Housing News Roundup: July 28, 2015
Virginia Redevelopment Plan Sparks Passionate Opinions
A controversial plan to revitalize a high-traffic area of Fairfax County, Va., to meet current and future community needs is expected to come up for a vote today. The redevelopment plan for Seven Corners, known as a traffic nightmare, would add around 5,000 units of new housing in dense, walkable communities. Current residents are concerned about the increased density and the impact it could have on traffic and the school system. According to the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, the plan lacks affordable housing measures and will likely drive low-income families out of the area. “If there’s no place for them to live affordably, we potentially lose them as employees in the area or they move far out into the hinterlands,” said Michelle Krocker, the head of the alliance. “And, then they’d have to commute in, and that’s problematic for everybody.”
Source: The Washington Post
Even ‘Cheap’ Housing is Expensive When Salaries are Low
A one-bedroom apartment in New Orleans costs around $1,400, far less than its San Francisco counterpart, which goes for $3,000. These lower rates may make New Orleans seem more affordable, but not when you consider incomes in the area. More than 35% of the city’s residents spend at least half of their salaries on rent, much above the level that experts consider affordable. Unemployment is about 6.3%, higher than the national average, and wages are lower than the national average. Monika Gerhart-Hambrick, the policy director for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, also says that housing woes fall disproportionately on the city’s black population. “There has been pressure applied to lower income renters, who are overwhelmingly African American, and they’re really being moved and forced into rentals that are most likely to have issues of deferred maintenance,” Gerhart-Hambrick said. Local experts also say the destruction of public housing during Katrina has displaced the city’s poorest residents, exacerbating the problem.
California City Eyeing Rent Control and Just Cause Eviction Law
If the city council has its way, rent control is coming to Richmond, Calif., making it the state’s first city in 30 years to implement the economic regulation. The area’s median rent rose 13% between January 2014 and January 2015, according to UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. The ordinance would effect an estimated 10,000 households, and require landlords to show “just cause” when evicting tenants. According to Eli Moore, a co-author of the Haas Institute report said, “the community they’ve stayed in and invested in is starting to improve and they can no longer afford to live there.” Opponents say it is unfair to landlords, many of whom are immigrant small business owners that rely on their properties for income. Further, the ordinance would only apply to certain residences, and would spell higher rents for everyone else. The mayor opposes the change.
Source: The San Francisco Chronicle
Hospital Groups Want IRS to Consider Housing a Community Benefit
Several well-known hospital groups, including the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association, are pushing the IRS to consider hospital-sponsored housing a community benefit rather than a community building activity. In a letter sent to the IRS’ Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, three high-ranking executives wrote, “It is indisputable that healthcare is no longer being provided only within four walls of hospital buildings.” The hospital groups included in their petition academic studies that demonstrate the linkages between housing and health outcomes, such as the impact allergens have on health and overall quality of life. Some studies suggest that hospitals providing housing in the communities they serve could even reduce the number of homeless patients who visit the emergency room.
Source: Fierce Health Finance
Major Corporations Back Anti-LGBT Discrimination Bill
Today Nike, General Mills, American Airlines and Facebook became the latest corporations to lend their support to a piece of federal anti-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act. Following the lead of companies such as Apple and Dow Chemicals, the companies are working to ensure Congress passes new anti-discrimination legislation that would make it illegal to refuse to provide services – such as housing – to members of the LGBT community. Under existing federal law, sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes. In only 18 states and the District of Columbia is housing discrimination based on sexuality or sexual identity illegal, which means 166 million Americans live in states where they can be evicted by a landlord for their sexuality. General Mills says, “Ensuring fairness in our workplaces and communities is both the right thing to do and simply good business.”
Source: TIME Magazine