Housing News Roundup: December 14, 2015
In Baltimore, Low-Income Families Quietly Move to the Suburbs
As part of a court-ordered relocation program, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has moved thousands of families to the suburbs. In some cases, the authority has purchased properties in the suburbs, while other families moved using special housing vouchers with mobility counseling. The stories of families who moved or are waiting to move include Taneeka Richardson, a mother who left public housing in Baltimore for life in the Howard County suburbs. Despite facing initial adjustment difficulties, Richardson has since earned a GED and a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in graduate school and looking forward to no longer needing a government rent subsidy. To help families develop the patience to stay and adjust, Baltimore’s mobility vouchers require families to stay at least two years in the new neighborhood. Some families who moved have now been in the suburbs for as long as eight years.
Source: Baltimore Sun
Suburban Re-Building Leaves Little Room for Modest Homes
A desire for suburban lifestyles yet short commutes to the city is leading to infill redevelopment in inner-ring suburbs of both high-cost and low-cost cities around the U.S. In Edina, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis with a population of less than 50,000, more than 550 houses were demolished between 2008 and 2014; other properties were remodeled to add space. The demolished properties had an average value of $377,000, while the new structures are typically valued at more than $1 million. While the reinvestment has extensive benefits for the community, the overall balance of home prices is making it hard for first-time home buyers. “You’ve got to have affordable housing, which means the smaller houses,” says Joyce Mellom, an attorney who lives in Edina. “We are losing that mix and that’s a concern for a lot of people here.”
Supportive Housing to Grow in NYC
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced plans to build 7,500 new units of supportive housing and create an equal number of supportive housing units scattered in buildings throughout the city. While the additional services are estimated to cost $30,000 per unit annually, the model has been credited with substantially reducing chronic homelessness and saving money otherwise spent on criminal justice involvement and emergency room visits. Opponents of supportive housing express concerns about security or becoming overly burdened with serving the homeless population. According to Mary Brosnahan, president of the Coalition for the Homeless, once the chronically homeless are housed “they can flip that switch from survival to working on thriving.”
Source: Associated Press
Making the Case for Second Chances
“If we are genuinely concerned about reducing crime, helping ex-prisoners establish stable post-incarceration lives is paramount,” according to an opinion piece by Doug Ryan of CFED. Yet, an arrest or conviction makes public housing off-limits to this vulnerable population. As states and localities begin to adopt “Ban the Box” laws that limit employers’ access to criminal records during the initial job search process, Ryan says housing authorities should also adopt greater flexibility about arrest records and other criminal justice system involvement. Access to permanent housing reduces crime and assists families and children as parents return from prison.
Vancouver Offers Lessons for Accessory Dwelling Units
To add to the housing stock without affecting community character, some communities allow homeowners to construct a small additional home on their lot. These homes go by various names, including accessory dwelling units (ADUs), coach houses, granny flats, and laneway houses. While the properties are part of the housing stock in San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, and Portland, Ore., the Canadian city of Vancouver has citywide rules permitting any owner in a single-family zone to add a small secondary structure as long as the home will have an off-street parking space. The properties allow residents to create modest rental properties or create semi-independent living opportunities for older relatives. The costs of design, permits, and construction total around U.S. $258,000 per home.