Housing News Roundup: August 14, 2015
Visualizing Concentrated Poverty
A new series of maps by Justin Palmer, using research from City Observatory, visualizes how concentrated poverty has climbed in the U.S. the last few decades. The maps use arrows to show whether poverty has increased or declined in a city between 1970 and 2010. For example, cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia have experienced a decrease in poverty, New York and St. Louis largely remained the same, and San Francisco was one of the few cities toexperience a decline. In addition to the significant increase in poverty across the country, the data show that census tracts considered “high poverty,” have nearly tripled. While there were 1,100 such tracts in 1970, the number ballooned to 3,100 in 2010. The change represents a doubling of the population living in extremely poor neighborhoods, from 5 to 10 million.
Tax Break Paves the Way for Affordable Housing by Boston’s North Station
A proposed 239-unit apartment building near Boston’s bustling North Station will offer entirely below-market rents, thanks to a tax break just approved by the city. Related Beal, the developer, is still in negotiations with the city over the precise size of the property tax benefit, but the $230 million complex above Interstate 93 was approved by Boston Redevelopment Authority yesterday. In addition to the housing, the project will include a hotel, which Related Beal intends to use to subsidize the affordable housing. Half of the residential units will be reserved for middle-income tenants, with the other half for lower-income residents. An abundance of 3-bedroom apartments will also provide affordable options to families. The tax deal should be finalized soon, and Related Beal plans to seek other state tax-exempt bonds and a variety of housing tax credits to further support the development.
Source: Boston Globe
Public Sleeping Bans are Unconstitutional, Says the U.S. Department of Justice
In response to a case in Boise, Idaho, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has argued in a statement of interest that cities cannot legally ban the homeless from sleeping in public places. Its argument is that city ordinances against sleeping in public, given that there is often not enough space in shelters, actually outlaw homelessness itself. Since sleeping is a “life sustaining activity,” restricting it when someone has nowhere to go criminalizes being homeless. The DOJ argues such laws are unconstitutional because they violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Advocates like Eric Tars, attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, applaud the move, because it shifts the focus from criminalization to solving the problem of homelessness. “Homelessness never left town because somebody gave it a ticket. The only way to end homelessness is to make sure everybody has access to affordable, decent housing,” says Tars.
Source: Washington Post
Creative Affordable Housing Strategy Highlights Underutilized Rent Rule in NYC
Two New York City cab drivers have used a little known New York City rent rule to secure apartments in the city for a fraction of their market rate cost. In a part of downtown New York by the Highline, where rents run upwards of $3,000, the cab drivers are paying as little as $226 a month for rooms in the Chelsea Highline Hotel. Because the hotel was once a single-room occupancy hotel, it is required by the NYC’s Rent Stabilization Code to approve lease requests at the regulated rate of $226 a month. Clinton Housing Development Corporation executive director Joe Restuccia says that the law applies to any hotel in the city. According to their website, the Chelsea Highline has stopped taking reservations, something other city hotels may choose to do.
Most Housing Voucher Recipients Still Live in Poor Neighborhoods
Although housing vouchers are designed to give families more choice regarding where they live, a look into the distribution of housing vouchers across major cities shows that most families with housing vouchers live in poor neighborhoods—defined as places where more than 10 percent of residents are poor. Margery Turner from the Urban Institute explains, “Instead of opening up as much choice as they potentially could and creating rental diversity, vouchers often enforce existing patterns of segregation.” Vouchers were created to provide families options beyond federally subsidized housing projects. To combat this trend, the housing authority in Dallas is considering allowing higher subsidies in wealthier neighborhoods.
Source: New York Times