Wednesday, April 29, 2020
At a small law school like mine, professors wear many hats. Among mine: faculty adviser to Idaho Law's American Constitution Society chapter. For the past couple of years, we have had a great group of students that have really grown the organization and put on a ton of great programming. They were recognized this week as the Rising Chapter of the Year! This is a wonderful national recognition for a small law school, and recognizes the progressive future here in Idaho. Full announcement here.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
For those interested in disaster management, these two free webinars organized by NFPA should be worth a listen. They are aimed at residents, but they will cover a lot of basics around how wildfire and insurance markets work. Links below:
- Wildfires and Insurance: Learn How to Prepare Financially
Wednesday, May 6, 1 p.m. EDT
Nicole Mahrt-Ganley, American Property Casualty Insurance Association / Janet Ruiz, Insurance Information Institute
- Wildfires and Insurance: How to Protect Your Property from Wildfire
Wednesday, May 20, 1 p.m. EDT
Daniel Gorham and Faraz Hedayati, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Monday, April 20, 2020
I have just posted on SSRN a brief essay I recently wrote about narrative in the land use process. The essay is available here. The abstract is below:
The land use process is typically viewed as a fact-based determination of whether a project meets stated code requirements for issuance of a ministerial or discretionary permit. However, the issuance of discretionary permits, such as a conditional use permit, often turns on the narrative behind a project. Is the project providing much-needed density, or is it altering the unique character of a neighborhood? Are project opponents defenders of the city's character, or are they NIMBYs acting in discriminatory ways? Are developers heroes helping to resolve the affordability crisis, or rapacious capitalists without concern for the city's long-term vitality? While legal determinations of discretionary permits focus on fact-finding through the arbitrary and capricious and substantial evidence tests, sub-narratives embedded in those factual findings often are especially persuasive in decisionmaking. This article seeks to explore how all sides in land use battles can use methods of narrative otherwise used in storytelling arts, such as film and fiction writing, to better craft narrative in the land use process.
I am just beginning to explore the relationship between narrative and the land use process and would welcome folks' thoughts. This essay was an initial foray into the subject that I intend to revisit in a longer article in the future.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
I just want to put a plug in for my friend Mary Pauline Lowry, whose novel The Roxy Letters is out today from Simon & Schuster. It is their top book of the spring season, and with good reason. I knew Mary here in Boise as she wrote this book, and it has been a lot of fun to watch it evolve and, with some luck, become a blockbuster. Mary would describe it as Bridget Jones Diary in Austin, or something about sex-starved life in Austin post-Great Recession. But let's be real, Mary: it's a land use novel about gentrification. The plot revolves (in part) around a woman who is fed up with the loss of cultural institutions in her beloved, funky Austin that is increasingly beset with Lululemons and other chain stores. Much comedy ensues as she decides to fight the power, and tries to find love along the way. Of course, Mary (and probably her publisher) would be mortified to hear me describe The Roxy Letters as a land use novel, but that's my take, and I'm sticking to it. Buy a copy today!
Here is the official, non-land use focused description:
Meet Roxy. She’s a sometimes vegan, always broke artist with a heart the size of Texas and an ex living in her spare bedroom. Her life is messy, but with the help of a few good friends and by the grace of the goddess Venus she’ll discover that good sex, true love, and her life’s purpose are all closer than she realizes.
Bridget Jones penned a diary; Roxy writes letters. Specifically: she writes letters to her hapless, rent-avoidant ex-boyfriend—and current roommate—Everett. This charming and funny twenty-something is under-employed (and under-romanced), and she’s decidedly fed up with the indignities she endures as a deli maid at Whole Foods (the original), and the dismaying speed at which her beloved Austin is becoming corporatized. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.
As her letters to Everett become less about overdue rent and more about the state of her life, Roxy realizes she’s ready to be the heroine of her own story. She decides to team up with her two best friends to save Austin—and rescue Roxy’s love life—in whatever way they can. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and find romance—and even creative inspiration—in the process?
