Housing News Roundup: February 4, 2016
Despite Disparate Impact Ruling, Exclusion Continues in TX
In a 2015 case related to affordable housing locations in Texas, the Supreme Court confirmed that actions that have a disparate impact, such as the segregation of affordable housing in high-poverty or majority-minority neighborhoods, may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act. However, municipal governments and state legislators in Texas continue to thwart the new fair housing mandates by blocking affordable housing development. The City Council in the Dallas suburb of Midlothian is blocking two new multifamily rental developments due to resident objections about lower-income residents coming into the community. A candidate for state legislature from the Houston metropolitan area is running on a platform of preventing low income housing from being built in the district. Under a 2001 law, state representatives can indeed block affordable developments since they control sufficient points in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocation process. The results of the likely showdown with the court’s ruling are not yet known.
Free Internet in Public Housing
Starting with the West Bluff public housing development in Kansas City, Missouri, Google is adding free internet to several public housing properties in its Google Fiber cities. Through the ConnectHome partnership, families can also access computer classes and purchase discounted internet-enabled devices. Google plans to offer free internet in up to nine subsidized housing developments in Kansas City, helping more than 1,300 families get online. Eventually all Google Fiber cities will have free internet at some public housing properties. “Access to the internet can mean the difference between thriving or falling behind,” says Dennis Kish, vice president of Google Fiber. “It can mean more children using computers in after-school programs and STEM classes, more students going online to finish their homework.”
Source: The Verge
Seattle Sees High Poverty Rate among College Students
Among the 50 most populous U.S. cities, Seattle has the highest concentration of college students living below the poverty line, despite its comparatively low poverty rate of 14.5 percent. More than a quarter of the city’s 90,000 residents living in poverty are college and graduate students. The U.S. Census Bureau data used to calculate these figures take into account students’ taxable income and do not include students living in dorms. Although some students have external financial support from their family and student loans, the National Center for Education Statistics found that more than half of undergraduate students are over 24 years old and financially independent of their parents. Local food banks and institutions of higher education, including the University of Washington, are helping students meet their basic needs by providing food and services.
Source: Seattle Times
Pittsburgh Nonprofit Sees Land Trust as First Rung of Wealth Building
Though Pittsburgh is not known for high housing costs, households with low to middle incomes are being priced out of their homes as neighborhoods change. In an effort to maintain balance, nonprofit developers are focusing on creating and preserving affordable housing in neighborhoods where prices are rising. The Lawrenceville Corp.’s newly created land trust is intended to keep a small number of homeownership opportunities affordable for buyers now and in the future. Ongoing sales prices are restricted to keep housing affordable for households earning 80 percent of the area median income. “This is an opportunity to give people a hold on the first rung of wealth building,” says Matthew Galluzzo, executive director of the Lawrenceville Corp. “It is also an opportunity to stabilize a family. We are seeing displacement here, with a 25 percent mobility rate from year to year at Arsenal Elementary.”
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Planning for Public Health
Dubuque, Iowa, is among a growing list of cities that address public health through urban planning. Its comprehensive plan addresses both physical and mental health considerations. The city also recently won a $31.5 million grant for floodproofing and stormwater management through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Resilience Competition. “It’s come to the forefront in a lot of ways,” says Anthony Smith, a cartographer and blogger on cities and health. “Now health and well-being are like the new sustainability.” A 2010 American Planning Association survey found that 31 percent of jurisdictions included public health in their comprehensive plans, and 3.7 percent used health impact assessments.
Source: Next City
Sprawl May Limit Economic Mobility
In 2013, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman made the case that sprawl limits economic mobility. The connection is also suggested by metropolitan area rankings created by the Equality of Opportunity Project, which show San Jose as having the greatest upward mobility and Atlanta the least. New research published in Landscape and Urban Planning has added to the evidence, concluding that “upward mobility is significantly higher in compact than sprawling metropolitan areas/commuting zones.” The analysis was based on a sprawl index that includes density, mixed uses, proximity to activity centers, and accessibility of the street network. The relationship, however, is complicated, with some compact cities still having low levels of upward mobility, and vice versa.
Few Affordable Homes in Walkable Neighborhoods with Good Schools
Homes in walkable neighborhoods with good schools are rarely affordable, according to an analysis by the real estate brokerage firm Redfin. The analysis looked at home sales prices, income, Walk Score rankings, and GreatSchools scores for 170 neighborhoods in 20 cities. Only 14 percent of the homes were affordable, walkable, and near high-quality schools. Because a large share of residents in Seattle and Washington, D.C., earn more than $100,000 per year, some high-cost, walkable neighborhoods near good schools in those cities made the grade as relatively affordable. Poor school performance was an impediment in walkable and affordable parts of Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia, while walkability was low in Phoenix, San Antonio, and Columbus, Ohio.
Source: Boston Globe