Housing News Roundup: October 19, 2015
New Orleans Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund Is Realigned
New Orleans’ City Council recently voted to update its Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF) ordinance. The city fund and tax millage ordinance was originally approved by voters in 1991 to improve neighborhood housing and combat blight, but had only been applied to code enforcement. Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell’s recent amendments will enable the fund to be used for home improvements and affordable housing efforts, which she says will “tie badly needed resources to affordable housing.” The revisions will also ensure the creation of an advisory committee for the fund. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration plans to align the 2016 budget with these revisions, although they are not mandated to kick in until 2018.
Source: The Times-Picayune
Opinion: Prevent Homelessness by Preventing Eviction
This New York Times Opinion from Mark D. Levine and Mary Brosnahan asserts that although we need to attack the problem of homelessness from every possible angle, the most critical way to address it is through prevention. They identify evictions as the main source of homelessness, especially for children. According to court data, evictions through court order have increased at a rapid clip over the last decade, and landlords have much better legal representation than tenants. Bill de Blasio has increased funding for tenant representation, and the City Council has introduced legislation–which would be the first in the nation–to require counsel for all low-income tenants in housing court. On balance, providing counsel is much cheaper for the state than providing shelter.
Source: The New York Times
Clean Energy in Affordable Housing Is Cost-Effective and Will Protect the Vulnerable
A new report by the Clean Energy Group, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to clean energy, says that solar power with battery backup would have largely prevented the humanitarian crisis that unfolded during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The report analyzes financial data from Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago to determine whether such clean energy tools are feasible in affordable housing in these cities. Lewis Milford, president of Clean Energy Group and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says “these new resilient power technologies can make economic sense for building owners to instsall now, not years from now.” The authors of the report say “solar+storage” can reduce operating costs, sometimes generate revenue, and takes only a short period of time to recoup upfront costs. Such upgrades would greatly improve the ability of the most vulnerable to respond to crisis situations, and to, literally, weather storms.
Pocket Park in Seattle Sparks Affordable Housing Discussion
The approval of a parcel of land to become a pocket park in northeast Seattle has sparked controversy there. The property was acquired by the city, as recompense, from a previously notorious landlord who had racked up $3.5 million in building code violation fines over the years. Housing advocates and concerned residents argue that the highest and best use for the property, which is adjacent to transit lines, would be affordable housing. Opponents to the park say there is a plethora of nearby parks already, and that the land should be used to help reach Seattle Governor Ed Murray’s 10-year housing goal of creating or preserving 50,000 housing units, 40 percent of which are supposed to be affordable.
Source: The Seattle Times
Transbay Transit Center Set to Rejuvenate San Francisco Neighborhood
The new Transbay Transit Center, a multi-modal transit hub, in downtown San Francisco is set to be the “Grand Central of the West,” and connect Market Street to the Financial District in the north. The $4.5 billion project is projected to add 125,000 jobs, more than 6 million square feet of commercial office space, and 4,500 housing units to the city’s main commercial corridor. The transit center will sit atop 40 acres of publicly owned parcels, which currently hold some blighted properties like the old Transbay Terminal. Set to open in 2017, the Transbay Transit Center will transform this neglected neighborhood into a walkable, transit-oriented community that provides residents with extensive retail amenities and connectivity with the rest of San Francisco.
Source: Urban Land Institute