Thursday, April 2, 2020
This post continues a review of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates housing policies. The full review I conducted is available on SSRN here. Today, I excerpt a portion of the review that looks at ideas for homebuyer and renter assistance. Of course, some of this has now changed dramatically in light of Covid-19 and the CARES Act; however, much remains highly relevant. Here is the review:
A number of policies sought to assist both renters and those transitioning into becoming a homebuyer.
Renter’s credits. Renter’s credits, some of which also implicated homebuyer assistance, were a popular proposal. Hickenlooper supported a renter’s credit of up to $5,500 per year. Harris’ Rent Relief Act would create a refundable tax credit for renters who pay more than 30% of their gross income for the taxable year on their rent including utilities. Under Harris’ proposal, people who live in government-subsidized housing would be able to claim the value of one month’s rent as a tax credit to provide relief from rising costs. Similarly, Booker’s proposed Housing, Opportunity, Mobility and Equity (HOME) Act would provide a renter’s credit to cap rental costs at 30% of income for working and middle-class Americans. Castro supported a Renters Tax Credit that would assist individuals with incomes up to the area median income (AMI), and would allow the credit to be placed in tax-advantaged savings accounts for down payments. Inslee supported a renter’s credit for households under 50% of AMI paying more than 30% of income on rent. Steyer supported a quarterly tax credit to directly help low-income and middle-income families based on the local area Small Area Fair Markets Rents designations. Those who qualify could choose to use this credit either for rental payment assistance or to save for a down payment on a home mortgage. Patrick supported a rent credit with an associated special savings account.
Personal financing accounts. There were also several proposals for personal accounts that could be used for long-term planning or in times of crisis, which several platforms deemed to include housing-related emergencies or down-payments. For instance, Klobuchar proposed UP Accounts, which could be used for rent payments in emergencies. O’Rourke proposed Kickstart Accounts, which he described as a matched savings program to save for a down payment or other asset building activity in which the government would match personal savings. An example was as follows: “A married couple with three kids wants to save for a down payment. They earn $45,000 and save $2,000 each year out of their tax refund to obtain the full $4,000 match. After three years of saving, they will have accumulated $18,000 in their Kickstart savings account. They would be able to purchase the median priced home ($250,000) with an FHA loan (3.5% down payment or $8,750) and cover the closing costs ($8,750).” Booker proposed Baby Bonds. In this proposal, every child at birth receives a $1,000 savings account, which could grow by up to $2,000 every year thereafter depending on the family's income. At 18, low-income account-holders would have access to nearly $50,000 for things including a down payment on a home.
Credit history. There were several platforms that sought to make it easier to get prove a credit history, which can be problematic for some homebuyers. (Klobuchar, Castro). One proposal would require issuers of FHA-backed mortgages to account for a greater variety of indicators when assessing creditworthiness, including crediting on-time payments for rent, cell phone payments, utilities, student loans, and other transactions prioritized by low-income individuals and families (Castro).
Other proposals. A variety of policies were proposed to extend the availability of mortgages and problems of those with bad mortgages. Proposals included: $2 billion to assist those with negative equity on their mortgages caused by the financial crisis (Warren) and reducing premiums for FHA-backed mortgages to boost access to affordable mortgages (Castro). A revolving fund to assist public servants with down payment assistance (first responders, doctors, nurses, and teachers) was proposed (Steyer).
Increasing first-time home-buyer and renter education was a priority for several platforms (Klobuchar, Castro). Proposals included supporting housing counseling, renter education, and financial literacy programs that are proven to help homebuyers, homeowners and renters achieve more favorable terms.
A refundable mortgage down payment tax credit was also proposed to help families get over the hurdle of a down payment into homeownership (Bennet).
Expanding small mortgage access and utilizing better appraisal methods in rural areas and small towns were also discussed (Bennet). An extra $100 million in annual funding to CDFIs for mortgage lending activities through the CDFI Fund was also proposed (O’Rourke).
Warren proposed a $4 billion Middle-Class Housing Emergency Fund, which she claimed would build middle-class homes for buyers and renters where there's a supply shortage and housing costs rising faster than incomes.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020