Housing News Roundup: March 16, 2017
Proposed Corporate Tax Cuts Delay Development of Affordable Housing
Decreases in the value of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) because of President Trump’s plan for corporate tax cuts are slowing production of affordable housing. Developers use the LIHTC to reduce their tax bills, making affordable housing projects financially feasible. But with the potential of decreasing corporate tax rates, demand for tax credits has decreased. This has caused the value of tax credits to fall from $1.04 per $1 before Election Day to as low as $.89 per $1 after the election, a 10 to 15 percent drop, according to Novogradac & Company. This decrease creates financial gaps for developers who sell the tax credits to finance affordable housing projects. Joe Kriesberg of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations explains, “Projects that are 6 to 12 months from construction are the ones most at risk. These projects will eventually happen, they’re not going to die, but…projects that might have come to completion in 2018 might be completed in 2019.” This comes as the Trump administration has proposed cutting over $6 billion from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget and eliminating the Community Development Block Grant Program and the Federal Historic Tax Credit program. “The threat to affordable housing on its own is the bigger problem, and we just have to stand by and figure out what that will be,” said Gilbert J. Winn of WinnCompanies.
Source: The Boston Globe
School District in Ohio Provides Services to Growing Homeless Student Population
The number of homeless students is growing in Mansfield City Schools, prompting the district to provide additional services to these students and their families. This school year, the district has identified 235 students as homeless, a 14 percent increase from the previous school year’s end-of-year total, and the district expects this number to grow. With about two-thirds of the district’s homeless students living with extended family or friends and others sleeping in motels or hotels, the district provides services through its Student Achievement through Family Engagement (SAFE) program. The SAFE program provides students and their families school supplies and household products, provides students free breakfasts and lunches, connects families with employment and housing services, and even buys bus tickets for students to get to after-school jobs. Phil Mitchell, a codirector of the SAFE program, explains the significance of these services: “There are certain things children need in order to learn, and we’re here to provide those things. We want to take away the barriers that keep children from learning.”
Source: Mansfield News Journal
New Ordinance Could Limit Gentrification along The 606 Trail in Chicago
Aldermen in Chicago are drafting an ordinance to preserve current affordable housing stock along the western part of The 606 trail. A bike and pedestrian trail built on an old elevated railroad line, The 606 has increased nearby housing prices significantly, according to a study by DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies. Between 2013, when construction began, and 2016, housing prices in a section of The 606 west of Western Avenue increased 48.2 percent. Last year, housing prices rose 9.4 percent in that same section, and areas east of the trail that are already gentrified are experiencing similar trends. The ordinance would increase the demolition fee for residential properties and create a deconversion fee, charging developers for replacing multiunit buildings with single-family homes. “It’s important for low-income families. It’s important for us to try to preserve the stock as much as possible,” said Geoff Smith of the Institute for Housing Studies.
Source: Chicago Tribune
New Health Care Legislation Would Threaten a Tool Used to Combat Racial Health Gaps
The repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could eliminate the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) initiative, which combats racial health disparities in communities of color. Created in 1999, REACH is an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that funds grantees to provide programs in communities that suffer disproportionately from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and poor access to vaccinations. Bronx Health REACH, a grantee of this program, addresses these disparities among the 300,000 residents who live in the southwest of the borough, conducting chronic-disease awareness, fitness programs, and advocacy campaigns to inspire healthy food choices, among other programs. Organizations around the country provide similar services, and despite quantitative evidence of success, REACH would lose funding if the ACA replacement eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which the ACA established and funds most of the initiative. Eliminating REACH would compound problems for communities that benefitted from Medicaid expansion, which is also expected to be reduced. Charmaine Ruddock, project director of Bronx Health REACH, explains the severe implications of losing REACH: “Hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost. Especially those who are poor, and no matter their color. But especially those who are of color.”
Atlanta Reopens Its Waiting List for Section 8 Vouchers
The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) is reopening its lottery to be placed on the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers for the first time in over two years. Residents like Athena Robinson see an opportunity for a permanent housing solution. Robinson, a single parent who works as an overnight security guard, lives in temporary supportive housing provided by a nonprofit. Although she has unsuccessfully entered her name in the lottery previously, she explains, “I feel like if I’m working, providing, doing what I can to keep a job. I don’t understand why someone like me wouldn’t be able to get it.” In 2015, the AHA received 100,000 applications, but only selected 10,000 people through its lottery system to be put on the waiting list. This year, the AHA will expand the number of people selected to 30,000 and will give preference to Atlanta residents. But even if Robinson and other Atlanta residents are selected to be on the waiting list, they must wait for housing vouchers, which can take three to five years.