Housing News Roundup: June 18, 2015
The Supreme Court Revisits the Fair Housing Act of 1968
In addition to questions about health care and marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court is also poised to answer a housing question first raised in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The case will determine whether “disparate impact,” qualifies as housing discrimination under the Act. The defendant, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, asserts that the Act only prohibits intentional discrimination while the plaintiff, The Inclusive Communities Project, argues it also covers any policies or actions that unintentionally negatively affect a minority group. Preliminary oral arguments have revealed that Antonin Scalia, who tends to vote for conservative principles, may believe the Act covers “disparate impact,” a development that experts say would increase the chances of the court ruling in favor of the plaintiff.
Source: City Lab
Housing Repossessions on the Rise in Ohio
Banks and other mortgage companies in Central Ohio took more than 800 homes in repossessions in the month of May, almost double the amount from the previous month. This comes in spite of the fact that the area has seen a three-year drop in foreclosures. In many cases, the homeowners fell into financial trouble years ago. Those behind the repossessions said the long waits had to do with legal delays and others issues, but that there was no single reason for the increase. Increasing home prices may make it more likely for banks to find buyers for their foreclosed stock, but local real estate experts say the banks are not yet putting the properties back on the market.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch
Hawaii Struggles to Manage Tent Cities and the Chronically Homeless
While the islands of Hawaii are known for their amazing views and volcanoes, the state also spends $15,000 per week clearing tent cities that continually emerge around affluent cities like Honolulu. City administrators explain that it is necessary because of the hazards that needles, human waste and other unsanitary qualities pose to other residents and tourists. “It’s a health and safety issue. It’s something that just has to be done. We wish that it wasn’t necessary,” said a spokesperson for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The sweeps are not a permanent fix to the problem, since many encampment residents return shortly thereafter. Honolulu has set aside nearly $17 million, and is seeking another $32 million in bonds, to create temporary and permanent housing for the chronically homeless. Tent residents must pay a fine to remove their belongings from storage, and may be subject to fines or criminal charges, consequences that may further prevent them from securing permanent housing.
Source: The Huffington Post
Oakland City Council Approves Controversial Market-Rate Housing Project
In a battle that led to a City Council meeting being shut down, developer UrbanCore has agreed to pay $8 million toward Oakland’s affordable housing efforts. The money could help create 70 affordable housing units in the area. The controversy over the proposal came when UrbanCore proposed purchasing one acre of publicly-owned land to build market-rate apartments in the city. Residents responded that with affordable housing being so scarce, building the new units would be in bad taste, and they do not want such projects to become the norm in the city. While no affordable units will be added on-site, Oakland officials noted that UrbanCore agreed to pay much more to the affordable housing fund than they had anticipated. The president of UrbanCore praised the public engagement process, saying, “Processes like this have a way of actually improving projects through the community engagement that occurred, even though we might not be in full agreement of how to proceed.”
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Seattle Housing Boom Spells Uncertainty for Traffic Congestion
Seattle’s Denny Triangle is experiencing a boom in multifamily residential construction, largely driven by the increase in the number of jobs at companies like Amazon. Nearly 5 thousand new residential permits have been approved in the first half of 2015, a pace of construction not seen there since 2012. Residents are concerned that the increase of approximately 3,000 apartment units will increase traffic in the already congested area. Proponents of the development argue that many of the new residents will walk or use public transportation, while some local residents feel the new construction has only increased congestion and are concerned for the future.
New Terwilliger Foundation Aims to Speak Out on Nation’s ‘Silent’ Housing Crisis
An initiative from the newly-formed J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families intends to elevate the national discussion on housing policy issues leading up to 2016’s presidential election. As part of the initiative’s launch, the nonprofit is also releasing the white paper The Silent Housing Crisis: A Snapshot of Current and Future Conditions. “For far too long, the desperate situation in housing has been largely ignored by our nation’s leaders and the media, and it’s time to break the silence,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger.
Source: Housing Wire