Monthly Roundup: Five stories in the news

After a long break, here is my newest roundup of the month’s most enticing, infuriating, discussion-worthy news stories! I have always enjoyed these posts, since they give me time to reflect on my recent reading and to share my thoughts on multiple aspects of affordable housing. Please let me know in the comments about your favorite compelling stories from the month.

  1. Election 2015: B.C. candidates talk housing, affordabilityIn Canada, housing is not a fringe issue, to be dealt with in quiet budget appropriations and local government ordinances. Housing is a key political topic, and the CBC radio show On the Coast invited candidates from all four major parties to discuss their housing policies in preparation for the upcoming election. All parties, including the most conservative, are including some form of housing subsidies to provide housing for all citizens.
  2. Welcome to Dismaland: A First Look at Banksy’s New Art Exhibition Housed Inside a Dystopian Theme ParkDismaland opened on August 22 in an abandoned seaside resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK. It is a bemusement park curated on the premise, “theme parks should have bigger themes…” (according to the brochure). Filled with dystopian imagery, a bizarre castle evocative of Disneyland and a depressing gray color scheme, this park makes a clear statement against consumerism (you still have to pay for admission, though). Perhaps Bansky and crew will consider doing a touring park and set up shop for a while in Chicago so we here can also revel in this cultural critique. I realize this isn’t strictly housing related, but themes are in line with my own.

  3. LIHTC Market Continues to Roll:  I am a big fan of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), because they are an accessible and lucrative form of property subsidies that allow private developers to reduce operating costs and, by association, rental rates. Read my description of how the process works here. Unfortunately, the rising popularity of LIHTC means the price per credit is increasing and investment yields are decreasing. Developers have the upper-hand in the market. As Ryan Sfreddo, managing director at Red Stone Equity Partners, is quoted as saying, “While this trend may be perceived as good news for the development community, it is a concern in the investment community.” And LIHTC work well only when they are perceived as a solid investment. Market leaders are advising developers to create more modest pricing models to prevent loss if the market collapses after its vigorous expansion. Balance is key to creating a sustainable system.
  4. An effective homeless response system requires affordable housing: Cindy Crain, the new CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance is deploying an interagency approach to helping the city’s homeless.  More than 300 Dallas homeless were identified in the area’s 2015 homeless count, a number Crain says is an underestimate. The current initiative focuses on a homeless camp at an underpass of I-45. Using what Crain calls a “three-part, best-practice strategy of intensive engagement, comprehensive assessment and connection to an appropriate housing intervention” residents of the underpass are receiving the support they need to find and secure housing. Crain’s dedication to housing and interagency cooperation is clear in this opinion piece. I am always inspired by passionate (and goal-oriented) advocates. You can read more about Crain’s approach to helping homeless and her goals for the agency here.
  5. Concentrated poverty in New Orleans 10 years after Katrina: Like many Americans, Alan Berube and Natalie Holmes at the Brookings Institute are using the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to reflect on rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. As I mentioned last week, affordable housing has been slow to emerge, mostly as a result of political chaos. Poverty concentration, according Berube and Holmes, however, has dropped. While the poverty rate remained statistically unchanged between 2000 (five years before the storm) and 2013 (eight years after the storm), the number of neighborhoods where 40 percent or more resident live below the poverty line was reduced from 41 (2000) to 38 (2009-2013). Due to population shifts and losses, the percent of New Orleans’ poor population living in these extremely poor neighborhoods also decreased, from 39 percent (2000) to 30 percent (2009-2013). All of these number point to the complexities of cities, population distribution, and urban planning. Read the article for informative maps and a more detailed discussion of potential reasons for the poverty shift in New Orleans.

Thanks for reading. Again, please let me know in the comments about stories I have missed or should follow in the upcoming weeks.

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