Housing News Roundup: April 20, 2017
Lack of Affordable Housing May Slow Thriving Downtown’s Growth
A lack of affordable housing threatens the growth of restaurants, retailers, and other businesses thriving in Houston’s revitalized downtown. Approximately 435,000 residents in Harris County, which includes Houston, make less than the area median income and pay more than 30 percent of that on housing, forcing many service workers to live far from work or in unsafe and crowded conditions. For Jose Guerra, who works at a downtown wine bar and earns $3,500 a month, living close to work is impossible because average downtown rents are $1,750 a month. This causes recruiting and retention problems for businesses because longer commuting distance can increase turnover. More affordable housing and better transportation are possible solutions for local business. But proposed federal budget cuts and changes to the tax code will increase the challenges of constructing more affordable housing, and despite Houston’s mayor’s plan to improve transportation by linking it with schools and other amenities, it will take time to implement. “What I’m surprised about the most is all the high-rise apartments downtown, which is really great to see. But I just wish I could afford it,” explains Guerra.
Source: Houston Chronicle
Not All Residents Experience Improved Economic Conditions in Washington, DC
Despite an increase in median income and a citywide decrease in child poverty since 2010, significant economic disparities still exist among the different wards in Washington, DC, according to DC Action for Children’s “Ward Snapshots.” Using data from the US Census Bureau and city agencies, the researchers found that median income in Ward 7 and Ward 8, areas east of the Anacostia River, sharply declined, falling 17 and 10 percent, respectively, between 2006–10 and 2010–15. In contrast, the median income in Ward 2 increased 65 percent between these periods. Wards 3, 4, and 8 also experienced increases in child poverty rates, even though these rates decreased overall for the city. The report indicates that rising housing costs could be to blame for these disparities, as more than 40 percent of District residents pay more than a third of their income on housing costs, causing some families to be priced out of wealthier areas and move to poorer areas of the city. “We have to make sure that there’s infrastructure in the city to support healthy growth for all families in the District,” said Shana Bartley of DC Action for Children.
Source: The Washington Post
Middle-Income Households Have Better Odds in Affordable Housing Lottery
Analysis of New York City’s affordable housing lottery finds that low-income applicants face tougher odds than middle-income applicants to receive affordable rental units. City Limits analyzed the pool of applicants vying for affordable units in the city’s lottery, focusing on how many people applied at various income bands. For affordable units at one development, 535 Carlton, 92,743 households entered the housing lottery. But only 2,203 were eligible for 148 middle-income apartments. This is in contrast to 18,680 households that applied for the 15 moderate-income units and 67,000 households that applied for the 90 low-income apartments. “The real need is for the lowest-rent units,” explained Tom Waters of the Community Service Society. This analysis reveals the effects of Mayor de Blasio’s long-term focused affordable housing approach, which targets several income levels even though some income levels struggle more than others. Ismene Speliotis of the Mutual Housing Association of New York said “Not to say that people in those higher bands aren’t looking for apartments, [but] there’s a disconnect between the population’s need and the apartment distribution.”
Source: City Limits
Barriers for Housing and Employment Increase Chances of Recidivism
People with criminal histories in Boulder, Colorado, experience housing and employment barriers, putting them at risk of being rearrested. The 95 percent of the prison population nationwide that will reenter communities are limited in their ability to secure employment and housing by hiring policies and property managers’ refusals to rent to them. Without a home or job, many are rearrested. In 2005, two-thirds of those released nationwide were rearrested within three years of their release and half by the end of their first year. This problem is playing out for many in Boulder, Colorado, like Glenn Allan Tefft, who is homeless and has struggled with employment after three stints in jail. Boulder and the surrounding areas have implemented programs such as Focus Reentry, a mentoring program, and the Reentry Initiative, which is looking to open a women’s-only transitional housing unit. But affordable, sober, and felon-friendly housing is in short supply. This creates a cycle with employment that is hard to break, which Tefft explains: “I’m not going to sit at a job that I know I’m going to get fired in two or three weeks because I don’t have the alarm clock to wake up or I’m going in with dirty clothes or I don’t have the appropriate attire or whatever it happens to be. The [in]stability causes issues.”
Source: The Denver Post
Public Housing Authority Provides Entrepreneurship Training for Its Residents
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) had its first class graduate from its Childcare Businesses Pathways program last Thursday. In 2013, NYCHA residents completed a survey about what types of businesses they would like to start or already operated informally, and NYCHA puts on classes that provide business education and specialized training to start or grow their business ventures. The 18 women who completed the program, all residents of public housing except for one voucher holder, will operate their own home-based child care businesses, the first of which will open on July 4. They plan to eventually move their businesses into commercial spaces. Funded entirely through contributions from Citi Community Development, the Childcare Businesses Pathways program builds on the NYCHA Food Business Program, which has graduated six cohorts of participants. Gregg Bishop of the NYC Department of Small Business Services explains, “If our public housing population were its own city, it would be larger than Milwaukee. That’s a lot of people. People who have talents and ambitions that we should be supporting.”
Source: Next City