Housing News Roundup: November 19, 2015
Los Angeles Reconsiders Ban on Storing Property in Public
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council considered a recommendation to decriminalize the storage of personal property on sidewalks and in public spaces. Advocates are urging the city council to stop fining and charging homeless people with misdemeanor criminal offenses for maintaining property in public spaces. However, resident groups believe that in the absence of penalties, homeless encampments will never get cleaned up. “The misdemeanor penalty must remain or campers will not comply with orders of city workers to remove their belongings to effectuate cleanups,” wrote Mark Ryavec, a member of the Venice Stakeholders Association, a civic group. One important consideration for the city council is whether maintaining the law might jeopardize its federal funding, since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently decided to penalize grant applicants that criminalize homelessness.
Source: Los Angeles Daily News
As U.S. Homes Increase in Size, Energy Efficiency Declines
Recent research conducted by the Pew Research Center discovered a correlation between the increasing size of the American home and the energy it consumes. Over the last four decades, the average size of the U.S. single-family home has doubled, resulting in more space to heat, cool, light, and fill with household appliances. Though homes used 31 percent less energy per square foot in 2012 than in 1970, the additional square footage acts as a counterbalance. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, single-family homes built in the first decade of the 2000s used 10 percent more energy than they did in the 1970s, while apartment buildings with five or more units used 12 percent less energy over the same time period. Reducing home size may be a key part of reducing energy consumption.
Latino Immigrants Revitalize Chicago's Southwest Side
Although southwest Chicago’s 59th Street commercial corridor was heavily affected by the Great Recession, an influx of Latino immigrants are buying homes, opening businesses, and bolstering the distressed community. The historically eastern European neighborhood is transforming into a hub of Latino businesses and neighborhoods. According to Jim Capraro, founding director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, “This immigrant population has come with an entrepreneurial culture, settled into less-than-vibrant commercial areas, and revitalized them . . . 59th Street can actually have a brighter future than its past.” Capraro believes that supporting the community’s organic growth and development, as well as revitalization efforts like the designation of a special tax district to invest in commercial districts, will ensure that the community remains a thriving place for the middle class.
Source: The Chicago Reporter
Redlining Still Alive in Baltimore Neighborhoods
According to a new report by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the historic practice of “redlining,” when banks do not offer housing loans or insurance to African-Americans, has continued in Baltimore. Using housing and bank data, the Coalition found that race was the factor that best determined whether banks gave mortgages to residents. The researchers reported that banks were less likely to lend to African Americans, writing, “This points to a pattern of neighborhood segregation within Baltimore’s city limits, and activities by lenders which perpetuate segregation and disinvestment.” According to NCRC, African-Americans only received 37 percent of the home loans than would have been expected, based on population size.
Massachusetts Creates Certification Process for Sober Homes
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has created a voluntary certification process for sober homes, places where people can live following substance use treatment and maintain their sobriety. The state operates approximately 400 sober homes, which charge $150 a week and provide a safe haven for newly sober people to get back on their feet. Rich Winant, owner of a sober home called Kelly House, says “What we provide is a safe, supportive, positive environment where the goal is to make connections, to become part of the community in the house.” The certification process is meant to correct violations that have been reported, such as a lack of drug testing, and buildings in disrepair. According to Winant, “There are homes that are a complete mess, where a guy is putting in as many beds as possible and charging people rent.” Although certification is voluntary, a home must be certified in order to receive referrals from the courts.