Housing News Roundup: December 3, 2015
Disparate Impact Case Returns to District Court
The plaintiff in a landmark case on housing discrimination that reached the U.S. Supreme Court this summer is back in Texas district court. The nonprofit, Inclusive Communities Project (ICP), must prove whether the state’s housing policy discriminated against minorities when it allocated tax credits to housing developments in predominately poor, minority neighborhoods. While the U.S. Supreme Court case sided with ICP, it held that statistical differences are not enough evidence to prove a defendant violated the Fair Housing Act. The plaintiff must prove that a policy actually caused the disparate impact, and show that the defendant had less discriminatory ways of executing its policy for them to be in violation. Even among those who believe ICP can prove these two points, whether the state is then obligated to promote integration is still an open question.
Source: The Dallas Morning News
More Cities Preserve Apartments for Middle-Income Tenants
Municipalities like San Francisco, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts are attempting to increase the number of rental units specifically reserved for middle-income families, many of whom may earn six figure salaries. Cities are becoming increasingly expensive as people of all ages desire urban landscapes, yet wages continue to stagnate in the wake of the recession. Ron Terwilliger, former executive of Trammel Crow and chairman of the Terwilliger Foundation, says, “When we’re talking about the silent housing crisis, we’re not talking only about the low-income people…the people we’re talking about are middle class.” Although advocates of low-income housing remain skeptical of programs that preserve housing units for middle-income families because of their potential impact on the low-income housing stock, many developers are doing so because of incentives like the ability to create taller buildings.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Innovative Investment Vehicles Generate Social Good and Financial Returns
A new report from the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing and NeighborWorks America analyzes financing vehicles that balance profit with social good. The report profiles 16 efforts across the country that have collectively raised more than $2 billion and supported the acquisition or rehabilitation of nearly 60,000 units of affordable and workforce housing. Despite being mission-oriented, these financing vehicles still generate cash-on-cash returns between 6 and 12 percent. These below-market debt funds, private equity vehicles, and real estate investment trusts are generating larger returns for their investors than other social investment areas. Stockton Williams, executive director of ULI’s Terwilliger Center, says “Hopefully this report…acts as a guide for socially motivated institutions that are looking to invest capital in activities with a social and financial return.”
Source: Housing Finance
San Francisco Creates City Agency Devoted to Homeless Services
Today, San Francisco Mayor Ed Murray is expected to announce his plans to create a city department devoted to services for the homelessness. The agency would put an array of homeless services, including drug rehabilitation, counseling, health and housing, under one roof. Lee says, “I want our programs and services for the homeless to be in a less siloed place, with a defined outcome–housing every homeless person we can with the help that they need to live healthy lives.” Along with the new department, Lee has a plan to spend $1 billion over the next four years to decrease homelessness. Staff members are expected to be pulled from existing agencies, with the goal of streamlining the bureaucracy around homeless services. Randy Shaw, director of one of the largest temporary housing providers in the city, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, says of the plan, “It sounds like the mayor has gotten the message that this problem can’t be solved by just going around the edges… Of course, the proof is in the pudding.”
Source: San Francisco Gate
Urban Farms at NYC Public Housing Sites Increase Food Access
Urban farms are springing up across New York’s public housing complexes, bringing fresh food and community to many of the city’s neighborhoods considered “food deserts.” One such farm in Red Hook is serving as the inspiration for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, a public-private partnership designed to improve health in 12 communities with limited access to fresh, healthy food. With millions from both public coffers and private donors, the plan will create culinary programs and build more urban farms and school gardens across the city. The urban farms will be built on New York City Housing Authority public housing sites, and staffed by low-income corps members. The farming program will teach corps members farming and other sustainability skills and pay them a stipend. Sade Bennett, a corps member from the urban farm in Red Hook de Blasio’s program is modeled after, says of her experience, “The lessons that we’ve learned, we take it home to our kids and they have healthier mind-sets.” She also said since starting the program she has improved her diet and used some of her stipend to buy a bicycle.
Source: The Wall Street Journal