Housing News Roundup: November 5, 2015
Homelessness Prompts “State of Emergency” in Seattle
Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine have declared a ‘state of emergency’ in response to growing homelessness in the city. Their declaration follows the state of Hawaii and the cities of Los Angeles, CA and Portland, OR, which took similar actions to address homelessness. According to Murray, “More than 45 people have died on the streets…of Seattle this year and nearly 3,000 children in Seattle Public Schools are homeless.” The two hope that they will be able to secure state and federal funds to support their efforts to address this growing crisis in the region, which have been exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing options and a heroine epidemic. The states of emergency will provide them with emergency state and federal funding, which they intend to put towards more shelter accommodations and services for for the homeless as the rainy season transitions to winter.
Source: The Seattle Times
Obama Creates Programs to Help Integrate Former Inmates
The U.S. Justice Department recently announced that it would release 6,000 inmates with drug convictions from federal prisons on November 1. President Obama gave a speech on Monday, November 2nd, in which he laid out a plan to help reintegrate former inmates. The plan includes both housing and education assistance to support the inmates’ ability to support themselves. According to a report from NBC, between 40 and 60 percent of former inmates are unable to find employment, an issue Obama hopes the programs will address. Although landlords can legally reject applicants with felonies, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released new guidelines for HUD-supported properties, stating that criminal records cannot “be the sole basis for denying admission, terminating assistance or evicting tenants.” HUD is also leading a program to help public housing residents expunge their criminal records.
Source: The Atlantic
Urban Agenda Wins out in Seattle City Council Election
In Seattle’s city council election on Tuesday, so-called Urbanists, who support dense development and public transportation, were overwhelmingly successful. Many feared that the election, which was the first to run based on neighborhood districts in over a century, would lead to protectionist policies that would preserve existing neighborhoods and be hostile to new development. Most of the election winners strongly support Mayor Murray’s housing agenda, which focuses on loosening height restrictions and increasing affordable housing development. David Rolf, president of Employees International Union 775, and who opposed district-based voting when it was considered in 2013, says “maybe the NIMBYs are loud but smaller in number than we thought they were.”
Source: The Seattle Times
Airbnb Spared in San Francisco Ballot Measure
A ballot measure in San Francisco spared Airbnb from a variety of restrictions to its business model. The measure would have required the home rental platform to regularly submit data on rental activity, and limit both the length and frequency of home rentals. Proponents of the measure argued it would protect housing availability and affordability in the city known for sky-high housing costs, while opponents said it would unfairly restrict middle class homeowners from earning extra income. Airbnb credits a grassroots movement of supporters for the win, and said they plan to organize “homesharing guilds” in 100 cities around the world in order to combat similar challenges in the future. Despite the win, many cities continue to create restrictions on online platforms that facilitate home rentals, which some say could lead to enough litigation to bankrupt them.
Source: The Los Angeles Times
When It Comes to Neighborhoods, A Balance Between Diversity and Homogeneity Is Ideal
New research from sociologist Zachary Neal analyzes segregation as a phenomenon that varies from place to place depending on the bonds people build in the community. Neighborhoods vary not only in how segregated they are, but also on how often people bond with others near them, and whether they tend to bond with people like themselves. Neal argues that communities where residents both bond with people like themselves and also bridge across groups are rich in social capital. In this “small-world network,” people have a sense of security in their own communities, but are also open to the different views of other groups. This type of place, he says, provides a balance between diversity and tight-knit social groups, which he says is the key to creating a vibrant community.