Housing News Roundup: October 12, 2015
Imagine Boston Initiative Asks Residents What the City Should Improve
Boston recently launched the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative to gauge public opinion regarding how to improve the city and make Boston a more attractive place to live by the year 2030. WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station, received many responses to the initiative’s questions primarily through Facebook comments. Feedback highlighted by WBUR varies in perspective, but consistently centers on improving housing options, transportation systems and public education. Residents cited the lack of affordable housing, requesting that developers stop putting in luxury condos and rather add reasonably priced housing. The opinions of leaders from the city’s many non-profit and private organizations echo these same aspirations for the city. Some ideas offered by locals include creating more indoor meeting spaces to improve connectivity during the long winter months, and increasing foot traffic in downtown such that Boston becomes a “24-hour city.”
Developers Fund Campaign for San Francisco's Affordable Housing Bond Measure
Mayor Ed Lee is relying on the passage of a $310 million affordable-housing bond, known as Proposition A, in order to fund 30,000 units of affordable and workforce housing. To gain support, he’s raising money from the development industry. Proposition A will only pass if it receives two thirds of the people’s votes, which is a tall order. Developers, such as Oz Erickson, Forest City and Kilroy Realty have contributed most of the 1.4 million in campaign funds Lee has collected so far. Other anchor institutions like Dignity Health are also contributing to the campaign, because of their recent entanglement in the city’s affordable housing debate. Housing bond measures do not have a strong record in San Francisco: the last to be approved was in 1996, and two others have been defeated in recent years.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Change in Federal Education Secretary is an Opportunity to Improve Integration
John King is slated to become the next Education Secretary in December, replacing Arne Duncan. While Duncan focused on improving failing schools, some say he shied away from confronting the underlying causes of the achievement gap. Experts speculate that King may take Duncan’s mission further and seek to tackle the racial segregation that undergirds much of the disparities in inner cities. At the conference of the National Coalition on School Diversity, John King discussed ways to increase school diversity and improving outcomes for low-income students, referencing the links between housing and educational segregation. While the Department of Education could pursue competitive grants and other administrative mechanisms to encourage schools to increase racial parity, major policy tools, like revising No Child Left Behind, would require an act of Congress.
Source: The Washington Post
Debt Collection Widespread in Black Neighborhoods
In the St. Louis suburb of Jennings and other black-majority communities in the region, residents are being sued by debt-collectors at alarming rates. Controlling for income, black communities experience twice as many debt-collection judgments against them than white communities. Rather than discrimination by lenders or collectors, the authors argue that black households have fewer resources at their disposal to defend against such suits. According to ProPublica, debt collectors are increasingly using court-initiated wage garnishment, which can devastate the budgets of low-income families. Reverend Starsky Wilson, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, says “If you’re still stuck in this web of indebtedness, you’re not going to be economically mobile.” However, the average size of a judgement in a black neighborhood is lower than that of a white neighborhood, which may help explain why debtors pursue judgements in higher quantities in the former.
Source: The Atlantic
The Effect of the Housing Boom on Black First-Time Home Buyers
Researchers at John Hopkins University analyzed the impact of the booming housing market in the early 2000s on low and moderate income, first-time home buyers and found that outcomes hinged largely on race. While white first-time home buyers experienced a 50 percent increase in net worth between 2005 and 2007, African-American first-time home buyers averaged a 47 percent decrease in net worth. Lead researcher Sandra Newman says that segregated communities and income disparities play a critical role in the findings and questions the wisdom of considering homeownership a ‘universal asset-building strategy.’ Timing and location are the hallmarks of real estate investing, but Newman says that during the housing boom, “ ‘timing’ was the story for whites, and ‘location’ was the story for blacks.” While white families bought homes in areas that appreciated over time, black families were more likely to buy homes in economically distressed areas that lost value over time.
Source: The Baltimore Sun