Housing News Roundup: July 20, 2017
Hospital Prospers while Neighbors Experience a Severe Health Care Shortage
One of the greatest hospitals in the country, Cleveland Clinic, has grossed $2.7 billion in profit in the past four years, is the second-largest employer in Ohio, and delivers billions of dollars in value to the state. Its 165-acre campus boasts bike lanes, green parks, skyways that connect buildings, art selected by three full-time curators, its own police, and regular high-profile speakers. It attracts patients from all over the world. The two neighborhoods closest to the clinic experience a different reality. Vacant lots and blighted homes dot the streets of Fairfax and Hough, and the dwindling population of residents hears gunfire every night. The infant mortality rate is three times the national average, more than one-third of residents have diabetes (the worst rate in the city), and the clinic’s community assessment ranks the 95 percent African American area as “highest need” in health care access. One national neighborhood-ranking website calls the area “barely livable.” How can it be that the clinic keeps prospering while its impoverished neighbors battle poor health outcomes? Should the hospital do more?
Legislators Scramble for Solutions as California’s Housing Crisis Spirals
California’s thriving economy is threatened by the state’s severe housing crisis, which is the worst in recent memory. At $500,000, the median cost of a home is double the national average. Housing prices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego have risen as much as 75 percent in the past five years, the state has the toughest market for first-time homebuyers, and the cost of its housing is out of reach for nearly all its low-income population. This major threat to California’s economic future and quality of life has thrust the housing debate into the focus of local and state politics. “This is no longer a coastal, elite housing problem. This is a problem in big swaths of the state. It is damaging the economy. It is damaging the environment,” said Democratic state senator Scott Wiener, who sponsored a controversial bill passed by the Senate that would restrict the ability to use zoning, environmental, and procedural laws to prevent projects that do not seem in character with their neighborhoods. Later this summer, legislators likely will vote on a package of housing proposals to further address the crisis.
Source: New York Times
Denver’s New Idea to Tackle Its Affordable Housing Crisis
In response to its extreme affordable housing shortage, Denver will test a new approach announced last week by Mayor Michael Hancock. During his state of the city address, the mayor revealed the city’s plan for a pilot program that will rent 400 vacant apartments to people who could not otherwise afford them. The “buy-down” program will take vacant high-end apartments and subsidize their rents so that families who make 40 to 80 percent of Denver’s median income can move in. Along with the city’s affordable housing fund, corporations and philanthropic foundations will cover the difference in rent. “Denver has some of the highest inventories for apartments for families with the highest incomes and some of the lowest inventories for families with some of the lowest incomes,” said Erik Solivan, executive director of the mayor’s Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere. Not only will the program create more affordable housing, but it will allow Denver to gather more accurate information on vacancy rates to help them reduce the number in the future.
DC Nonprofits Facilitate Homeownership to Combat Gentrification
As DC housing prices skyrocket and historically low- and moderate-income areas of the city become gentrified, will residents be priced out? “The demographics completely changed,” said Leon Waddy, who grew up in the Shaw neighborhood in the ’80s and ’90s. “When I was a young kid, it was a predominantly black neighborhood…Now, it’s pretty much a predominantly white neighborhood.” He and many others worried that his family would be forced to move outside the District until a group of nonprofits, including Lydia’s House, began offering guidance to first-time low- and moderate-income homebuyers looking in the city. “We want people who have been longtime residents and who have been part of the city to stay in the city,” said Cliff Beckford, the nonprofit’s deputy director. The organization has helped clients buy 50 homes over the past two years, and clientele has increased 25 percent over the past year. These nonprofits view homeownership as a tool to combat gentrification, help stabilize neighborhoods, and give owners a voice on city development in their communities. Using advice from Lydia’s House, Leon Waddy purchased a four-bedroom townhouse for $380,000 in Anacostia.
Source: Washington Post
Low-Income Renters Evicted at Record Rates Due to Housing Crisis
No one is experiencing the widespread affordable housing crisis as much as low-income renters. The shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental units has forced these renters to live month to month, with evictions being a looming threat and often an inevitable outcome. The number of evictions ordered by Maricopa County’s justice courts has more than quadrupled since 1996. In 2016, the courts processed 22,231 evictions. Ken Sumner says he performs “about a thousand” evictions every year—119 each month, 30 a week, 5 or 6 a day. He admits that sometimes his job weighs on his conscience. The people he evicts tell him their stories, like Carlos, whose old arrest prevented him from renewing his license to work in private security. His family’s income dwindled so much that he could not afford rent, and every rental assistance organization in the city was out of funds. “Remember,” Sumner said, “bad things happen to good people.”
Source: AZ Central