurgence in the area. “These amenities are not typical for workforce housing, although more city governments are pushing developers to meet higher design standards,” said Maya Brennan, vice president for the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing.
Source: Wall Street Journal
‘Ghost Apartments’ a Strain on Lower-Income Residents
“Ghost apartments” —expensive residences that are rarely if ever occupied — have a hidden costs on locals, including higher overall rent, longer commutes and fewer retail options. In New York City, locals may even pick up the tab for much of these residences’ tax bills. Approximately 150,000 of the city’s apartments qualify for the 421-a property tax break program; if they were fully taxed under state law they would general an additional $1.1 billion in revenue each year. It is unclear how many ghost apartments benefit from this program.
Obstacles to Cycling as a Commute
While cycling is growing in popularity as a way to commute — it increased 61 percent between the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey — barriers to its expansion remain. A survey of commuters in low-income wards of Washington, D.C. found a variety of reasons for not cycling. Residents have long commutes so tend to prefer public transit or automobile. Multimodal commuting options do not make cycling easy to include. Poor road safety and infrastructure keeps many urban youth from considering cycling as an option. Finally, cycling information and support is not equitably reaching lower-income areas.
Houses are Going Fast in Southern California
Four of the nine fastest-moving housing markets in the country are in Southern California, and experts only expect that pace to keep speeding up. Only 43% of the houses for sale in Los Angeles County in February were still on the market in April. “Inventory and new supply is quite tight. That’s driving, on the supply side, the fast-moving markets,” said housing economist Ralph McLaughlin. “And then California is a leading market for job growth, and, especially in the Bay Area, a lot of those are higher-paying jobs that allow people to get mortgages and buy homes. It’s a double-whammy effect.”
Source: Los Angeles Times