Housing News Roundup: October 27, 2016
Volunteers in Maine Allow Seniors to Age in Place in Rural Communities
To make up for a deficiency of programs provided by state and local governments, volunteers in Maine offer services for elderly residents of rural communities. With residents ages 65 and older expected to make up more than one-third of the state’s population in 2032, volunteers from several community-based groups have begun providing seniors transportation, access to fresh food, caregiver relief, and home maintenance. These volunteer groups make it possible for seniors to age in their homes, which are ill-equipped to accommodate the needs of elderly residents and are in isolated areas. Despite recent legislative measures to increase assistance for elderly residents, this system of volunteers can be a model for other states. According to Sandy Markwood of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, “These are really small communities doing incremental changes that make a huge difference to the people who live there. They’re doing it with existing resources and the human capital they have there.”
House Flipping and the Affordable Housing Supply
A new wave of house flipping (i.e., selling a house after owning it less than a year) is increasing affordable housing in some areas but exacerbating the affordability gap in others. During the second quarter of 2014, 51,434 single-family residences were flipped, a 14 percent increase from the first quarter. In the same period, the number of flippers reached its highest level in nine years. For some markets, such as in Florida and Nevada, which have a large supply of foreclosed homes, “bringing these houses back to the market is good in general for the neighborhoods where they are located. It increases supply, which means prices can’t go too high, and they should be affordable, at least for the middle class,” says Hector Sandoval, an economist at the University of Florida. However, in markets such as New York, house flippers are displacing low-income residents to transform affordable housing into high-priced residences. According to Steven Swidler of Auburn University, the effect of flipping homes on the affordability gap is “all about location, location, location.”
Source: Chicago Tribune
Opinion: Subsidized Housing for Teachers Causes Others to Lose
“Given that federal housing subsidies are in limited supply, the allocation of tax credits to fund teacher housing merits more scrutiny than it’s received,” according to Rachel Cohen of the American Prospect. In response to California’s new law that allows for the financing of teacher housing through federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), Cohen critiques the legislation, which has racial implications and can reduce the number of affordable units. In 2012, 56 percent of residents who lived in the state’s LIHTC units were black or Hispanic, but in contrast, 65 percent of public school teachers in California were white in the 2014–15 school year, marking a potential shift in racial demographics among those who benefit from the tax credits. Despite proponents of this legislation wanting to provide teachers with quality, affordable housing in the communities in which they teach, little evidence supports what is now a nationwide movement toward subsidized teacher housing. “In an era of tight resources, the public must find ways to prioritize supports for the most disadvantaged families, while also identifying new ways to improve the lives of the middle class. That’s the only real win-win,” says Cohen.
Source: The American Prospect
Vacant Lots Suggest Development Potential in California
The McKinsey Global Institute released a new report that offers recommendations for addressing the housing shortage in California. Housing shortage costs are an impediment to the state’s economic growth. Californians are losing about $3,500 per person in economic output. The report suggests that developing vacant lots can help alleviate the housing challenges. Research identifies about 225,000 lots, mostly in San Francisco and Los Angeles, that could be used for housing. However, some of these vacant sites may not be suitable given the discrepancies in the public land data, controversies in plot use, and zoning limitations. Despite these observations, the report advises that using vacant lots could be an adequate solution for expanding California’s housing supply.
Source: The New York Times
“Co-Location” Combines Public Libraries and the Public Housing Authority in Chicago
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a co-location initiative to build architecturally stunning libraries in conjunction with affordable housing. The construction of libraries alongside public housing is not a new concept—the housing authority in Los Angeles sees numerous benefits —but this will be the first time designers will be engaged in driving the process. As Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene Jones Jr. states, “it’s the wow factor…it is decorative for the community, increases property values.” The co-location idea will encourage usage by mixed-income groups living in the public housing and the surrounding neighborhoods. Chicago Public Library commissioner Brian Bannon notes, “we already are a natural convener of a full cross-section of the community.” There will be a design competition with cost guidance, and the process is estimated to take up to two years.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Annual Housing Awards Announced by the Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center
The final phase of the redevelopment of a section of Minneapolis’s Venture Village neighborhood has been honored with the Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Awards. The project, developed by Aeon and Hope Community, bundled together the preservation of Pine Cliff with the construction of The Rose, an ultra-energy-efficient, mixed-income building. For the Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award, the Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing selected the City of Chicago’s Troubled Building Initiative, an effort that combines multiple city agencies and external partners to acquire blighted properties and restore them to the city’s rental and ownership supply.