Monday, February 25, 2013

Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission Report

I am just finished streaming the press conference for the release of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Housing Commision Report.  Led by its Co-Chairs, Sens. George Mitchell, Mel Martinez and Kit Bond, as well as former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, the Commission is offering a far-reaching set of recommendations regarding the housing finance system, public subsidy for affordable housing development and preservation (particularly in rural areas) and promotion of housing counseling as a vital resource.  Even if the Executive Summary is too long for you, I would encourage you to check out a two-page article available on Politico authored by the four co-chairs.   

Jim K.

February 25, 2013 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, HUD, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Proposed Final Settlement in Baltimore Fair Housing Case

The Baltimore Sun reported this past weekend on the proposed final settlement in Thompson v. HUD, a fair housing case that dates to 1995. 

The case arose when the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland sued HUD, saying that it demolished old public housing high-rises where mostly African-Americans lived — only to move the residents to equally segregated housing and poor conditions in other parts of the city.

Attorneys for the residents said Friday that the government in effect “perpetually locked” African-American families in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, violating federal civil right laws. The settlement, which would cover all claims in the case, was filed in conjunction with Baltimore City and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

As the Legal Defense Fund, which worked with the ACLU on the case, notes in its press release, the court had ruled in 2005 “that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) violated the Fair Housing Act by unfairly concentrating African-American public housing residents in the most impoverished, segregated areas of Baltimore City.  Judge Garbis held that HUD must take a regional approach to promoting fair housing opportunities throughout the Baltimore Region.” 

The settlement requires HUD to allocated money towards expansion of the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program, which has been in place since a partial settlement in the 1990s.  The program has enabled over 1,800 families to move to neighborhoods in other parts of the city and to surrounding suburbs.  Under the settlement, the program will, among other things, fund vouchers and counseling over the next seven years for up to 2,600 additional families.

The case is particularly interesting given its regional approach to questions of housing and segregation.  Housing vouchers can be used throughout the region, enabling participants to voluntarily move to suburban areas with greater employment and educational opportunity.  The program provides extensive housing counseling and mobility assistance to aid families interested in moving to lower-poverty neighborhoods.  For more details, see this  2009 report discussing the progress of the program at that time. 

John Infranca

August 29, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Local Government, Race, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bauer on Age-Restricted Communities and Civil Rights Laws & Regulation

Mark D. Bauer (Stetson) has posted ‘Peter Pan’ as Public Policy: Should Fifty-Five-Plus Age-Restricted Communities Continue to Be Exempt from Civil Rights Laws and Substantive Federal Regulation?  The abstract:

Although millions of Americans live in 55-plus age-restricted housing, little research has been done to determine whether these communities benefit their residents, or the nation as a whole. This is particularly ironic because these communities exist in contravention to anti-discrimination laws by virtue of a specific exemption granted to real estate developers by an Act of Congress. Ordinarily age discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Successful lobbying by special interest groups carved out an exemption for 55-plus housing.

The original exemption required developers to offer elders special services and facilities in these communities in return for the exemption. Over time, those requirements were eliminated and now the only requirement is that these communities exclude families and children.

While lifestyles focused on golf and tennis may be attractive to younger retirees, older Americans often find themselves in communities bereft of the services and facilities they need for basic life activities and safety. The very nature of these communities result in elders left with depreciating homes, and many are without the financial means to retrofit their 55-plus home or to move into a community better adapted for their needs. This Article explores a popular form of “senior housing” that is unsuitable for most older Americans.

Matt Festa

August 19, 2012 in Community Design, Constitutional Law, Development, Federal Government, History, Homeowners Associations, Housing, HUD, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Sun Belt | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Disputes over Westchester Housing Settlement Continue

    Westchester County's protracted battle with HUD over the implementation of a 2009 lawsuit continues.  By way of background, the case, United States ex rel Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, Inc. v. Westchester County, New York, was brought as a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, alleging that the county, through certifications made to HUD to receive Community Development Block Grant funds, falsely certified that it fulfilled its obligation to "affirmatively further fair housing."  The Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC), which brought the case, claimed that Westchester failed to consider race-based impediments to housing choice and failed to identify and take steps to overcome these impediments, as required by law.  The DOJ intervened and negotiated a settlement on behalf of HUD.  The settlement requires Westchester to, among other things, spend $51.6 million to develop, primarily in municipalities with overwhelmingly white populations, at least 750 affordable housing units that affirmatively further fair housing.  The County also must affirmatively market the housing in surrounding areas with significant non-white populations.  The court appointed a monitor to oversee and facilitate implementation of the settlement. (In the interest of disclosure, through my work at the Furman Center, I provided technical assistance to the Monitor's team earlier in the process). 

