Housing News Roundup: February 18, 2016
Clinton Campaign Announces Housing Agenda
Breaking with the general silence of presidential candidates on housing policy, Hillary Clinton released an economic agenda with $25 billion targeted to an array of housing initiatives. The housing platform is intended to increase equitable access to economic opportunity through sustainable homeownership programs and efforts to address rental affordability problems. Supporters of the plan include the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families and the National Association of Home Builders.
Neighborly Funding for Infrastructure
A new community investment program applies crowdfunding concepts to fund infrastructure. Dubbed Neighborly, the program was created by Jase Wilson, a graduate student in the Urban Studies and Planning program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most urban infrastructure is funded through the nation’s $3.7 trillion municipal bond market, which is difficult for individual investors to access. “If people knew they could invest in a street or school down the street, they would do that in a heartbeat,” says Wilson. Neighborly will allow local governments to sell single bonds to individuals. In a pilot, the program offered bonds worth $500 each to fund $2 million of a $20 million school district project in California.
The Fragile Integration of Suburbia
In a recent interview by CityLab, Myron Orfield, director of the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota, discusses suburban racial integration, which is both common and fragile. About 44 percent of U.S. suburbanites live in racially integrated communities, but only neighborhoods that remain less than one-third nonwhite are likely to remain integrated. Orfield posits that steering, mortgage lending discrimination, and—controversially—traditional affordable housing development continue to undermine the Fair Housing Act and support segregation. In his opinion, affordable housing developers exacerbate segregation by concentrating their developments in minority and low-income communities. He argues that the balance of affordable housing development should focus on pro-integration locations, with a smaller share in the central cities.
Philanthropy for Public Housing
The newly created Fund for Public Housing has re-imagined the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) as a philanthropic cause. Years of insufficient federal budget allocations for public housing have left the NYCHA with unmet capital needs and annual operating deficits. To meet its $200 million, three-year goal, the Fund for Public Housing is seeking charitable donations from successful public housing graduates and wealthy residents who live near public housing communities. “Public housing isn’t an obvious recipient of philanthropy, but when you think about what makes New York City work, public housing is just so essential to the success of families and neighborhoods, and that has too long been unrecognized,” says Scott Anderson, a technology executive and one of the fund’s board members.
Source: New York Times
Is Market-Rate Development an Affordable Housing Solution?
Although affordable housing advocates are often skeptical of market-rate development, a recent report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) supports economists’ supply/demand argument: more development at any price point brings down prices overall. The lack of new market-rate construction in tight markets fosters competition between low- and moderate-income households. In addition, as housing ages, upper-income families will leave for more desirable homes, allowing older housing to become available to families with lower incomes. Evidence from the San Francisco Bay area even connected more housing construction with lower chances of displacement for lower-income households. The findings remain similar with or without inclusionary housing policies. The LAO report concludes that market-rate construction can benefit low-income households more broadly than small-scale, costly affordable housing programs with a smaller scope.
Source: Washington Post
In Maine, Renters Seek Tenant Protections
Renters in Portland, Maine, are petitioning the city council to consider additional housing and tenant protection measures. Residents argue that rising housing demand gives landlords too much leverage over tenants. Resident Keith Costello testified about his fear of displacement. “If we complained, I’m worried I’m not going to have a place to live. They say you don’t have to live here, but the fact is, you don’t really have a choice because there’s nowhere else to go.” The city has already enacted mandatory inclusionary housing and amended zoning rules to increase allowable density. Advocates charge that this is not enough. Last year, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, a nonprofit legal assistance agency, assisted low-income renters involved in 1,200 eviction cases in Portland. “Every two weeks, that courtroom is filled with people who are nine days away from being homeless,” says Pine Tree attorney Katie McGovern.
Source: Portland Press Herald