Is Homeownership Really Falling Out of Favor?

Posted by Rachel Silver on August 22, 2014

Homeownership seems to be falling out of favor.  Newspapers these days are peppered with articles that highlight the skepticism of younger Americans about whether buying a home is a good investment, and with so many people still suffering the effects of the housing crisis that started in 2008, who can blame them?  The MacArthur Foundation recently published the results of a nationwide survey of Americans' attitudes and perceptions about housing.  Based on this survey, many people feel that, given the changes over the past several decades in the way we live our lives, renting a home has become more appealing and owning less appealing.  Perhaps more surprisingly, a majority of adults believe that renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream.  But is this really true, or, in the current backlash against homeownership, are we in danger of throwing out the baby along with the bath water?


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HUD Improves Project-Based Voucher Program But More Remains to Be Done

Posted by Barbara Sard on August 21, 2014

HUD has recently made some important changes to the rules for its Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program, which helps families live in affordable rental housing.

The PBV program combines two standard forms of housing assistance: "Project-based," meaning that the assistance is linked to a particular property, and vouchers, which are usually tenant-based and move with the family.

Residents of PBV units can move with a voucher after one year, using the next voucher that becomes available when another family leaves the HCV program, and the housing development continues to receive a subsidy for another eligible family in that unit. Public housing agencies (PHAs) may “project-base” up to 20 percent of their Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) funding.  

PBVs are an important tool to provide supportive housing for individuals with disabilities or others who need services to live stably in their own homes.  They can help PHAs in tight housing markets use all of their vouchers and can support development of housing in low-poverty neighborhoods with strong educational or job opportunities.  More than 400,000 vouchers could be project-based nationwide, but HUD data indicate that PHAs subsidized fewer than 100,000 PBV units in 2012.  About 500 of the 2,300 PHAs that administer Housing Choice Vouchers currently operate PBV programs.

While the changes were an improvment, unfortunately, HUD’s final rule did not incorporate many suggestions made by CBPP and other groups that would further strengthen the program.

Here are the changes HUD did—and didn't—make:

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Believing in Homeownership: Where Does the American Dream Idea Come From?

Posted by Rachel Bogardus Drew on August 20, 2014

Homeownership in the U.S. has long been associated with a wide range of positive outcomes–from investment potential to social stability to personal well-being. But where did these associations come from, and how they have been communicated and reproduced over time and across different segments of society?

I recently conducted some research examining not the benefits of homeownership themselves, but beliefs in those benefits. I asked: how was homeownership portrayed to the American public in the 20th and early 21st centuries, and what effect does the adoption of positive beliefs about homeownership have on renters’ intentions to buy a home? How do these beliefs compare across different demographic and socio-economic characteristics, and how strong are they compared to potential barriers to homeownership?

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The Roots of #Ferguson

Posted by Laura Barrett on August 19, 2014

The situation in Ferguson, MO continues to be volatile, news cycle after news cycle. A second young person, a Howard University grad, was shot, members of the national press have been arrested, tear gas has been fired night after night at protesters, and this morning the National Guard has been called out to restore order.

The roots of this terrible conflict began long ago with white flight. St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in America. Ferguson, once a destination for whites fleeing from St. Louis city, later became one of the few deliberately organized multiracial inner suburbs in the area. Its population boasts impressive racial diversity: 67percent African American, 29 percent white. Unfortunately, the police force does not reflect this diversity. It is 95 percent white, and there is only one African American on the city council. 

Late last year, more seeds for today's conflict were sown in a public school battle that continues today. Recent changes in Missouri's education system, forced by an obscure state law detailed earlier in Rooflines, enabled the transfer of more than 2,000 largely African-American children in inner ring suburban school districts to mostly higher achieving school districts. Ferguson welcomed hundreds of these children. Then, in a surprise move, the largely white local school board seemed to force their popular African-American superintendent, Art McCoy, to resign.   

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Income for Everyone?

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on August 18, 2014

If you wanted to come up with a totally cockamamie idea to attribute to someone to smear them as unrealistic bleeding-heart socialist, what would you come up with? Possibly “the government should just give everyone a salary (even if a minimal one) just for breathing”? That ought to do it, right? I mean who in their right minds . . . ?

Turns out, quite a few people. I was fascinated to learn that this is one of those issues on which principled left- and right-leaning thinkers and economists actually tend to agree, though predictably, for slightly different reasons and with different flavors. It even got so far in Switzerland as to come up for a national referendum.