    The County argues that it is complying with the settlement and is ahead of schedule in constructing the units.  However, the ADC has asserted, that the locations of these units so far, which are often isolated from the surrounding community, fail to further the settlement's underlying goal of desegregating housing patterns.  The County has responded that the cost and availability of land restrict the options available.  The County Executive, who was elected after the settlement was reached (and has repeatedly said he would not have signed it), contends that HUD is overreaching, requiring the County to take actions beyond the terms of the settlement.  In May, the District Court ruled against the County, finding that it failed to comply with the settlement's requirements that it promote legislation prohibiting source-of-income discrimination.

        The most recent contentions focus on zoning issues and the County's compliance with a requirement that it conduct an "Analysis of Impediments" (AI), which examines barriers to fair housing choice.  HUD has withheld funding from the County, declaring the AIs it has filed fail to properly consider the impact of race on housing choice and whether local zoning regulation is exclusionary.  The County's AI concluded that no exclusionary housing existed in its municipalities.  Rather than revise that submission in response to the Monitor's list of deficiencies, the County refiled the same AI, accompanied by a legal analysis by the Land Use Law Center at Pace Law School, supporting its approach. 

The County argues that its review of local zoning followed the analysis of exclusionary zoning put forth by the NY Court of Appeals in Berenson v. New Castle, which requires that local zoning ordinances consider regional housing needs in developing a "properly balanced and well-ordered plan."  It concludes that all of the local ordinances consider regional needs and allow the development of multi-family housing and a range of uses and consequently are not exclusionary.  Therefore the County need not take any further steps to comply with the settlement's requirement that it use "all available means," including taking legal action, to address a municipality's action or inaction in promoting the settlement. 

HUD's response, and the next steps in this dispute, will raise interesting questions regarding the relationship between a County and its municipalities, the definition of exclusionary zoning and scope of judicial review of local zoning, and the courses of action available to HUD in challenging local zoning.  

John Infranca

 

July 23, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Local Government, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 23, 2012

NYT Story on Siting of Affordable Housing in Texas

The New York Times, through its partnership with the nonprofit news organization Texas Tribune, published today a story on the powerful state law tools that support NIMBYism in the siting of affordable housing. Texas Tribune along with the San Antonio Express-News studied public records to learn the extent of the problem:

The examination of data from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which administers the biggest federal housing subsidy program in the state, found that of $9.7 billion in tax credits awarded from 1990 to 2011, more than three-quarters subsidized the construction of apartments in neighborhoods mostly made up of poor blacks and Hispanics. Few units built with support from the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, which gives federal incentives to private developers to build or rehabilitate low-cost apartments, were in areas that are predominantly white.

The examination found that:

¶Of the 193,000 tax-credit units subsidized statewide, 78 percent are in census tracts where more than half of all residents are minorities. By comparison, only 59 percent of all rented apartments are in the same areas, according to census data.

¶Roughly 31 percent of the units across the state are in neighborhoods with high concentrations of minority residents — 90 percent or more — which is about twice the rate for all rental housing.

¶Eighty percent of the low-income apartments, but only 64 percent of all rented units, are in poor census tracts where residents earned less than the state median household income, $49,646.

Jim K.

April 23, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Housing, HUD, NIMBY | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 20, 2012

New HUD Rules on Access to Housing Regardless of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

From a recent HUD press release:

HUD SECRETARY DONOVAN ANNOUNCES NEW REGULATIONS TO ENSURE EQUAL ACCESS
TO HOUSING FOR ALL AMERICANS REGARDLESS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY

New regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect in 30 days

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today new regulations intended to ensure that HUD's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Donovan previewed the announcement at the 24th National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality – Creating Change. View the final rule here.

