Housing News Roundup: October 1, 2015
Debate Continues in San Francisco Over Transit Impact Fee
During a Monday, September 28, meeting of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee, development and transit leaders vigorously debated the merits of the proposed “transit impact fee” designed to increase transit capacity in the city. Transit advocates petitioned the board for an increase in the fee, and for it to be more broadly applied, while nonprofit hospitals advocated for exempt status. Developer Oz Erickson argued that existing fees are already high, and increasing them further would slow housing development, saying, “We accept the idea of the [transit impact fee] as it is proposed. I would strongly urge you not to increase it. We are right on the edge.” Other community leaders believe the fees could be increased without affecting development.
Source: The San Francisco Examiner
MacArthur Foundation Announces 2015 Fellows
This week, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the names of its 2015 MacArthur Fellows. Among the 24 recipients are two experts on housing and community development issues: Ta-Nehisi Coates and Matthew Desmond. Coates is a writer who MacArthur says “brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues.” In particular, he is applauded for his contributions to public discussions of race and racial identity. Desmond is a Harvard sociologist whose research has focused on the impacts of poverty and racial inequality on families and communities. MacArthur awards fellowships to people who “show extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The awardees are from fields as diverse as Chemistry, Classics and Dance.
Source: The Atlantic
New Affordable Housing Plan in Seattle
Officials in King County, Washington, revealed an $83 million plan on Monday, September 28, to build affordable housing around transit hubs. The plan is designed to connect workers with more than 30 miles (48 km) of light rail that is planned for the next eight years. County Executive Dow Constantine says, “With this vision, we can be deliberate about creating vibrant, walkable, economically diverse neighborhoods around new and existing stations.” The homes would be affordable to people with incomes up to 80 percent of the area’s median income, or $69,000 a year for a family of four. The executive also plans to use funds from the Washington Legislature to preserve and construct approximately 700 more units of workforce housing.
Source: The Seattle Times
Controversy Over the Role of Private Equity in Mortgages
Private equity firms and hedge funds have bought more than 100,000 delinquent mortgages from banks and federal housing agencies, at discounts as steep as 30 percent. These firms were viewed by federal housing officials as more nimble than banks, and more willing to work with homeowners. However, lawmakers now believe these funds may actually be quicker to foreclose than banks. While these firms have enabled thousands of abandoned homes to return to the market, there are reports that firms like Lone Star have been unwilling to negotiate with long-time owners and restructure loans, and move to foreclosure shortly after purchasing them. Michael E. Capuano, state representative from Massachusetts, recently wrote to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, saying the system “may turn out to be an efficient new mechanism for increasing evictions.”
Source: The New York Times
On-Campus Living Requirements Make College More Unaffordable
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 87 U.S. colleges and universities require first-year, full-time students to live on campus. The restrictions on housing are used to ensure that student’s fully participate in school activities, social networks and academic support. However, students are increasingly struggling to afford higher education and the requirement that they live on-campus has become an additional burden. According to the College Board, the average cost of room and board at private four-year institutions has risen 47 percent over the last decade, and 58 percent at public institutions. Research shows that often the cost of living off-campus is less expensive, leaving students and parents searching for answers and challenging institutions’ housing polices and requirements.
Source: The Washington Post