Housing News Roundup: May 26, 2016
California Affordable Housing Plan Faces Labor and Environmental Opposition
A plan to streamline affordable housing development in California would exempt certain affordable housing developments from local approvals and California Environmental Quality Act review. A coalition of labor and environmental groups oppose the exemption, which would be available only to properties on land already zoned for high-density residential use. “We obviously want to continue seeing growth and see it happen in a smart way. That will benefit our members and it will also benefit California citizens in terms of better air quality and other environmental protections,” says Cesar Diaz, legislative director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The local environmental review that precedes zoning land for residential development, however, is sufficient, according to Ben Metcalf, director of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Seaside Town Prohibits New Housing for Second Homes
As housing prices outpace wages and lead to a global housing affordability crisis, the British tourist town of St. Ives is seeking to rein in price pressures. In a recent referendum, residents banned new housing from being sold as second homes. “It’s a way of trying to preserve our community going forward,” says Linda Taylor, mayor of St. Ives. The ban was part of a neighborhood plan that includes the construction of new homes for sale to local residents. Research on a second-home ban in Switzerland found that owner-occupied home prices decreased by 12 percent in the year after the ban, and growth in the affected areas stalled. Christian Hilber, a professor at the London School of Economics, recommends that towns avoid the negative economic effects of a ban and instead generate revenue through a special property tax on second homes.
Acquisition Pilot Fund Announced in Boston
Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development has launched a new pilot program for multifamily acquisition. The Acquisition Opportunity Program will use $7 million in municipal funds toward multifamily acquisition loans. Developers using the loan funds would be required to allow existing tenants to remain in the property and maintain at least 40 percent of the units as deed-restricted affordable housing. The city anticipates that the pilot will yield a total of 100 deed-restricted units.
Source: Boston Business Journal
The Role of Subsidized Housing in Addressing Bay Area Affordability
Although both market-rate and subsidized housing development contribute to long-term affordability in gentrifying areas, market-rate housing alone is not the most effective tool for improving affordability, according to new research from the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley. One additional unit of subsidized housing reduces displacement pressures by the same amount as adding two or more units of market-rate housing. The researchers also connected market-rate development with lower median rents in the long run, but with higher cost burdens for low-income households. “Our research suggests that both subsidized and market-rate housing development make a difference. But producing market-rate housing alone will not improve affordability for low-income households,” says Miriam Zuk of the University of California, Berkeley.
Report Calls for Federal Action on Senior Housing and Health
The Task Force for Health and Housing for Seniors at the Bipartisan Policy Center is calling for an increased federal commitment to affordable, healthy, and accessible housing for aging Americans. The task force was composed of four federal policy leaders and elected officials: Republicans Mel Martinez and Vin Weber and Democrats Henry Cisneros and Allyson Schwartz. Their joint recommendations include an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit, funding for the Section 202 program, a home modification assistance program, and the creation of a new program that would combine tax credits and project-based rental assistance. “Affordable housing is the glue that holds everything together,” says Martinez in a news release. “Without access to affordable housing and the stability it provides, it becomes increasingly difficult to provide home- and community-based supportive services that can enable successful aging.”
Source: National Mortgage News
Downward Neighborhood Change in Philadelphia
A study by the Philadelphia research initiative at the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Philadelphia’s census tracts were more likely to have experienced a drop in median income between 2000 and 2014 than to have gentrified. Out of 372 census tracts in the city, 164 had significant declines in median income while 15 gentrified. The report defined gentrification as a census tract that was low-income in 2000 experiencing a median income increase of at least 10 percent by 2014 and ending with a median income that exceeded the city’s as a whole. The majority of the neighborhoods with declining incomes had already been low-income areas in 2000.