Housing News Roundup: August 3, 2016
Veterans Homelessness Down 47 Percent in United States
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced a 47 percent reduction in veteran homelessness. The point-in-time count from January 2016 found fewer than 40,000 homeless veterans across the United States, approximately 13,000 of whom are unsheltered. The reduction stemmed from a national effort to end veteran homelessness. The effort included a partnership between HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and a campaign by First Lady Michelle Obama that engaged mayors in a challenge. “The dramatic decline in veteran homelessness reflects the power of partnerships in solving complex national problems on behalf of those who have served our nation,” said VA secretary Robert A. McDonald.
Source: Huffington Post
No Home, No Health
San Diego County recently merged two departments that serve low-income residents to create a new Health, Housing, and Human Services Department. Previously, the county had an interdepartmental collaboration to serve chronically homeless people with mental illness. According to the agency’s director, Nick Macchione, the merger’s philosophy is “no home, no health.” In 2009, Boulder County, Colorado, was the first county to merge its housing and human services agencies, and a few others have followed suit with mergers or greater interdepartmental coordination. “I think it’s more about people looking at the social determinants of health and really trying to get to the basics of how people can be their healthiest self,” says Tracy Wareing Evans, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association. “And housing is such a key part of that.”
Teacher Housing atop a School in DC
In the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC, a building that once provided living and studying space for seminarians at Catholic University is being redeveloped as a school and multifamily building. The property will house two charter schools for the 2016–17 school year; the building’s apartments require additional renovation. Nine of the 10 apartments will be reserved for DC teachers. In a market survey commissioned by the property’s lender, 60 percent of teachers indicated a willingness to live above a school. “I wouldn’t be as effective of a teacher if I lived far away,” says Jordan Budisantoso, a computer science teacher at the Washington Leadership Academy.
Source: Washington Post
Redrawing Invisible Racial Boundaries
Invisible racial boundaries are moving because of gentrification, according to research conducted by Jonathan Tannen while at Princeton University. Tannen, now a researcher at the analytics firm Econsult, used census data and a modeling system to determine whether a computer would detect racial boundaries. Particularly in large, walkable cities, gentrifying blocks underwent a distinct racial composition change over 10 years. “Looking at racial data, it’s not that these gentrified regions are 100 percent white, they’re actually very diverse for the country,” says Tannen. “You have 85 percent white clusters replacing 97 percent black clusters.” The study may explain why gentrification seems like a larger issue than national studies suggest. “Where it happens, it happens very sharply.”
Room for Debate: Should a Decline in Homeownership Spark Concern?
Five experts weighed in on the decline in the homeownership rate as part of the New York Times’s Room for Debate series. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that while homeownership is not universally beneficial, the drop in the homeownership rate reflects not individual choices but insufficient assets and access. Mechele Dickerson, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, highlights the problems for renters when homeownership rates are low, but notes that low-income homeowners cannot reap the same economic benefits as those with higher incomes who itemize tax deductions and buy in higher-appreciation neighborhoods. William Springs, an economist with Howard University and the AFL-CIO, cautions that a low homeownership rate can widen the racial wealth gap and reduce households’ capacity to withstand economic downturns. Elyse Cherry of Boston Community Capital posits that the lagging homeownership rate hinders access to wealth building and that principal-reduction programs can help owners with negative equity. Edward Glaeser of Harvard University opposes using public policy to provide incentives for homeownership and argues that the real concern is unaffordability and insufficient housing starts in US cities.
Source: New York Times