Housing News Roundup: July 20, 2015
Unaffordable Rents in High and Low-Cost Cities
At a time when more people are renting instead of buying homes, renting is starting to get harder. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that more than 11 million households spend more than half of their income on housing, up 37% from 2003.While the study found high costs in cities known to be expensive, like New York City, even cities like Rochester, N.Y. with below average housing costs are seeing one in three renters put more than half of their income toward housing. “The rental housing crisis is everywhere,” said Angela Boyd, vice president of advocacy at Enterprise Community Partners. Conversely, for those who have managed to save enough to buy a home, homeowners paid a historically low share of their income toward housing in 2013.
Source: The Washington Post
New Map Shows Vanishing Rent-Stabilized Apartments in NYC
More than 50,000 apartments in New York City have been deregulated over the past eight years, making rent-stabilized apartments a fleeting option for the city’s low- and middle-income residents. Manhattan has been impacted the most, but other areas are increasingly being affected, as can be seen in a new interactive map. Units get added to the rent-stabilized stock through concessions in exchange for tax breaks, and units are lost when the legal rent for a stabilized apartment exceeds a certain threshold and the existing resident moves out, a circumstance known as “vacancy destabilization.” Advocates assert that landlords try to increase vacancy destabilization through various means of harassment. Data for the map was gathered from “hundreds of thousands of tax bills” between the years 2007 and 2014.
Minneapolis Rethinks Parking Requirements near Transit
The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to relax parking requirements in transit-oriented housing developments. Previously, there was a requirement to have one parking space per unit for all developments outside of downtown. A 2014 study by Canada’s Victoria Transport Policy Institute found that such parking minimums can raise rent by as much as 20% when the added costs of these spaces are passed along to the renters and buyers. The new ordinance axes parking requirements for transit-oriented developments with 50 or fewer units and reduces the requirement for larger developments to .5 parking spaces per unit. Council Member Lisa Bender, the architect of the change, said that “my goal is to make sure our regulations aren’t standing in the way of what the market wants.”
Regional Cooperation to Spread Affordability in Metro Chicago
Earlier last year, a 20-unit development for low-income people was built in Glenview, one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs. Towns like Glenview often shut down such projects, so how did Chicago make it a reality? In 2002, the Chicago Housing Authority collaborated with other local housing authorities to create the Regional Housing Initiate (RHI). Through RHI, the housing authorities were able to pool a portion of their funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program, known as Section 8, to subsidize the construction of affordable developments in “opportunity” areas with good schools and access to jobs. Since 2002, the project has built 2,047 new apartment units in 30 developments. “It’s really in some ways a workaround that we’ve created in the Chicago area to create more affordable and mixed-income housing in suburban opportunity areas,” said Breann Gala, a project manager at the Metropolitan Planning Council. “We see this as a tool for both de-concentrating poverty and promoting access to opportunity.”
Internet Still Scarce in Many Homes
President Obama believes the Internet is “one of the most significant democratizing influences that world has ever known.” But Internet access is still scarce in many areas; Pennsylvania alone has approximately 1.1 million households without it. Many families struggling to pay their bills often have to decide between medication, putting food on the table and tools such as Internet access. More than 55 million Americans are believed to live in such situations, with income being a large determinant of access. In 2013, more than 95% of people in earning more than $150,000 a year had internet access at home, while only 48% of people earning less than $25,000 had access . Many organizations are looking for a way to create publically available Internet where residents can pay a small fee to “hook up” a connection – something that is especially useful in areas where there cable prices are high due to little competition between cable companies.