“The Obama Administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this historic rule, the Administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want live on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity – ensuring that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect 30 days after the rule is published.

Matt Festa

February 20, 2012 in Federal Government, Housing, HUD | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Remarks by the President on Housing

President Obama gave a speech yesterday in Falls Church, VA, explaining his State of the Union thoughts on housing.  From the White House transcript:

As I indicated at the State of the Union last week, I am sending Congress a plan that will give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at historically low rates. (Applause.) No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. And a small fee on the largest financial institutions will make sure it doesn’t add to our deficit.

I want to be clear: This plan, like the other actions we’ve taken, will not help the neighbors down the street who bought a house they couldn’t afford, and then walked away and left a foreclosed home behind. It’s not designed for those who’ve acted irresponsibly, but it can help those who’ve acted responsibly. It’s not going to help those who bought multiple homes just to speculate and flip the house and make a quick buck, but it can help those who’ve acted responsibly.

What this plan will do is help millions of responsible homeowners who make their payments on time but find themselves trapped under falling home values or wrapped up in red tape.

Matt Festa

February 2, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, HUD, Mortgage Crisis, Politics, Real Estate Transactions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NYU Furman Center Releases Paper on Housing Vouchers and Crime

The NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has just sent out news of its latest fascinating and important study: American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime? The study is authored by co-director Ingrid Gould Ellen, Michael C. Lens, and Katherine O'Regan. From the announcement:

We are pleased to share with you the latest paper from the Furman Center, American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime? The study explores the link between housing vouchers and neighborhood crime rates. More than two million renters now receive Housing Choice Vouchers, which subsidize rent in private apartments. Although voucher holders live in a large variety of neighborhoods, community opposition to vouchers can be fierce due to perceptions that voucher holders will both reduce property values and heighten crime. The widely-circulated 2008 Atlantic Monthly article “American Murder Mystery” highlighted this controversy.

Our study, which examines changes in crime and voucher use over 12 years in ten major U.S. cities, finds no evidence that an increase of voucher holders in a community leads to increases in crime. Instead, we find a different association: that voucher holders are more likely to move into areas when crime rates are already rising. The paper was featured in an article in The Atlantic Cities, and presented September 19 at an internal briefing held at the HUD headquarters in Washington, DC. You can read the full paper here and accompanying fact sheet here.

When it comes to housing and land use, everyone has an opinion, because everyone lives somewhere and has anecdotal information. It's great to have a study like this to clarify popular conceptions based on facts. The Furman Center leads the way in producing these kinds of helpful studies.

Matt Festa

November 2, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Crime, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Local Government, New York, Politics, Property, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Seicshnaydre on Public Housing and Racial Segregation in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Stacy Seicshnaydre (Tulane) has posted How Government Housing Perpetuates Racial Segregation: Lessons from Post-Katrina New Orleans, 60 Cath. L. Rev. 661 (2011). In it, she explores how quantity-minded public housing advocacy and NIMBY-style public housing resistance has combined to perpetuate the racial segregation that federal law prohibits. Here's the abstract:

This Article contends that post-Katrina New Orleans exemplifies the exclusionary dynamic in which government-assisted housing operates throughout America and the fundamental failure of American housing policy at the federal, state, and local levels to prevent the racial segregation that inevitably results. Federal law has prohibited racial segregation in government-housing programs for decades, yet it has proven difficult to reverse entrenched patterns of segregation in these programs. Patterns of racial segregation have been particularly intractable in New Orleans, which, prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, boasted the second-highest level of poverty concentration in the nation and relatively high levels of poverty concentration in all of the major government-housing programs. Furthermore, low-income white residents in pre-Katrina New Orleans had greater access to middle-income neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area of New Orleans than low-income black residents, who were overwhelmingly concentrated into high-poverty neighborhoods.

