Posted by Rooflines on March 11, 2014
Here at Shelterforce we love telling stories.
So today we're sharing the latest from the Homes for All campaign. The group of housing advocates has launched a project called the Cant Wait List that will act as a "storybank that will document the lives of countless individuals and families that are waiting for affordable housing nationwide."
In October, we shared one of those stories in publishing the first-hand account of Rossana Torres, who communicated the need for the FHFA to contribute to the National Housing Trust Fund with her story about her struggle as a single mom trying to afford a place to live with her two kids.
With the Can't Wait List, Homes for All is showcasing the stories of the millions of Americans that pay over 50 percent of their income to house. On the site you'll see a calculator that will tell you if you're paying too much for housing, a link to sign a petition to support affordable housing, and the faces of hundreds who have come forward to share their story.
Posted by Doug Ryan on March 10, 2014
The “Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act” (H.R. 1779 and S. 1828) has been on CFED’s radar since it was first introduced in the 112th Congress (2011-2012). The current legislation is led by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) in the House of Representatives and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in the Senate. Although “Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing” sounds great, the bill would actually harm manufactured home buyers.
Before this year, manufactured home lenders were not subject to the Home Ownership Equity Protection Act (HOEPA). Most manufactured homes are financed with chattel loans rather than traditional mortgages, and the chattel market operated largely outside of federal regulators’ supervision. In this unchecked lending environment, default rates are high and borrowers pay credit card-like interest rates on their home loans. The Dodd-Frank Act brought the manufactured home lending industry into the light by applying many of the same laws and regulations that govern mortgage lending, and giving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) supervisory and regulatory authority within the market.
Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on March 6, 2014
In my first two 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty posts, I was pretty insistent on the link between poverty and jobs (or the lack thereof).
In the first post, I said that that one of the fundamental causes of poverty is that “there simply aren’t enough high quality jobs for everyone to have one.” In the second post, I said “poverty is about jobs and who is lucky enough to have a good one.” The scarcity of good jobs and the structural economic causes of poverty is a dead horse that I’m trying to make sure is thoroughly beaten.
In this context, it shouldn’t surprise you that I believe that we need more and better jobs if we want to do something about reducing poverty. This is not a new or original observation. At the onset of the War on Poverty, despite his fetishization of “cultural” causes of poverty, Senator (then assistant secretary of abor) Daniel Patrick Moynihan was pretty dogged about jobs programs being key (maybe even the key) to antipoverty efforts. But, because of a tangle of different reasons, government, philanthropic and nonprofit antipoverty activities and initiatives have not focused on job creation. So much so, that the simple, logical re-orientation of a single foundation—the Heron Foundation—to focus explicitly on work and income as antipoverty drivers seems radical and different. But, if we want to move the needle on poverty, Heron’s focus on jobs is the right one.
However, in the spirit of my fourth post in this series, I want to ask some bigger picture, and possibly counter-intuitive, questions. Is poverty the right needle for us to be moving? Is it the right metric for us to measure progress towards economic justice?
There’s structural/macro-economic limits to what can be done with job creation alone. But, even more than economic theory related issues, this is something definitional about economic justice, about what constitutes a just and better world. And, if I can skip forward a couple links in my logic chain, my inclination is to define economic justice metrics in terms of low-income people’s quality of life and level of empowerment.
Posted by Steve Dubb on March 5, 2014
Although the notion of building wealth through home ownership has taken a beating in recent years due to the Great Recession, ownership more broadly is still seen as a key factor in building wealth. So says the Greenlining Institute. So finds a recent study authored by Thomas Shapiro and colleagues at Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy. Even the Housing and Economic Development Commission of the National Baptist Convention agrees.
Certainly, there are caveats. The basic “rent or own” framework itself masks major blind spots. As John Davis wrote in Rooflines last year: “In the middle, there are too few rungs between renting and owning. Renters of modest means are left with little choice but to try their luck at leaping the gap between a form of housing with too few rights and rewards toward a form of housing with too many responsibilities and significant risks … nearly half of the low-income households who manage to climb into homeownership revert to renting within five years.”
