Housing News Roundup: November 9, 2015
Kalamazoo County Levies Tax to Support Homeless Families
A .1-mill tax to support homeless families has passed in Kalamazoo county, Michigan. The tax is expected to raise approximately $800,000 each year for 6 years, and will provide housing assistance and support services to 100 homeless families a year. Financial assistance will go to families who earn less than $21,672 per year for a household of 4, or 60 percent of the county’s annual median income. David Anderson, board member of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission, said “I don’t think there is exactly a similar request any place in the country, to be quite frank. I think this is something that could be recognized as a model other places.” The commission is putting together an advisory board to help work with nonprofits interested in implementing the housing programs that will be supported by the new tax.
Hawaii's Homelessness Hurting its Paradise Image
Hawaii now has the highest rate of homelessness in the country, with 487 homeless people per 100,000. Despite the country’s economic recovery, Hawaii has experienced increasing costs and low wages, which have accelerated homelessness. Despite recent efforts by Governoer David Ige, services are lacking: on Oahu, which has 4,900 homeless, there are only about 550 beds available at shelters. Across the state, there are 10,000 people on waiting lists of 5 years or more to get into state-run public housing and the list for Section 8 assistance is so long that it has closed down. A significant proportion of the homeless are from the Micronesian islands, and tension exists between them and native Hawaiians, who both need services but face different challenges.
Source: The New York Times
Miami Approves Ordinance Reducing Parking Requirements
The city commission of Miami recently approved a new planning ordinance that reduces parking requirement in transit-rich areas. The move, also taken by other U.S. cities, has the potential to increase housing affordability and decrease reliance on cars by greatly reducing the cost and spatial barriers associated with previous parking requirements. The ordinance supports the diversification of Miami’s housing stock that is increasingly dominated by high-rise condos downtown and single-family suburban subdivisions. By offering increased exemptions beyond the urban core and transit oriented areas, the ordinance provides incentives to developers to work in an additional urban zone, parts of the city designated as civic space, and in three of Miami’s high-frequency bus corridors.
Twin Cities Metro Public Schools Accused of Failing Minorities
Civil rights lawyers have filed a lawsuit in the state of Minnesota, charging that the state failed to integrate Minneapolis and St. Paul’s metropolitan public schools and has therefore, “denied minority children their constitutional right to an adequate education.” Significant growth in the number of racially identifiable schools and wide gaps in graduation rates and test scores are cited in the lawsuit. The suit filed by Dan and John Shulman names the governor, the education commissioner and the state House and Senate among the defendants, but does not cite any specific school systems. According to Dan Shulman, the case will be argued in Minnesota’s state court because the Minnesota Constitution guarantees a uniform public school system, whereas the U.S. Constitution does not.
Tax Foreclosures Put Renters at Risk in Detroit
A new wave of foreclosures is hitting the city of Detroit, this time driven by delinquent property taxes. More than 61,000 properties were foreclosed on for this reason in 2014. However, an estimated 40,000 homes being foreclosed on in this way have renters living there, people who get caught in the cross-hairs of the policy and end up being evicted. The program has also seen many cases of fraud where individuals pose as property owners when the true owners have fallen delinquent on their taxes and have no intention of getting up to date on them. Con artists collect rent from unknowing renters for 3 years until the property is seized, and then disappear. Jerry Paffendorf, CEO and co-founder of Loveland Technologies that surveys blight and seeks to improve transparency and information regarding the tax foreclosure system, is running for Wayne County Treasurer, with an aim to reform the program.
Source: Next City