Housing News Roundup: September 14, 2017
Harvey Aftermath Threatens Houston-Area Renters’ Stability
Though some Houston-area landlords have waived fees, offered transitional help, and are accepting late rent payments, others are not so accommodating. Texas law allows landlords and tenants to void a lease if a unit is “totally unusable,” but many are having trouble agreeing on whether a property meets that condition. “It’s just been traumatic,” said Katy Nelson, who escaped her flooded home through a window during the storm and clashed with her landlord during cleanup. Her landlord ordered her family to evacuate within five days, but Nelson maintains they should be able to stay through their two-year lease.
Source: New York Times
After a Storm, How Can Communities Afford to Rebuild?
Federal Community Development Block Grants can provide lifelines to communities and, after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, could be more important than ever. Unlike other federal aid, the block grants provide flexibility and allow states to use the money in ways that best fit their needs. Thomas Kelaher, Toms River mayor when superstorm Sandy hit, said, “Here, it’s taken us five years and we’re still not 100 percent back. And as bad as Sandy was…compared to Houston, that was a drop in the bucket. I don’t know how they could survive without that kind of help, very honestly.”
Source: Wall Street Journal
What Determines Eviction Rates in Denver?
Last year in Denver, landlords tried to evict 8,000 households. Their success depended on whether tenants hired lawyers—when they did, landlords often failed. A new report reveals that in Denver eviction court, landlords hire attorneys 90 percent of the time, while tenants are represented 1 percent of the time. Tenants without lawyers were evicted 86 percent of the time in private housing cases over the past three years and 43 percent of time from public housing. Report author Jack Regenbogen, an attorney for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, called the eviction rates “an economic and moral crisis” and hopes the city makes major policy changes to change the disproportion.
Source: Denver Post
New Grants Will Help Efforts to Keep Children Lead-Free
Hennepin County has the highest stock of homes with lead paint in Minnesota. Since 2010, the number of children suffering from lead poisoning has decreased 33 percent, but hundreds still suffer from unsafe lead levels in their system. Hennepin County and Minneapolis are each getting millions in grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and have begun using a prevention and outreach model to protect children before they are poisoned. County staffers do mailings to mothers of newborns in targeted neighborhoods, work with nonprofits on door-to-door outreach, and help families sign up for the grant program. “We are all working for the day when we don’t use children as lead detectors,” said Lisa Smestad, manager of lead hazard control and healthy homes for Minneapolis.
Source: Star Tribune
This NIMBY Struggle Reflects Battles All Over the Country
Cedar Rapids is the second-largest city in Iowa but home to only 130,000 people. Since a massive flood in 2008, the city has been redeveloping, making neighborhoods denser and creating more multifamily units, including more affordable housing units. The Crestwood Ridge Apartments, a building that will sit on two acres and contain 26 units for low-income families, 5 for homeless families, and 4 for families who can pay market price, is a controversial project in the initiative to redevelop and is the source of a heated “Not in My Backyard” movement. Neighbors against the building’s construction collected more than 1,000 signatures and won a city council vote before the developer prevailed.