Housing News Roundup: November 23, 2015
White House Economist Condemns Zoning and Land Use Restrictions
In a recent speech at the Urban Institute, White House economist Jason Furman argued that land use and zoning regulations are driving up costs and exacerbating housing bubbles. He says, “Excessive or unnecessary land use or zoning regulations have consequences that go beyond the housing market to impede mobility and thus contribute to rising inequality and declining productivity growth.” He cited the fact that housing prices are outpacing rises in construction materials, especially since 1970. By zoning neighborhoods to prevent development, Furman believes homeowners drive up prices and can push primarily low-income people into commuting farther distances, which increases greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: The Washington Examiner
HUD Admits It Will Not Eradicate Homelessness Among Vets in 2015
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is acknowledging that it is unlikely to reach the ambitious goal set by the Obama administration to eradicate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The department’s report praises the strides that have been made in lowering homelessness among vets but sets lower goals for the years to come. Its “new operational definition of ending homelessness” means that homeless is “not expected to reach zero for any particular group,” the report reads. While the report says homelessness has declined dramatically in the last 10 months, data is only available from January of 2015, when there were 48,000 homeless vets. That count represents a decline of 27,000 since 2010.
Source: Military Times
Microunits Planned for Historic Skid Row Buildings
An adaptive reuse project in Los Angeles’ historic Skid Row seeks to create affordable homes through developing microunits. The project would create 160 units spread across approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space, and offer both “entry level, market rate” apartments as well as some units set aside for veterans. The units would be 277 square feet on average, and provide more parking for bikes than cars. Four out of the five buildings involved in the project were built before World War I, and have been vacant for approximately six years.
Source: LA Curbed
New York City Neighborhoods Reject Mayor de Blasio's Housing Plan
Last week, four New York City boroughs voted against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed zoning changes which would require all new buildings in the city to have at least 20-30 percent of affordable housing in rezoned areas. The Bronx, in particular, has rejected his measures, with all 12 boards voting against it. In the face of community opposition, the mayor gave a speech at a Bronx church over the weekend about his plan to protect the lower-income and middle class. He said, “What does 200,000 apartments mean? That is enough for half a million people. It’s like we’re ensuring a whole city within us of affordability.” The mayor also defended his plan to rezone and increase height requirements as a better option to inclusionary zoning, which is optional rather than required for developers.
Source: New York Daily News
New Affordability Rules in Austin
Austin’s City Council approved changes to its Planned United Development (PUD) density bonus program last week. The new rules require that residential developers that want to exceed height and floor-to-area ratio rules must make some owner-occupied housing affordable for 99 years. The new rules also require non-residential developments to pay fees to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Council Member Don Zimmerman was the only member to vote against the measure, citing the Zucker report about the negative impacts of regulations on development. “Now we’re piling on more bureaucratic obstacles. I’m very disconcerted about that,” Zimmerman said. Residential PUD developers can request an exception to the affordability requirements, but they must pay some in-lieu fees and the exception must be approved by at least eight members of the Council.
Source: The Austin Monitor