Hurricane Katrina, with its massive levee failures and neighborhood flooding, offered an opportunity for New Orleans to emerge as a more inclusive region; new government-assisted housing could have helped facilitate inclusion, while also responding to the regional-housing needs of the area. However, rental housing bans proliferated throughout the region, primarily in communities that had previously served as affordable suburban alternatives for lower- and middle-income whites in prior decades. These communities sought not only to prevent the development of new rental housing, but also to limit the repair of rental housing that preexisted the storm. At the same time, other communities in metropolitan New Orleans that were the least affordable, most homogeneous, and nationally recognized as desirable places to live were not targeted for government-assisted housing, and thus did not pass similar sweeping rental bans. Therefore, rather than using recovery efforts to reverse racially segregated housing patterns, the region took steps to exacerbate them.

This Article describes a perennial dynamic of two impulses pulling in opposite directions—the anywhere-ist and nowhere-ist impulses, which conspire to perpetuate segregation. The anywhere-ists are primarily focused on securing as much federally assisted housing as possible; the nowhere-ists are primarily focused on keeping it out of their communities. This dynamic has created a “path of least resistance,” whereby government-assisted housing continues to be provided in places where it already exists or in places that are already open and affordable.

Ultimately, federal intervention in the housing market must encompass more than providing a subsidy. It must open neighborhoods not already open, make affordable what is not already affordable, enable housing subsidies to act as gateways to educational and employment opportunity, and inform families historically excluded from housing markets about their choices. Any federal housing interventions that are not so designed will almost certainly exacerbate existing racial segregation and poverty concentration, as they have done for decades, and—as post-Katrina New Orleans illustrates—as they will continue to do, again and again and again.

Jim K.

October 23, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Housing, HUD, NIMBY, Race, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Furman Center launches SHIP

Some exciting news from NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy:

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP), a new resource designed to provide housing agencies, community organizations, tenants and the affordable housing industry with the information they need to develop effective preservation strategies.

The SHIP database contains extensive information on nearly 235,000 units of privately-owned, subsidized affordable rental housing in New York City. Compiled from 50 different public and private data sources, the information is accessible through a user-friendly, interactive data search tool available on our website.

Our Institute for Affordable Housing Policy has simultaneously released the State of New York City’s Subsidized Housing report, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the properties in the SHIP database, and identifies opportunities to preserve affordable housing in the coming years. Another online tool, the Directory of New York City Affordable Housing Programs (Beta) summarizes nearly 200 programs that have been used in New York City to develop affordable housing since the 1930s.

The SHIP was made possible through a collaboration with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York City Housing Development Corporation, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the F.B. Heron Foundation and NYU Law alumnus Herbert Z. Gold (¢40). The New York City Council has also committed to support technical assistance and training for community-based organizations on how to use the database in their preservation efforts and advocacy. We have also received invaluable guidance and support from members of the SHIP Advisory Committee, the IAHP Advisory Board and dozens of affordable housing experts.

Matt Festa

September 8, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Economic Development, Historic Preservation, Housing, HUD, Landlord-Tenant, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Glaeser on Rethinking the Federal Bias Toward Homeownership

Harvard economist Edward Glaeser--author of much fascinating work on land use and urban development, including his latest book, Triumph of the City-- has posted his latest article, Rethinking the Federal Bias Toward Homeownership, forthcoming in HUD's Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Vol. 13, No. 2 (2011). The abstract:

The most fundamental fact about rental housing in the United States is that rental units are overwhelmingly in multifamily structures. This fact surely reflects the agency problems associated with renting single-family dwellings, and it should influence all discussions of rental housing policy. Policies that encourage homeowning are implicitly encouraging people to move away from higher density living; policies that discourage renting are implicitly discouraging multifamily buildings. Two major distortions shape the rental housing market, both of which are created by the public sector. Federal pro-homeownership policies, such as the home mortgage interest deduction, weaken the rental market and the cities where rental markets thrive. Local policies that discourage tall buildings likewise ensure that Americans have fewer rental options. The economic vitality of cities and the environmental consequences of large suburban homes with long commutes both support arguments for reducing these distortions.

A very important argument; I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing.