Community land trusts, inclusionary zoning, and limited equity housing cooperatives, of course, are all methods of “shared equity housing” that seek to fill this gap. While shared equity’s reach falls far short of the need—Davis colorfully claims that if our nation’s shared equity housing sector were a country, its profile would be on a par with Grenada—the goal of building ownership is squarely in the sights of community economic development practitioners. And public policy, while deeply flawed in its nearly exclusive focus on single-family home ownership, at least sees promoting widespread ownership to be a valid and important goal.
In contrast to housing, where a large majority of Americans remain owners, in business the overwhelming majority are “renters” if you will. A key, albeit daunting, challenge for our field is to change this ownership picture.
Posted by Laura Barrett on March 4, 2014
Many applauded when President Obama announced his new initiative, My Brother's Keeper, to support opportunities for young men of color. According to the White House: "By the time they hit fourth grade, 86 percent of African American boys and 82 percent Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels compared to 54 percent of white fourth graders reading below proficiency levels." The plan includes lining up millions from private foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Annie E Casey Foundation.
It's a laudable effort, but how about we add some secret sauce? The $200 million that ten foundations are planning to invest could back not only innovative service programs, but also cutting-edge community organizing.
Why organizing? It can stop further severe cuts in basic government services, like food stamps. It can win the restoration of previously-slashed services, as VOICE-Buffalo did by securing more day care dollars for low-income parents. It can hold public officials accountable, as MICAH did by bringing a lawsuit to force Wisconsin transit officials to include transit in their highway planning. And it can help make sure that when we increasingly rely on private entities to take for functions formerly performed by governments (like public private partnerships) that these ventures remain accountable to voters.
Posted by John Emmeus Davis on March 3, 2014
Housers catch flak from every side. Public funders wonder when nonprofit organizations that build housing for families too poor to buy or to rent on the open market are ever going to get their production counts up and their unit costs down. Private foundations worry whether their grantees will ever become self-sufficient, depending less on them for operating support.
Advocates for tenants demand housing with lower rents. Advocates for persons with disabilities demand housing with accessibility and services. Advocates for the homeless demand housing for the poorest of the poor.
Activists in neighborhoods where nonprofit housers have never set foot vigorously fight to keep it that way. Activists in neighborhoods where housers are already at work vociferously insist on lower density and larger units for “responsible homeowners” rather than for subsidized renters. And armchair warriors like me blithely chide community land trusts, limited equity cooperatives, and other developers of shared equity housing for not being bolder in sticking up for themselves, trumpeting the virtues of the tenures they champion.
It takes a thick skin and stout heart to do this work. Housers are, in fact, among the bravest people I know. They are the community development counterparts of the Seabees of yester-year. No, I don’t mean those lusty Broadway baritones in South Pacific who never seemed to have anything more serious to do than bouncing merrily across the stage singing “Ain’t Nothing Like a Dame.” What I have in mind are the rough and ready construction crews who carved landing strips out of jungle terrain, jerry-rigged harbors on coral reefs, and pushed heavy-duty roads across mountains and swamps, dodging hostile fire while lacking essential supplies. The Seabees were masters at making do.
They also sported far and away the best unit motto of the Second World War, one that captured both the audacity of their mission and the cocky competence of those who carried it out: “The difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a little longer.”
Posted by Eric Oberdorfer on February 28, 2014
Through my work researching housing for rural seniors, two things have become evident: first, rural America is older than the nation overall, and second, aging in place is the best option for seniors. “Aging in place” refers to older adults living independently in their current residences or communities for as long as possible. The vast majority of rural seniors own their own homes, so this often means remaining there; it can also be accomplished, however, by moving to a more manageable dwelling (such as a smaller apartment).
