Housing News Roundup: July 6, 2017
Is a Low-Income Housing Program Keeping Cities Segregated?
A proposed low-income housing project in Houston failed as elected officials sided with the opposition, mirroring outcomes for similar projects throughout the country. Opponents argued that the 233-unit building would contribute to overcrowding in the local elementary school and would be too expensive, while fair-housing advocates accused the opposition of being racially motivated to exclude the poor from the 87 percent white, affluent neighborhood. A New York Times review of federal data found that in metropolitan areas throughout the country, low-income housing that uses federal tax credits (the biggest funding source for the housing) is disproportionately built in majority nonwhite neighborhoods, a pattern that data show has been consistent over time. “It has been clear for a long time that the tax-credit program is perpetuating racial segregation,” said fair-housing lawyer Michael Daniel. Meanwhile, city councilman Greg Travis said that the opposition was not racially motivated, but was thinking about how low-income residents would fit into their community. “People of different socioeconomic status sometimes have different values based on their socioeconomic status. Some people can afford things that other people can’t.”
Source: New York Times
As Atlanta Homeless Shelter Shuts Down, Advocates Question What’s Next
Atlanta leaders have 60 days to determine how to fill the void that shutting down the Peachtree and Pine homeless shelter will create. The emergency overflow shelter, which normally houses 400 to 500 (but sometimes more than 1,000) people per night, will close after operating for 20 years. The shelter was accompanied by a host of problems, including large crowds of homeless people and recurrent tuberculosis outbreaks, but what will happen to the shelter’s occupants? Because of Atlanta’s rapidly increasing rents, increasing suburban poverty, and lack of shelter space downtown, it could be difficult to find a substitute to Peachtree and Pine. Cities across the country are facing similar challenges because of federal funding’s focus on finding permanent housing for the chronically homeless. While permanent supportive housing funding is increasing, funding for emergency and transitional housing is decreasing. According to director of the National Coalition for the Homeless Megan Hustings, “People who are chronically homeless make up 15 percent of the homeless population, but they’re getting 100 percent of the funding for the homeless right now.”
Source: City Lab
Administration’s Budget Plans Are Already Affecting Low-Income Housing Programs
The Trump administration’s budget plans have led to cuts in private funds available to build or rehabilitate affordable housing. The pool of funds has shrunk by approximately $1 billion since November, when banks and other institutions started reducing the amount they invest in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. The administration’s proposed tax cut for corporations eliminates the incentive for them to invest in the program. The administration also plans to cut spending on rental vouchers and other federal programs that are imperative for funding low-cost housing projects. US Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson said the spending cuts are necessary to save taxpayers money and promote “freedom from regulations and bureaucracy” and support low-income people’s “path to self-sufficiency.” According to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, 11.1 million renter households spent more than half their income on housing in 2015. Cities and states wonder how the cuts will affect the shortage of low-income housing. Beth Mullen, national director of CohnReznick’s affordable housing industry practice, and other experts described the cuts as the biggest disruption in the market since the 2008 housing market collapse.
Source: Washington Post
Affordable Housing Crisis Forces Low-Income Renters to Settle
Thirty-two-year-old mother of five Ebony Lott struggled to find affordable housing in the Phoenix, Arizona, area for more than half a decade. For six years, her name remained on a waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, which allows recipients to rent an apartment while the government pays 70 percent of the monthly rent. The program is designed to help people like Ebony work their way out of poverty. “The goal of this program is that you get affordable, decent, safe, and sanitary housing. We want you to have breathing room in your budget, so that you’re not having to make hard choices,” said Housing Services supervisor Theresa James. Ebony’s journey faced many roadblocks, from limited affordable housing availability (in Tempe, where Ebony was forced to look for apartments, there are 10 affordable and available places to live for every 100 extremely low–income households), to Section 8 stipulations, to time constraints imposed by the voucher program and the shelter where Ebony temporarily resided. Ebony finally found a suitable apartment, but had to compromise on location, size, and sanitation.
Source: AZ Central
A Land Trust Combats Gentrification in Charlotte
Fearful that widespread gentrification will bring higher rents and taxes and destroy remaining areas of inexpensive housing, a movement has emerged to ward off real estate investors in Enderly Park, a predominantly African American neighborhood in west Charlotte, North Carolina, where the average household income is less than $24,000 a year. The nonprofit West Side Community Land Trust is organizing to ensure that residents do not sell out to developers and to buy affordable land before prices rise with the goal of partnering with a nonprofit real estate developer to create affordable housing. “I don’t want to leave Enderly Park, but they are pushing us out,” said Cornelia Hagens, who has lived in the neighborhood since she was a child but is considering moving. Although many in the neighborhood do not want to sell their properties, they are skeptical of how the land trust would work. Local historian Thomas Hanchett said that the trust faces “two major hurdles. It requires raising a pot of money and that’s hard anytime. The other thing is they are in a race against time.” Meanwhile, Jeff Johnson, owner of real estate investment firm NewPath Properties, thinks the neighborhood is three to five years away from gentrification.
Source: Charlotte Observer