Matt Festa

September 7, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Density, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Landlord-Tenant, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nichols on Tenant Protections under the PTFA

Elan Stavros Nichols (Michigan State) has posted Unanswered Questions Under the PTFA: Exploring the Extent of Tenant Protections in Foreclosed Properties, forthcoming in the Journal of Affordable Housing, Vol. 20, No. 2, Winter 2011. The abstract:

The somewhat new Federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (the “PTFA”), as recently amended, still leaves many questions of interpretation in states with the foreclosure by advertisement process, and in states with laws related to issues on which the PTFA is silent. The PTFA is vague in places, and does not address certain issues raised by the foreclosure processes in certain states, where state law is not clearly preempted.

This article will examine how the PTFA, including the recent amendments and any recent judicial and advisory opinions, applies in states with the foreclosure by advertisement process (as opposed to judicial foreclosure). The article will use Michigan as a case study for this inquiry, briefly discussing other states with a similar process. In so doing, the article will discuss issues raised in these states concerning matters on which the PTFA’s terms are vague or wholly silent.

To that end, this article picks up where the article, “Interpreting the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009,” 19 J. of Affordable Housing & Community Dev Law 205 (Winter, 2010), by Allyson Gold, left off. Of particular assistance will be the recent statutory amendments, any relevant case law, interpretive statements from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the “working interpretation” adopted by legal services providers and others agencies dealing with the foreclosure crisis. Consequently, this article will conclude with a proposal for a reasonably fair interpretation of the PTFA in states with foreclosure by advertisement and in states where the PTFA is not expressly preempted but still leaves questions.

Matt Festa

August 29, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Landlord-Tenant, Mortgage Crisis, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HUD's HOME Program Attacked and Defended

Under the title "Million-Dollar Wasteland", the Washington Post has published a series of investigative articles attacking the effectiveness of HOME, HUD's principal source of targeted funding for community-based development of affordable housing. The reporters' data analysis lead them to conclude that more than 700 affordable housing projects granted more than $400 million in HUD funds are "delayed or abandoned." In a posted response, HUD says its own review shows that most of these supposedly failed projects are "actually completed and occupied." Unsurprisingly in this fiscal climate, congressional leaders have called for an investigation into the HOME program (Post follow-up story). No doubt more to follow.

Jim K.

May 25, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, Housing, HUD | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Alexander on New Regionalist Approaches to Sustainable Communities

Speaking of HUD, here's a new article from Lisa T. Alexander (Wisconsisn) called The Promise and Perils of ‘New Regionalist’ Approaches to Sustainable Communities, forthcoming in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38 (2011).  The abstract:

This Article argues that "new regionalism" is a form of "new governance." New regionalist approaches include collaborative efforts between cities and outlying suburbs to resolve metropolitan challenges such as affordable housing creation, transportation and sprawl. Such practices focus on regions as key sites for the resolution of public problems that transcend traditional local government and state boundaries. New regionalist praxis responds to local government law's failure to advance equity and sustainability throughout metropolitan regions. New regionalism promotes voluntary agreements and interlocal collaborations, rather than formal government or mandated regulation to resolve regional problems. New regionalism, then, is a form of new governance. The term new governance describes problem-solving processes that shift away from traditional government and regulation, towards voluntary, public/private collaborations including multiple stakeholders. New governance supporters assert that such approaches can enhance the participation of traditionally marginalized groups in reform and lead to more equitable outcomes. This Article examines the institutional design of the Obama Administration's Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program (the "Grant Program"), as well as its initial implementation in the Madison, Wisconsin/Dane County area, as a test of these claims. This Article identifies the Grant Program's promise and perils in advancing meaningful stakeholder participation and distributive justice. The Article concludes by making recommendations to improve the Grant Program and by outlining the implications of these observations for new regionalist and new governance practice.

Matt Festa

May 15, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Design, HUD, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Sprawl, State Government, Suburbs, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Washington Post Investigative Report on HUD

Courtesy of Mark Edwards at Property Prof, a link to what looks like an important and troubling report, Million-Dollar Wasteland: HUD's Mismanagement of America's Affordable Housing.  Here's Edwards' initial reaction:

Given that Congress is looking for areas to budget-cut, I suspect this series could be a game-changer for HUD.  That's unfortunate, because the need for affordable housing in the United States is enormous.  No doubt there is waste at HUD.  But I suspect that the committed and well-intentioned people at HUD are trapped in a downward spiral: they aren't given enough resources to adequately oversee the projects they fund; the projects they fund are wasteful; so their resources are cut.

