Housing News Roundup: November 30, 2015
2015 Marks a New Phase for Housing Opportunity
Almost fifty years after the momentous Fair Housing Act, two policy changes enacted in 2015 are making waves in the housing world. In this opinion piece, Williams and Brennan explain how the Supreme Court’s decision on disparate impact and HUD’s release of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule both promise to close loopholes in the Fair Housing Act that have allowed racial segregation to continue since the 1960s. They explore how both policy changes could have potentially wide reaching impacts on urban development, although they will not set in until 2020 at the earliest. Regardless, the authors think municipalities should begin planning for how to handle higher community development standards, metropolitan-wide housing strategies, and volatile local political environments. In particular, the new policies emphasize evidence-based policy, and municipalities should be prepared to use data in their housing strategies moving forward.
Source: Urban Land
Pittsburgh Housing Authority Discusses Over-Income Tenants
With 1,960 people on waiting lists to get into public housing, Pittsburgh’s Housing Authority is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on how to approach their over-income tenants. In September, HUD sent housing authorities a letter reminding them that they have the authority to create policies that evict families earning more than the income threshold required to be accepted into public housing. Chuck Rohrer, a spokesperson for the Pittsburgh authority, said there are 43 families over income but that they only constitute 2 percent of all households. Rohrer said the goal of the authority is to preserve public housing for lower earnings, writing in an email, “To this end, our homeownership program assists an average of 10 families per year to transition to home ownership.” Further, legislation currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives could lead to new requirements that housing authorities evict families when their incomes reach 120 percent of the local area median income.
Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
New York Times Editorial Board: de Blasio Faces Affordable Housing Battle
In this New York Times editorial, the editorial board describes the lukewarm reception of two key components of New York City Mayor de Blasio’s housing affordability plan. His administration’s interest in setting aside a share of new apartments as permanently affordable, and changing height and density rules are being discussed across the city’s boroughs. According to the editorial board, community meetings are marked by confusing presentations on zoning and land use rules to largely befuddled community members. Noting that the affordable housing works on lottery and provides no guarantees, a community member from East Harlem says “All you win is the privilege of applying for an apartment.” The board says the mayor faces an uphill battle in navigating advocates on all sides: those who want only affordable housing, those who want none, and those who simply do not want their neighborhoods to change.
Source: New York Times
HUD Expands Choice Neighborhood Program
Last week, HUD announced that it would provide new funding through its Choice Neighborhoods initiative to spur neighborhood revitalization. The so-called “planning and action grants” will run as large as $2 million and be applicable to projects like attracting new businesses and reclaiming vacant properties. Of the expanded program, HUD Secretary Julian Castro said, “These grants will let local leaders create homegrown plans to strengthen their neighborhoods and to make those first vital steps to turn their plans into reality.” The new grants are inspired by HUD’s experience with Choice Neighborhoods Planning grants, which demonstrated that early interventions can be transformative.
California's Renewable Energy Mandate Excludes Rooftop Solar Systems
California governor Jerry Brown’s plan to generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 apparently does not include homes or businesses with rooftop solar systems. Owners with such rooftop systems will therefore not benefit from state subsidies, while developers of larger projects will. Bernadette Del Chiaro of California Solar Energy Industries Association says, “Ratepayers essentially subsidize utility companies.” Homeowners are upset because the rule does not recognize their efforts, and does not incentivize smaller scale solar upgrades that could help achieve the state’s goal. Rooftop solar generation faces other challenges in California: a federal tax credit for such systems is expiring in 2016, and new rules are currently being drafted that could tax rooftop solar owners for using utility lines.
Source: Los Angeles Times