As Dylan Matthews recently pointed out, writing for Vox, Richard Nixon, for the love of God, during his first year as president, proposed something similar: 

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The Dangerous Rhetoric of Escaping to Opportunity

Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on August 13, 2014

At the Philly Federal Reserve conference last spring, in the "Future of CDCs" discussion our own Harold Simon moderated, Joe Kriesberg, director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, said something that really stuck with me:

"Sometimes to attract funders you have to convince people the place you’re in is so terrible, so needy. . . . It can become self fulfilling. . . . That's why I find the whole opportunity mapping thing so counterproductive. It's respected voices declaring vast portions of our country terrible places to live."

In his blog post on the subject, Kriesberg elaborates, noting that places are not universally "good" or "bad"—different kinds of places have dangers and strengths for different people in different life circumstances. (Think of all the queer kids whose lives were saved because they escaped from a "high opportunity" conservative suburb to a poor but welcoming urban neighborhood.) Some high-poverty places, for some period of time, are pretty extremely distressed. Many more are very complicated mixed bags—a place to leave for some, a beloved home to others even while they recognize the place has serious needs. Residents often paint a nuanced picture of even very high-crime, disinvested developments or areas. 

Kriesberg's point came to mind again as I was trying to figure out what made me slightly uncomfortable with Alex Polikoff's stirring speech (we published an excerpt here) about the moral imperative to make housing choice vouchers truly enable mobility and choice.

To make his argument for an important set of policy changes (with which I agree), Polikoff regularly refers to America's poor neighborhoods as war zones that are killing everyone in them. He asks why we are not removing children from harm's way. He speaks of any place in the country that is poor as first and foremost a place to be escaped from. 

That is a problem, and here's why:

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Homeownership Is Still Very Much an Asset-Building Strategy

Posted by Doug Ryan on August 11, 2014

Homeownership is, of course, still American’s greatest source of wealth and asset appreciation, and a key component of CFED’s work. In order to make it a realistic possibility for more American families, policymakers and practitioners need to focus on tools and strategies to advance homeownership safely and responsibly.

Congress is unlikely to address housing finance reform in the near future. It’s unclear if reform would even enhance lending options for families. One thing is clear, though: the market is not serving all potentially qualified borrowers. For example, typical FICO scores for Fannie- and Freddie-backed loans are still well above historical norms, and the U.S. homeownership rate continues to slip.

Yet, in the midst of all these concerns, strategies do exist that can help reshape the homeownership debate for Americans of all income levels.

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Is the Housing Crisis Over in Rural America?

Posted by Lance George on August 8, 2014

In 2008, the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective, it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing market. In 2009 and 2010, when the crisis was arguably at its worst, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) began receiving frequent inquiries from the press and others asking, “How is the housing crisis affecting rural America?” We simply had no answer. Mortgage and foreclosure data were virtually nonexistent for most rural areas.

After six years and some hindsight, we are asking some questions ourselves.  Is the crisis over?  And what are the lingering effects? These seemingly basic inquiries still prove challenging, particularly from the rural perspective. So we sought assistance from four affordable housing experts to help answer these questions.

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After HUD: Seeking New Answers to Old Questions

Posted by Raphael Bostic on August 7, 2014

Three years at HUD gives you quite the perspective.  Ask anyone who has worked in the esteemed Weaver Building—affectionately known as 12 floors of basement (you’ve got to include the actual basement and the sub-basement!)—and you will hear a litany of stories about bureaucracy,  frustration, and dysfunction, among other challenges.

But you should also hear about the devotion of talented and dedicated staff members, and how being there offered an opportunity to make important and lasting positive change to improve the quality of life for lower-income and minority families and communities.

In addition to providing rich perspectives on the “how” and “who,” the HUD experience also can lead its alumni to gain perspectives on housing policy, economic development, governance, politics, race, and power, what I think of as the “what” of HUD. This is certainly what happened for me.

And that is what I hope to reflect on as a regular contributor to the Shelterforce blog.
There are two themes that I will focus on in these initial weeks:

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Can Mentoring End Poverty?

Posted by Kerry Sullivan on August 6, 2014

This year we mark the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, and yet, 46.5 million people were living in poverty in the United States in 2012, the largest number in the 54 years poverty has been measured. New approaches to helping individuals and families find pathways out of poverty and achieve long-term financial stability are clearly needed. And while basic access to resources and programs remain important, the most effective approaches go beyond meeting immediate needs to create meaningful connections and relationships between community members and low- and moderate-income individuals.

Effective models foster a sense of partnership with those living in poverty, not further isolation, and use the power of connections to create lasting impact. Organizations like the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and LIFT have been refining their model over the years to respond to the changing needs of those living in poverty.

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