Matt Festa

May 15, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Politics, Real Estate Transactions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Iglesias on Fair Housing Remedies and the Two-Person-Per-Bedroom Standard

Tim Iglesias (San Francisco) has posted Moving Beyond the Two-Person-Per-Bedroom: Revitalizing Application of the Federal Fair Housing Act to Private Residential Occupancy Standards.  Here's the abstract:  

New empirical evidence demonstrates that the common residential occupancy standard of two-persons-per-bedroom substantially limits the housing choices of many thousands of families, especially Latinos, Asians and extended families. The federal Fair Housing Act makes overly restrictive policies illegal, but the enforcement practices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have enabled the two-persons-per-bedroom standard to become de facto law. This article urges HUD to use its regulatory authority to remedy the situation and offers several solutions. And, if HUD fails to act, it encourages private plaintiffs to challenge the two-persons-per-bedroom standard and provides guidance to courts in deciding these cases.

Jim K.

March 31, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Housing, HUD, Landlord-Tenant, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How do you feel about the federal government controlling housing?

On Friday, the federal government assumed control over the Philadelphia Housing Authority.  For months, The Inquirer in Philadelphia had been reporting about corruption and mismanagement in the Housing Authority's finances, including "$38.3 million in legal expenditures since 2007."  "That tab included conflict-laden payment to the law firm of [the son of former Mayor Street, who also just resigned as chair of the Housing Authority]."  In addition, it included $11.7 million to Ballard Spahr, where former Gov. Ed Rendell is a partner now (and was prior to being governor). As a point of comparison, the Housing Authority paid $10.3 million (16,700 units of housing and 14,800 vouchers) in legal fees in 2010, while New York City's housing authority paid $8.6 million (180,000 units of housing and 99,000 vouchers).  The Philadelphia's Housing Authority's executive director was fired in September (for, among other things, settling sexual harassment complaints against him for $648,000) and the board resigned last week.

This all led me back to an article I wrote 5 years ago critical of public authorities, focusing primarily on the lack of relationship between public funds and the democratic process.  At the time, public authorities issued more debt per year than all the cities and states combined (i.e. borrow) and they held more debt than all the cities and states combined (i.e. borrowed).  Many states had the majority of their debt held by public authorities.  New York, for example, had about 90% of its debt held by public authorities.  I then discussed how typical elections for mayor, governor, representatives, and councilmembers have little impact on the decisionmakers at public authorities (see, e.g., Gov. Mitt Romney's desperate attempts to remove the head of the Mass Turnpike Authority).  This lack of oversight and accountability, I argued, allows for mismanagement, corruption, and graft. 

With so many of public authorities existing (more than all cities combined) and performing significant land use functions including, housing, transportation, economic development, water, sewer . . . etc, I wonder how, if at all, infusing more democracy into the control of these functions would impact land use today.  Would placing these functions under a city or state allow for more integration of land use issues?  Would it allow cities to be more flexibility in spending on land use issues (see, e.g., Philadelphia's unsuccessful attempt to gain access to Philadelphia Parking Authority's funds, generated from land in Philadelphia)?  How would it impact the democratic process?  I'm not sure where these functions should reside, but with each new revelation of public authority corruption, I question whether we have the most efficient system.

Jon Rosenbloom

March 8, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Housing, HUD, Local Government, Planning, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Meyer on Community Participation in Environmental Cleanup Decisions

The last installment in the Cityscape trilogy is Peter Meyer's Brownfields, Risk-Based Corrective Action, and Local Communities.  Here's the abstract: Free Download

This article addresses the problems facing communities that suffer both environmental risks from past contamination and depressed economic activity. In such settings, redevelopment of contaminated sites and the associated economic development may require compromised standards for environmental mitigation. This potential conflict is often resolved through risk-based corrective action on sites cleaned only for their prospective use. But partial cleanups can be shown to face inevitable failure at some future date. Thus, in such an approach, communities face risks that they need to understand and should be capable of accepting or rejecting. The article considers these risks and assesses four alternative land use control strategies for assuring community participation in making decisions about both the cleanup process today and the response to risks of failure in the future.