Numerous reports have proposed that aging in place is preferable for seniors. Living independently often results in improved health, life satisfaction, and self-esteem for elders. Of course, challenges exist. Physical changes to the body that occur with age make it more difficult for seniors to live independently, and older homes are often not physically accessible for seniors with physical ailments. Homeownership often requires onerous or expensive upkeep that seniors may not be physically or financially able to manage. Additionally, the existing housing stock in rural areas often lacks a range of choices that could provide options for seniors unable to maintain larger homes and properties. This makes moving into smaller, more manageable units more difficult.
Posted by Alan Jenkins on February 26, 2014
To say that January was a bad month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be something of an understatement. On top of the ongoing “bridge-gate” scandal, he’s now fighting allegations that his administration used Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to both strong-arm Hoboken’s mayor on a development deal and promote himself in election-year advertisements.
But another scandal, one that’s still below the radar of most pundits, could be more outrageous and even more damaging to Christie’s political prospects. Fortunately for the governor, he still has a chance to make this one right.
Data obtained by the Fair Share Housing Center show that the Christie administration has rejected African Americans seeking major post-Sandy rebuilding support at more than twice the rate of white applicants, and Latinos at 50 percent higher rates than whites. Adding insult to injury, the administration reportedly posted inaccurate information on the Spanish-language version of the state’s Sandy website and has no public plan for making whole the people who were harmed by the misinformation.
Superstorm Sandy did not discriminate. But the Christie administration appears to be doing so, whether intentionally or through neglect, in the federally funded recovery effort.
Posted by David Holtzman on February 26, 2014
Just how strong is the long-term allure of the city to young people today? Sure, cities don't have the great public schools and the super-safe streets of the suburbs and small towns. But what if it doesn't matter, because other factors like expensive student loans will dictate people's long-term choices?
In a recent column, Alan Mallach questioned whether the millenials' love for the big city will keep them there once they have kids and want to buy a house.
Certainly a lot of the predictions that this generation is totally different from its predecessors, that these young people are wedded to the city for good, are made without the use of much data. It's too early to have much in the way of data—the big recession that supposedly triggered a lot of these dramatic changes only hit a few years ago, after all.
Still, the speculation is interesting. The latest twist is to project that millennials will stay in the cities because they will still be there well into their 30s. Why? Because they have so much student loan debt, which will cause them to delay buying that home in the 'burbs. Then, by the time they finally are ready to have a family and buy a place, they will have lived in the city so long they won't be able to fathom leaving.
Here's a bit on that particular theory:
The biggest problem is student loan debt, shifting the age of first-time home buying from the early to the late thirties. Only 37 percent of householders under age 35 are homeowners, the lowest rate on record for the age group. By the time they can afford to buy a home, younger generations will be accustomed to city life and may not be willing to trade urban amenities for suburban sprawl.
(Photo by Cameron Grant CC BY-NC-ND)
Posted by Rooflines on February 25, 2014
When poetry and investigative reporting combine, the results are fantastic.
PBS recently featured a collaboration between the Center for Investigative Reporting and Youth Speaks, called the Off/Page Project. One Off/Page result is a spoken word piece called "This is Home," detailing the horrid conditions of public housing in Richmond, Va.
For Deandre Evans, Will Hartfield and Donte Clark, writing poetry isn’t solely self-expression; it’s also a means of reporting a story affecting their community.
Through the Off/Page Project, a collaboration between Youth Speaks and The Center for Investigative Reporting, the three poets joined CIR’s Amy Harris in the field while she conducted research on mismanagement of public housing in Richmond, Calif.
José Vadi, the director of Off/Page Project, calls it “source storytelling.”
“It’s using source material from investigative reporting, in addition to our own personal narratives and our own personal history, to create new forms of storytelling,” Vadi told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.
Molly Rose Kaufman has written previously on Rooflines about the empowering nature of poetry and how it's a great tool for community development. The creative challenge, when put to a community, brings a whole new vibe and perspective as you can see in the Off/Page Project video below: