Housing News Roundup: April 7, 2016
Zero Tolerance for Ex-Offenders Banned under Fair Housing Act
Although ex-offenders commonly face housing bans, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has determined that such actions may violate the Fair Housing Act. Private landlords who deny occupancy to everyone with a criminal record could face civil lawsuits and penalties for discrimination. HUD Secretary Julián Castro explained that ex-offenders receive protection under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on disparate impact. Racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated and more likely to be barred from housing through blanket ex-offender bans. “Right now, many housing providers use the fact of a conviction, any conviction, regardless of what it was for or how long ago it happened, to indefinitely bar folks from housing opportunities,” Castro said in a statement. “Many people who are coming back to neighborhoods are only looking for a fair chance to be productive members, but blanket policies like this unfairly deny them that chance.” Landlords are still able to deny individuals occupancy based on the type of crime, length of time since the conviction, and other factors that distinguish between ex-offenders who may pose a risk and those who do not.
Source: New York Times
Opinion: Marriage Will Not Reduce Child Poverty
Poverty-alleviation tools that incentivize marriage are ineffective at addressing child poverty, according to Phillip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Cohen cites statistics indicating that the share of children born to unmarried mothers has risen since 1960 while child poverty has fallen and educational attainment has risen. Despite these separate trend lines, poverty-alleviation policies often favor the married or widowed over single mothers. As an alternative, Cohen proposes the creation of a universal child allowance to ensure that all children receive support. “We know enough now to see that this approach doesn’t work: it doesn’t increase compliance with social norms on marriage and employment, and it doesn’t stop the scourge of child poverty. We can do better,” writes Cohen.
Source: Washington Post
For Low-Income Suburban Residents, Weak Transit Access Strains Budgets
As suburban poverty rises and regions try to deconcentrate subsidized housing, researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington have explored the transportation costs of households in affordable housing nationally. Transportation costs exceed the 15 percent guideline for the overwhelming majority of affordable housing residents in metropolitan Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, among other metro areas. In Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Housing Authority and Port Authority are aware of low-income households’ transit woes, which affect those farthest from Pittsburgh more aggressively and limit their ability to reach jobs. The Port Authority recently announced plans to connect housing and transit through forthcoming guidelines calling for the inclusion of affordable housing in future development projects. According to Molly Nichols, an organizer of the Pittsburgh for Public Transit advocacy group, “People making decisions about housing need to make sure people are going to have access to transit. People making decisions about transit need to make sure their system is connected to places where people can afford housing.”
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Los Angeles’s Dwindling Rent-Controlled Building Supply
Demolition of rent-controlled apartments in Los Angeles is rising again after substantially dropping during the recession when development came to a standstill. While little more than 1,000 units were removed from the rent-controlled stock in 2015, tenant advocates are concerned about worsening affordability in one of the least affordable cities in the nation. “Unless there’s a marriage between production and preservation, we are doomed to a failed housing policy in this city,” says Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival. In Los Angeles, rent control typically applies to multifamily buildings constructed before 1978. “The story that gets lost in all of this is that the buildings . . . are past their useful life. Many of these homes are asbestos-filled, termite-infested, and are not compliant with today’s retrofit regulations. So it’s a matter of time that these buildings will be torn down,” says Michael Cohanzad, a senior vice president at Wiseman Residential, a developer that has converted several formerly rent-controlled buildings in Los Angeles to pricier apartments.
Source: Los Angeles Times