Housing News Roundup: June 22, 2015
Opinion: 3 Fixes for America’s Urban Housing Crunch
More Americans than ever before are spending 30% or more of their incomes on housing costs. Limited space to build and increasing rent prices slow local economic growth substantially. However, there may be a few alternatives. Transit-oriented development, in which development revenue contributes to the transit agency’s budget, accompanied by improved transit services, are two remedies that could make higher density possible. The author, Alex Armlovich, recommends that cities sell development rights around transit, as well as development rights to building higher density, taller buildings. A third solution is the legalization of micro-units priced for students and entry-level professionals. Armovich believes that with one or all three of these options that sustainable, inclusive growth can proceed in congested U.S. cities.
Source: US News and World Report
New Bill Seeks to Significantly Change NYC’s Rent Regulation Laws
On Saturday, Republican legislators in the New York State Senate introduced bills that would extend New York City’s rent regulations for six years, while making significant changes to existing laws. The proposal would adjust vacancy de-control rules to increase the threshold determining which vacant apartments can be placed on the open market; an apartment would need to rent for $2,600, $100 dollars more than today, in order to be returned to the market after becoming vacant. Subletting apartments would largely be disallowed to prevent renting them for purposes like Airbnb, and the 421a program that provides tax credits to developers of affordable housing would be extended. In comparison, Democrats in the New York State Assembly have proposed a two-year extension of the city’s rent law without any changes, but have also proposed sunsetting the 421a program.
Source: New York Daily News
Facing HUD Cuts, Homeless Agencies Struggle to Stay Afloat
Many homeless organizations across the Orlando region are facing a loss of federal funding, a result of the government’s shift in focus away from temporary housing to permanent housing. Many nonprofit agencies such as the Coalition for the Homeless rely on funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support their shelters, but the agency believes a new approach will produce better results. “There’s no question that we have learned in recent years that the quicker that we get people into a permanent housing situation – or keep them from losing the housing they already have – the better,” says HUD’S southeast regional administrator, Ed Jennings Jr. However, many agencies are concerned about how this new plan will affect their clients and organizations. “We’re talking about hundreds of beds that could be affected, and we turn those beds over once or twice a year. So we could be talking about hundreds of clients a year,” said Dick Jacobs, Aspire’s CEO.
Source: Orlando Sentinal
More Bus Rapid Transit Recommended For Boston
A recent study from the Barr Foundation finds that residents of Boston’s metro area would benefit greatly from more bus rapid transit, also known as BRT. The move could reduce travel times by more than 10 minutes on some corridors, according to the report, which calls for more bus-only traffic lanes, the adoption of prepaid fare collection, the construction of enclosed bus stations and other characteristics that improve bus transit efficiency. The Barr Foundation identified five corridors that would benefit greatly from a BRT system, chosen based on the opportunity to reduce congestion on the T, meet growing demand, serve underrepresented neighborhoods, and stimulate economic and housing development. However, Richard A. Dimino from A Better City explains that improving BRT services would force tough infrastructure questions, since the city has a scarcity of both parking and traffic lanes.
Source: Boston Globe
The Pope Calls Out Urban Planners
Pope Francis has called for the world to build better neighborhoods for the poor. In his much anticipated encyclical, Pope Francis cited the need for green space to be more available to the poor and not just accessible to the rich. “Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called ‘safer’ areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live,” said Francis. The Pope also spoke in favor of historical preservation, arguing that communities need common spaces with symbols of the past to make people feel secure and like they belong. He argued that cities have become unhealthy places, citing the problem of income inequality along with poor transportation, pollution, congestion and violence, and said that residents of shantytowns should not be displaced but instead provided with services and housing opportunities.