Housing News Roundup: October 8, 2015
NYT Editorial Board: Sales of Discounted Mortgages Should Be Stopped
The New York Times editorial board argues that since the housing crisis of the Great Recession, homeowners facing foreclosure have yet to receive relief. The board feels that the government did not follow through on its promise to require banks to rework bad loans, allowing banks to offload them to government agencies or sell them off to private equity firms. This practice has been considered as a way to help homeowners behind on their mortgages; but rather than restructure the loans, these equity firms are simply foreclosing anyway and repackaging debt into bonds. The board contends that borrowers are not being given the ability to receive the assistance they were promised under settlements, and thinks that all sales of discounted mortgages should be suspended until homeowners rights are protected.
Source: The New York Times
Boston Playing Catch-Up on Apartment Inspections
The city of Boston’s apartment inspection program is a work in progress. Now in its second year, the program was designed to assess basic sanitary and safety code compliance. However, its original goal of inspecting 60,000 units by the end of the year has dropped to 44,000, with only 9,000 inspections completed. Inspections are designed to be thorough and take as long as an hour each because the functionality of windows, appliances, and even sink stoppers is tested. The push to increase inspections comes alongside a related ordinance requiring all landlords to register with the city, which maintains a database the department will rely on to follow up with violators and ensure compliance. Delays in the registration program slowed the progress of inspections; an estimated 50,000 units remain unregistered. After a troublesome 2014 report detailing dangerous conditions in college-area units, the department has hired several new full-time staff members and says it is determined to meet its inspection goals.
Source: The Boston Globe
Opinion: In Cities, There Is No Such Thing As "Full"
In an opinion piece, Emily Badger explores the rhetoric surrounding urban density, which implies that at a certain point, cities can no longer take in more residents. Joe Cortright, an urban economist, says, “Economists reject absolutes like ‘full’ and ‘need.’ It’s always about trade-offs and choices.” Using density maps, Badger illustrates the wide range in the density seen in cities around the world. She argues that there is no law of physics that makes a place unable to hold more people—only choices made by people who worry that their quality of life will deteriorate with an increase in residents. She contends the opposite is true, saying that having more people in a city leads to more amenities, stimulates the economy, and creates energy-efficient places. Research shows that residential mobility has decreased economic inequality in the past, but efforts to protect home values are limiting mobility and its positive effects
Source: The Washington Post
Dramatic Changes to Zoning Procedures Possible in Boulder
Voters in Boulder, Colorado, are considering a measure that would empower neighborhoods to vote on any zoning changes that would affect them. The new rule would change the city’s charter, making the rule hard to repeal, and divides the city into 66 residential zones. At present, zoning changes can be challenged after the fact, but municipal officials make the final decision. Under the new rule, neighborhoods would make the final decision, and ahead of any changes. Author Kriston Capps argues that the measure would seal off Boulder to any future development, and effectively exclude those in need of affordable housing from development decisions. She feels the move is a form of “not-in-my-backyard” politics and will enable current owners to drive up home prices.
Boise Tackles Chronic Homelessness with Pay for Success
In its “relentless pursuit” of eliminating homelessness, the city of Boise has decided to turn to the Pay for Success model. Regarding the issue, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said in his State of the City address in September, “How many homeless people is it OK to have sleeping on the street at night? Of course none is the only answer, the only one that we can ever allow.” The city has decided to approach the problem from many angles at once, recently launching a winter day shelter, hotel vouchers, and a crisis and mental health facility. But Boise officials believe Pay for Success will be its best initiative yet, since it will leverage private investment and only cost taxpayers if the goal of eliminating chronic homelessness is met. A $100,000 grant from the University of Utah School of Business Policy Innovation Lab will fund a feasibility study for the city regarding how to implement a Pay for Success program in Ada County. Once the study is complete, it hopes to attract private funding from large corporations that have expressed interest in the model, such as Goldman Sachs.
Source: The Boise Weekly