Housing News Roundup: November 3, 2016
Low-Income Seniors in Virginia Lack Affordable Housing Options
Low-income seniors living in Williamsburg, York, and James City Counties in Virginia struggle to find affordable housing that meets their needs and provides the necessary level of care. In the three counties, 20 percent of the population is age 65 or older, and for some, aging in place is not possible, often because of unsafe housing conditions (e.g., too many steps which increase the risk of falls). However, low-income seniors struggle to find alternative places to live. Because of a private payer system, low-income, older residents cannot afford assisted-living facilities. Rita Smith of Faith in Action attributes part of this problem to the hospitality industry, which employs much of the older population. “Many of those who work in the hospitality industry, the ones that make Williamsburg so great, it’s those people who can’t afford to live in the assisted living facilities,” Smith claims. Additionally, waiting lists for public housing and vouchers are closed in the Williamsburg area, compounding the problem. Some of these seniors, according to Diane Hartley of the Peninsula Agency on Aging, “should not be living in their same houses.” However, they lack affordable alternatives.
Source: The Virginia Gazette
Seattle Coffee Bar Provides Job Training for Homeless Youth
A second New Horizons’ Street Bean coffee bar in Seattle will provide additional job training for homeless youth. At its original location, Street Bean trains eight homeless youths annually to become baristas, and after six months of training, 80 percent of its graduates achieve gainful employment. YouthCare’s Barista Training and Education Program, a similar program in the Seattle area, has trained 88 youths as baristas every year since 2002, many of whom gain employment from Starbucks, one of the program’s partners. In addition to job training, YouthCare and New Horizons attempt to overcome a lack of funding for youth homeless services and provide their program participants with “basic needs, emergency and transitional housing, mental health care, and education and employment programs.” According to Darla Bardine of the National Network for Youth, “We know what young people need…we just need a commitment from folks to make the investment that’s needed.”
Opinion: The Next President Should Pursue a City Power Policy
Criticizing past federal urban policy, Richard Schragger argues that the next administration should implement a city power policy. He argues, “For cities to do what they do best—turn working-class people into middle-class people—the resources that are generated by cities have to be plowed back into the kinds of public goods that benefit everyone, not just a narrow slice of the already favored.” By following four steps, the next administration could enact such a policy. The next president needs to recognize past failures of urban policy enacted by states and the national government, stop the subsidy race that creates competition for tax bases, provide financial support that makes it possible for cities to provide basic public goods, and allow cities to lead the way in addressing economic inequality. Schragger believes cities must be the primary “instruments for advancing economic opportunity and mobility.”
Source: Next City
Naturally Affordable Housing is Declining Nationwide
According to CoStar Group, a real estate data and analytics company, the stock of naturally affordable housing units is declining. There are 5.6 million unsubsidized inexpensive market-rate units, and the number diminishes as real estate investors target them for opportunities to improve the units and increase rent. CoStar ranks the properties based on the quality of the asset, not on price, showing how these markets are being targeted. Construction has slowed over the past few decades. CoStar’s data indicate many of the cheap units were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally, property managers like Trion Properties seek deals where they can buy and rehabilitate these affordable units and raise the rent 25 percent or more. Stockton Williams, executive director of the Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing, states the preservation of unsubsidized affordable housing “has really been a blind spot in affordable housing policy at the local, state, and federal levels.”
Public Housing and Its Residents Face the Brunt of Climate Change
Public housing is highly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and the threat of climate change. Many units are built in highly exposed areas where land is less desirable, and they are damaged or destroyed by storms, hurricanes, and rising sea levels. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency do not have mechanisms to track which public housing properties have been destroyed by natural disasters or the number that get replaced. However, interviews confirm that the replacement is much lower than the units lost, and fewer residents return. In New Orleans, 4,534 apartments were lost after Hurricane Katrina, and only 706 were reconstructed. After the two 2008 hurricanes in Texas, only 42 percent of the housing lost was replaced. Housing authorities lack the resources to ensure the affordable housing stock is resilient. Courtney Rice from the HAI Group states, “If this trend in severe weather continues, taking away more housing units from this already underserved population, there won’t be a sufficient number of units left.”
Rental Assistance Should Target the Lowest-Income Residents in New York
The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development used New York census data to examine the rent-burdening challenges faced by low- and moderate-income households. Although the middle class will need assistance as housing prices continue to increase, the lowest-income cohort is the most severely stressed in the eight neighborhoods studied. City Limits report, “Whether in low- or high-income neighborhoods, less than 5 percent of moderate-income households suffer severe rent burdening.” Hence, policies aimed at addressing severe rent burden are more likely to reach their target by focusing on the lowest-income families that make up 22 percent of the city’s population, while 77 percent are rent burdened. Mayor de Blasio has plans to rezone neighborhoods to address affordability challenges; however, advocates argue that “is still not going ‘deep’ enough.” Much of the impact would bypass the lowest-income families making below 30 percent of the area median income.
Source: City Limits