Happy New Year! And six stories in the news

Welcome to 2015. So far, more than 90,000 applicants are waiting to hear if they have been accepted into one of 924 available apartments at Hunter’s Point in Long Island City; Seattle residents continue to complain about the proposed upcoming linkage fee on new developments; and the New Jersey Supreme Court is launching an investigation on Governor Christie’s treatment of affordable housing. My call to educate people about affordable housing remains strong. In the new year, I hope to expand this site by defining more key terms, discussing real-life examples and possibly conducting interviews both with professionals in the affordable housing field and with affordable housing residents. I hope to expand the reach of my words and show that affordable housing is a vital human right and should be available to all.

First, a look back at December and at six stories in the news that caught my attention.

1) School workers, others ‘just can’t find rental housing’ -School workers in rural Colorado are struggling to find housing near their work. As a result, schools are having a difficult, and often impossible, time finding and retaining quality teachers. Many turn down offers because housing costs in the area are not commensurate with teacher salaries. Other public officials -bus drivers, postal workers, fire fighters, have reported the same struggles.

2) Controversial affordable housing project faces new opposition -In Calgary, two housing advocacy organizations are facing off over the development of 120 single room occupancy (SRO) units in a former hotel. Calgary Drop In and Rehab Centre is in the process of converting the hotel into housing for formerly homeless individuals; the Calgary Homeless Foundation claims the project is too extensive to provide the necessary care and services required by what they term ‘high risk’ populations. The controversy has fueled community objections. This is a good example of how infighting between organizations undermines a cause’s progress.

3) Couple revitalizes apartments -A young couple in Albany, New York has purchased an historic apartment building, formerly home to sex offenders seeking affordable housing, and is rehabilitating it to achieve greater historical accuracy. They claim the renovated units will remain affordable, although they hope the tenant population will change to a young-professional crowd. I am not against renovating old buildings -in fact, renovation and rehabilitation was the impetus behind my degree in architecture -but I do wish the new owners had made an effort to retain some of the original renters. I believe that private-public partnerships are a key element in affordable housing management.

4) The world’s housing crisis doesn’t need a revolutionary solution -Identifies four levers that utilize existing financial, policy and development systems to streamline the process of creating more affordable housing. By following this guide, the authors estimate that the cost of a finished housing unit can be reduced by between 20 and 50 percent, without eating into a developer’s profit. Their approach is simple, but potentially revolutionary.

5) Walsh: $20M available to create affordable housing in Boston -The City of Boston is offering $20 million between two Request for Proposals (RFPs) that require developers to design affordable, safe and clean housing for underserved populations. The funds come from the city’s Inclusionary Development Fund (IDF), generated by fees paid when residential developers of properties with ten or more units choose to pay a fee in lieu of constructing affordable housing on-site. By taking a public stance in favor of housing for the poor, Boston is showing developers, architects and designers that the affordable housing market is filled with monetary incentives, which could encourage more affordable developments in the future.

6) New report on challenges and solutions to creating affordable housing for lowest income Americans -A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that the majority of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments utilize federal vouchers to make units affordable to renters earning less than 30 percent of the area median income, a practice they say is unsustainable. The Coalition interviewed developers who serve extremely low income people without the use of vouchers, to gather a list of best practices. As with most things, the solutions are not difficult and, if implemented, could make housing available to a increased number of the very poor.

Happy reading!


**Also, as we move into the new year, I welcome any suggestions for blog content. Stories, angles, perspectives you would like me to consider, or avoid. Let me know in the comments! 


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