Housing News Roundup: March 2, 2017
Residents of a Public Housing Complex Seek Solutions to Neighborhood Violence
Residents of the subsidized housing development Parkway Gardens are calling on the private owner and operator to address the persistent threat of violence. Purchased by Related Companies in 2011 as part of a public-private partnership, Parkway Gardens, a 35-building, 694-unit complex in Chicago, is plagued by violence. In just over five years, 41 shootings have occurred in the complex, causing many, like Reverend Cory Brooks of nearby New Beginnings Church, to call on Related to address this problem. “Given the fact that (Related) gets federal dollars for rents, I’d suggest they do something to enhance individual lives, and that’s what they are not doing at all,” he said. While Related took steps last Friday to improve security by providing better lighting and increasing fencing and cameras, among other things, many children in the complex must deal with the threat of violence every day. James Owolabi, the youth pastor at New Beginnings Church, explained how violence affects the complex’s youngest residents. “After youth group meetings, mothers call and say, ‘I’m coming to pick up my kids. Please don’t let them walk home.’ Some of the boys in our mentoring program told me they have nightmares of people chasing them with guns.”
Source: Chicago Tribune
Boston’s Opportunity Gap is Blamed on High Housing Costs
The opportunity gap in Boston persists along racial lines, even worsening by some measures, according to a new report by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The report, an update to a 2011 study, found growing incoming disparities, with incomes for the highest-earning fifth of households being 18 times greater than that of the lowest-earning fifth. Although some measures of racial, educational, and health disparities improved (e.g., test scores, incarceration rates, and the rate of low-weight births among black mothers), people of color still disproportionally experience health difficulties, like asthma and hypertension. This comes when Massachusetts was ranked the best state in the nation by US News & World Report. “Our averages in Massachusetts give Bay Staters a lot to be proud of. But peel the onion back one layer, and you find chart-topping levels of inequality in Metro Boston,” said state senator Sonia Chang-Diaz. Most strikingly, the report explains that although the number of jobs and working households increased, the number of households considered middle-income in Greater Boston decreased 7 percentage points in the past five years, which many blame on high housing costs. Marc Draisen of a regional planning organization said about housing costs’ effect on economic mobility, “This housing cost burden issue is not only a huge social issue, it’s also a big problem for our economy.”
Source: The Boston Globe
Why Do Seniors Not Tap into Their Home Equity, Despite Financial Concerns?
Seniors’ home equity could improve their financial security in retirement and open up a generally untapped lending market, according to a blog post by researchers at the Urban Institute. Homeowners at least 65 years old could access over $3 trillion in home equity, but only 6 percent of senior homeowners are interested in home equity extraction, despite 37 percent of seniors having financial concerns during retirement. Authors attribute seniors’ lack of interest in tapping into home equity to seniors’ financial conservativism and avoidance of debt and more seniors working longer. Structural barriers also contribute to this lack of interest, such as poor financial literacy and complexity of financing mechanisms. The authors provide three recommendations: increasing financial literacy about reverse mortgages, decreasing costs associated with reverse mortgages, and improving access to credit. But no single approach can eliminate all the structural barriers, and behavioral and attitudinal tendencies may still keep many seniors from extracting home equity.
Source: Urban Wire
Increased Subsidies for Families Facing Eviction Expected to Reduce Homelessness
As part of a lawsuit settlement, New York State will increase the monthly rent subsidies provided to families with children who are evicted as part of the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement. Since the program was established in 2004, the amount given to families has remained flat, but under this settlement, subsidies will increase as much as 78 percent for a family of three. Daniela Tejada, one of the plaintiffs, explained how she will be affected by this increase, which could be put in place as early as April. “Before, everything would go to rent. Now, at least, I can save and pay for school,” she said. The settlement, which also expanded this program to include victims of domestic abuse, is expected to combat the surge in New York City’s homelessness population by preventing eviction. Judith Goldiner of Legal Aid said, “This settlement, combined with adding access to counsel, is really going to be a game changer. A lawyer can’t keep you in your home without the benefits to keep you in your home.”
Source: The New York Times
Nashville’s Growth Decreases the Availability of Affordable Rental Housing
Nashville’s rapid growth is causing a shortage in affordable rental housing. With as many as 100 people moving to the city daily, landlords in this now hot market have no incentive to rent to low-income renters. Average rent in Nashville rose to $1,401 in 2015, over a 60 percent increase since 2011. Jim Fraser of Vanderbilt University explained, “One of the problems is that all the rentals that are being built are for market rate….The extent of the problem is that now we see people moving out of the county.” That is what happened to Kennetha Patterson, who moved 35 miles from Nashville to Chapmansboro in adjacent Cheatham County. Patterson received a 14-day eviction notice after she was late paying rent one month because of an illness and her husband being in prison. “I think my neighborhood outgrew me. That’s the best way I can put it. I experienced gentrification at its finest,” she said. Other renters who live in units that are currently affordable are experiencing rent increases and worry that their units won’t remain affordable much longer. With the state government limiting the tools Nashville can use to preserve rental affordability, many will struggle with housing costs, including the almost 10,000 residents on the waiting list for Section 8 Vouchers. “I’m not opposed to growth at all….It’s just, take care of your people who are already here,” said Patterson.
Source: The Tennessean