Jim K.

February 24, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, HUD, Industrial Regulation, Nuisance, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Howland on The Private Market for Brownfield Properties

Like yesterday's featured article from Cityscape, Marie Howland's (U. Md.- Planning)The Private Market for Brownfield Properties also takes advantage of Baltimore's industrial heritage to track brownfield sales. Here's the abstract:

This study examines land sales over a 10-year period - 1990 to 2000 - in one southwest Baltimore industrial district - Carroll Camden - to determine the effect of land contamination on property sales and sales price. I tracked all sales, selling price, time on the market, and the presence of land contamination in the 5,580-acre area. The results indicate that after the mid-1990s, contaminated parcels sold on the private market, with price discounts that accounted for contamination and cleanup. Out of the 144 parcels sold over the 1990-to-2000 decade, positive and market-clearing prices were found for 45 parcels with either confirmed or historical-reasons-to-suspect contamination. Interviews with owners and brokers of parcels on the market for 2 years or more and analysis of the data indicate that the contaminated parcels that did not sell within the 2-year period (1) had above-market asking price; (2) were small and odd-shaped; (3) had inadequate road access for modern trucks; (4) had outdated water, sewer, and telecommunications connections; or (5) had incompatible surrounding land uses. Two policy implications result from these findings. First, if a city such as Baltimore wants to revitalize an industrial area - maintaining its industrial function and remediating contamination - government-subsidized cleanups may not be the most cost-effective policy. Rather, the city should (1) modernize the outdated infrastructure, including roads and fiber optic connections; (2) remove the outdated residential structures that sit in the midst of the industrial area and diminish the desirability of some land parcels for industrial use; (3) consolidate small and odd-shaped properties that are not conducive to modern manufacturing, warehousing, or other industrial uses; (4) ensure city services are efficiently provided, including trash cleanup and police and fire protection; and (5) improve access and egress for modern trucking. The evidence from the Baltimore study indicates that the private sector will discount land prices and assume cleanup responsibilities. The second policy implication is that the market is capable of brownfield cleanup in some locations.

Jim K.

 

February 24, 2011 in Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, HUD, Nuisance, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guignet and Alberini on Voluntary Cleanup and Brownfield Redevelopment

A recent issue of HUD's Cityscape journal contains several articles on land use and remediation of environmental contamination.  The first featured here is Voluntary Cleanup Programs and Redevelopment Potential: Lessons from Baltimore, Maryland by Dennis Guignet and Anna Alberini (both U. Md.--Ag. & Resource Econ.).  Here's the abstract:

In the United States, policy has increasingly shifted toward economic incentives and liability attenuation for promoting cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites, but little is known about the effectiveness of such policies. These policies include, among others, state Voluntary Cleanup Programs (VCPs), which were established in the United States in the 1990s and, to date, have been implemented in nearly every state. This article focuses on 116 Baltimore properties that were enrolled and participated in the Maryland VCP from its inception in 1997 to the end of 2006 and examines what type of properties tend to participate in these programs, how these properties compare with other eligible but nonparticipating sites, and what the redevelopment potential of VCP properties and implications is toward open-space conversion.

We find that most applicants (66 percent) actually requested a No Further Requirements Determination directly, rather than proposing cleanup. Nevertheless, the VCP led to the identification and environmental assessment of 1,175 acres of contaminated land in the city of Baltimore alone. In Baltimore, VCP properties tend to be industrial, located in areas zoned as industrial, and away from residential neighborhoods. In more recent years, larger properties have increasingly enrolled in the program. Most participating sites are reused as industrial or commercial properties. In contrast with Alberini (2007), these findings suggest that, in Baltimore, pressure for residential development has not driven VCP participation to date. Based on differences in zoning requirements, the VCP may reduce demand for potentially contaminating activities on pristine land by as much as 1,238 to 6,444 acres, in Baltimore alone.

Jim K. Free Download

February 23, 2011 in Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, HUD, Industrial Regulation, Nuisance, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)