Housing News Roundup: July 27, 2016
New Tool Shows Challenge of Making Affordable Housing ‘Pencil Out’ without Subsidy
The costs incurred constructing new multifamily buildings, such as the amount paid for the land, workers, and loan interest, make the units unaffordable for low-income families. Those making 60 percent of the area median income or less cannot afford the rents that developers must charge to cover their costs, let alone earn a profit, a problem often referred to as not ‘penciling out.’ This inspired the Urban Institute, in partnership with the National Housing Conference, to create a new online tool that visually depicts this private-market failure. Users can see the affordability gap for creating multifamily buildings for low-income households and can choose various options for making the properties financially viable. Erika Poethig of the Urban Institute says, “Building affordable housing is truly a public-private partnership…and the private only takes you so far.”
Source: The Washington Post
Leaders Address Connection between Substance-Abuse Fatalities and Housing
In Massachusetts last year, 1,526 people died of opioid-related overdoses, and the fatalities are connected to housing status. Homeless New Englanders ages 25 to 44 “were nine times more likely to die from an overdose than those with stable housing.” The connection between housing and substance-abuse treatment was the subject of a regional dialogue with public- and private-sector leaders hosted last week by the Corporation for Supportive Housing. “We need to focus more on the path to recovery, which is really bringing together housing and treatment and employment,” says Marylou Sanders, the Massachusetts secretary of health and human services.
Source: The Boston Globe
Airbnb and the Housing Shortage in San Francisco
The slow pace of new development in San Francisco leads to high rental prices, but property owners are also converting units from long-term to short-term rentals through tools like Airbnb, which makes housing scarcer and more expensive. The premium paid for short-term rentals creates an incentive for landlords to find a way to evict tenants, particularly in rent-controlled units. While Airbnb does not directly cause costly rents, “it doesn’t seem sustainable to undercut what you try to build by removing units from the market,” says Roy Samaan of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. A study commissioned by Airbnb last year found minimal effect on rents in San Francisco and New York.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Federal Bill Would Allow Seniors to Age in Place
A bill has been introduced in Congress that would subsidize home modifications for aging in place. The Senior Accessible Housing Act would provide nonrefundable tax credits for home modifications such as installing ramps or nonslip flooring. Because 88 percent of people ages 65 or older want to stay in their homes as long as possible, the bill could generate meaningful bipartisan support. However, the process of moving from a bill to a law is far from certain, especially in an election year.
Unsafe Housing Has Far-Reaching Consequences
Poor housing conditions negatively affect the health and academic performance of residents. The Center for American Progress recently released a report that found that 30 million of the approximately 135 million homes in America have severe health and safety hazards. Most of these poor-quality homes are in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, unemployment, segregation, and other challenging conditions (areas of “concentrated disadvantage”). Structural deficiencies and walls covered in lead paint “shape the lives of the families who inhabit them,” writes Alexia Fernandez Campbell in The Atlantic. According to the report, poor housing and concentrated disadvantage increase the likelihood of asthma among children and slow the development of children’s verbal abilities, among other problems. According to US Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, the burden of fixing these unsafe homes falls on federal and local governments. “Folks living in low-income communities are unaware of the problem, or if they are aware, they are not able to remediate it themselves,” said Castro at a press conference announcing funding to address home lead exposure.
Source: The Atlantic
Opinion: Housing Policy Is Not Race-Neutral
In a new 16-week series, City Limits and Enterprise Community Partners are showcasing opinions from high-profile New Yorkers on how race and housing interact. According to Bill Frey, “housing policy in the United States is not race-neutral.” Intentional policies such as redlining disadvantaged specific areas and excluded people of color from obtaining a mortgage or renting in specific neighborhoods. Gentrification has further changed New York’s neighborhoods but makes it more difficult for low-income families, especially families of color, to afford a decent place to live. Frey calls for an emphasis on community-led change, working with the most affected families at the center of the process. As Jim Rouse, founder of Enterprise Community Partners, said, “We can’t accept life as it is in this country. It has got to change. And it has got to be radically changed by us.”
Source: City Limits