Housing News Roundup: August 18, 2015
Crowds Show Up to Experience Tiny Houses
Earlier this month, 40,000 people turned out to view or purchase 28 small model houses or “houselets” in Colorado Springs, CO, four times what organizers expected at the so-called Tiny House Jamboree. The Jamboree offered not only the chance for individuals to peruse dozens of 200-square foot micro unit single-family homes, but also provided information and discussion on the policy issues impacting micro units. Enthusiasm for the event demonstrates how small-scale living is trending, given its eco-friendliness, lower cost, and urban style. Although zoning remains a challenge for single-family micro unit housing, which is often classified as mobile housing, the event highlights the growing interest in smaller units. Many experts believe smaller units may help fill an important niche in an increasingly expensive and competitive housing market.
Audit Finds HUD Allows Wealthy to Stay in Public Housing
Of the 1.1 million families living in public housing, 25,226 are considered “over-income,” meaning they earn more than the 50-80% of area median income required to live there. While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Audit released a statement saying that over-income families did not represent a large fraction of public housing residents, they reported that the number of wealthy families is likely to grow due to HUD’s policies against removing them. Investigators for the inspector general found that HUD does not actually have a policy in place to remove such tenants, writing, “Since regulations and policies did not require housing authorities to evict over income families or require them to find housing in the unassisted market, [they] continued to reside in public housing units.” Existing HUD regulations only require income to be checked when tenants first apply; once they are living in subsidized housing, they are allowed to stay as long as they are good tenants. According to the report, New York City and Puerto Rico had the most over-income families living in public housing.
Source: The Washington Post
New Orleans' Black Community Still Struggling Post-Katrina
Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the eastern half of New Orleans, where the majority of the city’s black residents lived. Today, there are 100,000 fewer black residents than before Katrina, and the political power they held for decades has largely evaporated. While many leaders herald the progress being made in New Orleans, and its many successes in rebuilding, the black community there has been dealt a blow which will be felt for generations. The trials of New Orleans’ Liberty Bank and Trust Company, the third largest black-owned bank in the country, demonstrate the financial hardships faced by the community since Katrina, especially in trying to rebuild and return to their homes. Alden J. McDonald Jr., longtime president and CEO of Liberty Bank, says of the economic shock still being felt among the black community, ‘‘The poor will stay poor and the middle class can never get ahead. And I don’t have the solution.’’
Source: The New York Times Magazine
Surging Housing Prices Push Dallas Poor to Streets
Surging rental prices in Dallas, TX are pricing many poor residents out of their homes. According to Jay Dunn, president a local homeless shelter called The Bridge, nearly half of renters in Dallas are paying more than the recommended amount on housing. Dallas’ affordable housing is 93 percent full, homeless shelters are almost at capacity, and tent cities are cropping up across the city. Residents in the vicinity of two major homeless shelters have started to complain that they are seeing more people living on the streets. Dallas council member Philip Kingston says, “These neighborhoods have borne a disproportionate amount of the burden [of the homeless population].” The city is deploying social workers to large encampments like the one under I-45, with the dual goals of improving sanitation and moving homeless people into housing.
Source: The Dallas Morning News
Single-Family Housing Starts Surpass 2007 Peak
Today, the Commerce Department announced that July 2015 housing starts rose to 1.21 million, entirely due to gains in the single-family housing market. Single-family home construction grew 12.8 percent to its highest rate since December 2007. This year, total housing starts have risen to 11.3 percent, largely because of job gains and continued low mortgage rates. The report cautions, however, that with limited wage growth, the new construction will probably level off soon. Building permits declined 16.3 percent in July, after reaching an 8-year high, probably due to a crowded housing market with limited supply and surging sales prices. According to permit data, developers in many major cities are focusing on multifamily complexes to serve the millennial market.
Source: USA Today