Housing News Roundup: July 13, 2017
Black Americans Aren’t Sharing in the Housing Market Recovery
Homeownership rates have rebounded from the 2007 recession and are stabilizing. But one population is not seeing gains. According to a new report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the share of African Americans who do not own their home was 30 percentage points higher than it was for whites in 2016. The Joint Center says this is the highest disparity between blacks and whites in more than 70 years. There are many reasons for this dramatic imbalance, including historic unemployment rates among African Americans, low wages, the fact that the foreclosure crisis disproportionately affected the African American community, and the fact that lenders targeted minorities and pushed risky subprime loans, even on applicants who qualified for loans with lower interest rates. “It has always been historically and systematically harder for blacks, and we were seeing there a little bit of progress,” says Alanna McCargo, codirector of the Urban Institute’s Housing and Finance Policy Center, “and now we’re back at square one.”
Source: NBC News
Could This Unique Approach Remedy Hawaii’s Homelessness Problem?
Home to the largest homeless population per capita in the United States, Hawaii is facing a homelessness crisis. There are 487 homeless people per 100,000 Hawaii residents, mainly because of exorbitant housing costs. Prominent business owner, real-estate investor, and part-time owner of the San Francisco Giants Duane Kuriso thinks he has the solution. Kuriso conceptualized and has begun funding Kahauiki Village, a city-owned property on Honolulu that will be assembled to form a community of 30 single-family dwellings—with the potential to expand and house around 600 individuals. The community is modeled on the island’s former plantations, including one where he grew up. The one- and two-bedroom affordable housing units will include utilities, kitchen and bath, access to outdoor fire pits, vegetable gardens, communal laundry, a child care center, and other services. The village will rent units to families who were formerly homeless, and residents will be guaranteed jobs at United Laundry, a huge facility that provides full-time work benefits and is a five-minute walk from the village. Supporters think this public-private partnership could solve the island’s homelessness crisis, but critics worry what will happen to around 100 residents of a homeless encampment at the site, none of whom have gone through the transitional housing program required to qualify for the new housing.
Source: Next City
Are Air Filters Enough to Protect Residents near Freeways?
Los Angeles officials continue approving residential developments along freeways despite health experts and air-quality regulators’ repeated warnings that current air filtration standards do not protect residents from traffic pollution. Experts caution that air filters do not keep out toxic exhaust gases and say that new housing should not be built within 500 feet of heavy traffic, yet in 2015, Los Angeles granted building permits for 4,300 homes close enough to freeways to threaten health. The head of the Department of Building and Safety admits that his office does not have procedures in place to document whether the correct filters were installed and does not conduct follow-up visits for maintenance and replacement. While environmental advocates and neighborhood groups want stricter development standards, city officials, including Mayor Garcetti, oppose limits in part because of the city’s severe housing shortage. Victor Johnson has three air-filtration machines running in his one-bedroom Studio City apartment that is 300 feet from the 101 Freeway. “Three filters and still this ultra-fine dust that’s a fine, fine black powder,” Johnson said. “I’m concerned about my lungs. I can deal with the embarrassment of my furniture being dusty. But I don’t want the same issues as a coal miner.”
Source: Los Angeles Times
Legal Battle Leaves Residents with Nowhere to Turn
Noemi Pina lives in the house where she grew up with her 81-year-old mother and two young sons. She used to work full-time but now takes care of her mother, who is recovering from surgery, and the family primarily lives off her mom’s $1,000-a-month Social Security check. Like many others who live in the decades-old housing owned by HMK Ltd., she and her family are being forced to relocate. The rental company and Dallas City Hall are embroiled in a legal battle that resulted from the city tightening its rental housing property standards. Consequently, HMK Ltd. sent out hundreds of eviction letters, and a judge gave residents until October to find new housing. Most evicted residents are struggling to find alternative housing that is affordable. Pina pays $300 a month in rent for her home, but says, “All the houses that I’ve been looking for, like a three-bedroom, a two-bedroom, is between $900 to $1,400,” she said. She must decide whether to move her family to eastern Dallas, which is more affordable, but would force her sons to switch schools.
Source: The Texas Tribune
Washington Can’t Solve the Housing Crisis. So Who Can?
US homeownership is at a 50-year low and may decrease as 83 million millennials approach homebuying age. President Trump says he has the extreme housing crisis under control and that “homebuilders are starting to build again,” but the reality is that construction is at an eight-month low. The Trump administration has discussed rolling back clean-water regulations that raised builders’ costs, and secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson has mentioned that building codes need to be updated, but neither has given additional specifics. Cities and towns typically control the rules for residential construction, meaning that Washington doesn’t have much power over building codes. “These rules are made at the micro, micro level,” said Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. “The federal ability to override local regulation is really pretty minimal.” If the federal government is not the best hope for future housing policy, who is?