Housing News Roundup: August 7, 2015
Uptick in Urban Violence Sparks National Conversation
Chiefs of police from around the country gathered for an emergency crime summit this week in Washington, D.C. to discuss a rash of extreme violence in many of America’s major cities. Violence in a Washington, D.C. public housing development, Woodland Terrace, exemplifies the brazen acts with which many communities are dealing; young people are regularly murdered over small disputes. The concentrated poverty of the neighborhood around the development brings violent encounters to residents, even when they are not involved. Nathan E. Bovelle, deputy director of operations for the D.C. Housing Authority, says “What we know is that most of the perpetrators of crime don’t live at our sites. Most of the victims of crimes don’t live at our sites. But the fact is that it happens at our sites, [and] that our residents are victimized by it.”
Source: The Washington Post
Portland City Council Prodded by Commission to Make Affordable Housing a Bigger Priority
The Portland Housing Advisory Commission, a task force designed to provide housing policy guidance to city leaders, recommended this week that the city increase its affordable housing minimums in all of its urban renewal districts. With thousands of market-rate apartments coming online, and rapidly rising home prices, affordable housing is becoming a larger issue for Portland’s lower-income population. Currently, 30% of urban renewal district funding must be spent on affordable housing, but the Commission recommends increasing that to 50%. The change would effectively decrease funding for infrastructure projects and other redevelopment plans. Wayne Miya, commission member and executive director of Our House, a home for people with HIV/AIDS says, “We know that there’s a huge issue out there. To submit a recommendation from PHAC for a substantial increase in funding is not unreasonable.”
Source: The Oregonian
Could Traveling Showers Be the New Mobile Health Clinic?
An innovative start-up idea designed to serve the homeless is taking off as a way to combat serious public health issues in the developing world. The idea, called “Lava Mae,” transforms decommissioned city buses into showering facilities, and provides mobile personal hygiene services for vulnerable populations living on the streets of San Francisco. Lava Mae’s creator, Doniece Sandoval, was open to sharing her bus-turned-shower concept with the many places that quickly contacted her. A group in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, for instance, wants to use the buses to prevent diarrheal diseases and other problems caused by a severe clean water shortage there. The concept may require an overhaul, however, since the city has no public sewer system or sanitation services–public infrastructure that Lava Mae relies on in San Francisco.
Miami Using EB-5 to Fund Affordable Housing
The mayor of Miami, Tomas Regalado, recently announced that select affordable housing developments will be eligible to receive EB-5 funding from the city’s EB-5 Regional Center, opened in 2014. The EB-5 visa program provides immigrants with a green card in exchange for an investment in a U.S. business that creates jobs. In an environment of decreasing federal funding for affordable housing development, investments from EB-5 visa seekers are viewed as an alternative way to use a federal program to benefit local initiatives. According to a University of Florida analysis, Miami-Dade County lost approximately 21,000 affordable apartments between 2000 and 2012, mostly due to demolition and redevelopment. In the same period, nearly 90,000 market-rate condominiums were developed, contributing to a shortage of affordable units in the city.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
New Fed Report Shows Millennials Taking Longer to Save for Homes
A new report from the U.S. Federal Reserve says it is taking Millennials many more years than previous generations to save enough to buy a home. The Fed found that the net worth of households led by someone under age 61 fell approximately 30% from 1989 to 2013, while the net worth of older households grew. Raj Sharma, managing director of wealth management for Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group in Boston, explains that in the wake of the Great Recession, “Credit standards got tightened considerably. It’s not easy to get a mortgage unless you have a certain amount of assets and income. I think it’s going to be years before most millennials will be able to afford a home.” The Fed’s findings support recent numbers from the U.S. Census that show homeownership rates among Millennials falling. While in 2009, 39 percent of people under age 35 were homeowners, today it stands at 34.8 percent.
Source: The Boston Herald