Housing News Roundup: July 8, 2015
HUD Tackles Segregation with New Rules
The Obama administration has announced a long-awaited rule designed to “fix” the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which barred outright racial discrimination in the housing market. The revised law will require cities and towns to identify signs of racial bias in their housing patterns, report the results back to the federal government, and set goals and benchmarks on how to reduce segregation. Communities will use databases with information from the Census, such as housing voucher usage, racial makeup and poverty. HUD Secretary Julian Castro says the law’s goal is to work with, not punish communities who are “behind” when it comes to racial integration. Opponents believe the law will be an effort to “socially engineer” communities and will restrict freedoms, while proponents argue it will provide opportunities to historically disenfranchised communities and ease racial tensions.
Source: The Washington Post
New York City Sued Over Subsidized Housing Selection Process
Three New York City residents have a federal lawsuit alleging that the city’s rules governing subsidized housing lotteries help perpetuate residential segregation. Currently, the city awards new subsidized affordable housing units through a lottery process that provides preferential treatment to – among others – residents who already live in the community where new housing units will be built. City officials say this helps preserve neighborhoods; the New York-based Anti-Discrimination Center contends that it violates both the federal Fair Housing Act and New York City’s Human Rights Law by denying access to others in search of affordable housing, many of whom “live in racially concentrated areas of poverty.”
Source: The New York Times
Looking at the Impact of New Markets Tax Credits
One of the biggest challenges faced by urban neighborhoods with high numbers of low-income residents is how to secure private investment without pushing out the people who call it home. In 2000, Congress created a $43.5 billion program to provide tax credits to businesses that create jobs in marginalized areas. However, a Drexel University economist argues that the program is not increasing employment in the communities of interest because businesses often hire workers who commute from beyond the low-income area. He suggests that the program require businesses to hire locally in order to have a bigger impact.
A Map of the United States…By Property Value, Not Land Area
Only a handful of U.S. counties account for the vast majority of the nation’s property value. Max Galka, founder of the Metrocosm, a website devoted to data visualization, has posted a series of cartograms to illustrate how out of balance property values across the country really are. One of Metrocosm’s June cartograms—a data visualization that purposely distorts a map—compares the property value of New York City neighborhoods with various U.S. states. For example, the total value of residential property in Kentucky is $300 billion, just short of the value of the borough of Queens at $317 billion. Kriston Capps argues that the severity of the gap between counties where “housing costs so little and those where it costs everything” leads to NIMBYism and is a drain on the economy.
George Mason Report Predicts Longer D.C. Commutes
Washington, D.C.’s housing crunch is going to mean much longer drive times in the coming years, according to a new report by Jeannette Chapman from George Mason University. The report estimates the region will have 2.5 million new housing units by 2030 – about 226,380 fewer than it will need, causing residents to settle in areas outside the region with longer commutes to work. Terry Clower, a professor of public policy at George Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, says that people will be drawn to DC because of an estimated 380,000 new jobs, as well as another 396,900 jobs coming open due to retirements. Longer commutes will add to the area’s noted traffic, and the cost of traveling such long distances may deter future workers of all wage levels from settling in the DC metro area. In particular, the report argues that low-wage workers will have the hardest time securing housing, a development which is likely to hurt many local businesses.
Source: Washington Business Journal