Thursday, August 27, 2009

T4 America Town Hall Meeting Discusses Issues Key to the Development of a New National Transporation Policy

NHC and its research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, are partners in the Transportation for America (T4 America) Campaign, a national coalition that is focused on charting a new course for America's transportation policy. Earlier this year, T4 America hosted a "Google Tech Talk" Town Hall Meeting to discuss bold new ideas for a reformed transportation bill. Moderated by Ilana Preuss, outreach and field director for T4 America, and Will Handsfield, a regional organizer for T4 America, the event allowed participants to discuss questions such as:
  • How we will move people and goods more cheaply and protect our environment?
  • What do we need in a national transportation system to compete in the global market?
  • What do we need to get from our homes to our jobs or to school?
  • How do we build a transportation system that helps us reach our climate change goals?
To learn more about the topics covered at the Town Hall Meeting, please view the video below.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blogger Paul Krugman of the NYT on High Speed Rail and the Housing Bubble

The New York Times' Paul Krugman blogged today on two topics of particular interest. His first post focused on population density and high speed rail in the U.S., and his second post centered on the "deflated" housing bubble.

About Paul Krugman.

Live at the Forum Speakers Discuss the "Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act"

Yesterday’s “Live at the Forum” event focused on the “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act” and included featured speakers Catherine Bendor of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Danna Fischer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and David Rammler of the National Housing Law Project.

The speakers discussed the legislative history of the provisions, the meaning of the law, and the impact of the provisions on state and local laws and practices. Listen to the audio from this event.

Immediately following this 30 minute call-in event the speakers were available online to answer questions on the HousingPolicy.org Forum.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Live at the Forum: Catherine Bendor, Danna Fischer, and David Rammler Discuss the "Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act"

Tomorrow, August 25 from 2-4 p.m. EDT, the Center for Housing Policy will host a two-part "Live at the Forum" event on the "Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act" featuring Catherine Bendor of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Danna Fischer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and David Rammler of the National Housing Law Project.

Part I: Hear about the Act - The event begins at 2 p.m. EDT with a 30-minute conference call, where speakers will discuss the legislative history of the provisions, the meaning of the law and the impact of the provisions on state and local laws and practices. The call-in number is (712) 432-1001 and the access code is 498796833#.

Part II: Interact with the Speakers - Immediately following the call, from 2:30-4 p.m. EDT, the speakers will be online to answer your questions on the HousingPolicy.org Forum. All questions for the speakers should be posted to this thread by pressing the "Add Reply" button. You are welcome to post at any time leading up to or during the event. Questions will be answered on a first-come, first-served basis until time runs out, so post early to be sure yours is addressed.

Please note that you will need to refresh your browser periodically during the live event to view new questions and responses.

About the Act
The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), P. L. 111-22, was signed by President Obama May 20, 2009. The Act provides significant new protections for tenants in foreclosed properties, including a 90-day notice requirement and the right to remain for the term of the lease in most cases. Specifically, the PTFA requires that the immediate successor in interest at foreclosure (1) Provide bona fide tenants with 90 days notice prior to eviction, and (2) Allow bona fide tenants with leases entered into prior to the foreclosure sale to occupy the property until the end of the lease term. (The lease can be terminated on 90 days notice if the unit is sold to a purchaser who will occupy the property.) In the case of an owner who is an immediate successor in interest to a property occupied by a tenant with a section 8 voucher, the owner takes the property subject to both the section 8 lease and the housing assistance payment contract, except in the case where the owner will occupy the unit as a primary residence.

Friday, August 21, 2009

NHC Convenes Leaders to Re-envision a Federal Employer-Assisted Housing Policy

On Monday, August 24, from 10-4 p.m., the National Housing Conference will host a roundtable discussion with industry leaders at the Capitol Visitor Center focused on re-envisioning employer-assisted housing (EAH) with the goal of drafting a federal policy that will positively impact our communities and workforce.

NHC has been working with partners on H.R. 1850, “Housing America’s Workforce Act of 2008,” which would implement a federal tax credit program for employers who provide housing assistance to their employees entering homeownership or rental housing.

Legislation focused on EAH was first introduced in the 109th Congress by Senator Clinton. Since that time, there have been dramatic changes in the housing landscape. Thus, it is time to revisit this bill and to re-envision what federal EAH policy should look like. With new Administration priorities around sustainable development and livable communities, now is the time to create a policy that will be an effective tool in helping employees, employers and communities to thrive.

To learn more about the need for policies that provide housing for workers near centers of employment, make sure to read "Quantifying the Value Proposition of Employer-Assisted Housing: A Case Study of Aurora Health Care," a report from NHC's research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy. The report examines the Aurora Health Care system, which has a long-standing EAH program and details the return on investment of the program. The report finds that EAH participants are proving to be better performing employees who choose to stay with the organization longer. It also found that turnover is reduced for Aurora employees participating in the EAH program, which correlates to increased workplace stability, productivity, and morale.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guest Blogger Robin Snyderman: Chicago Suburbs Using NSP Funds Collaboratively to Redevelop Along Transit Corridor

Rather than competing with one another and with area developers for federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds allocated to both the state of Illinois and Cook County, about 20 communities in the south suburbs of Chicago are taking a far more strategic approach. Recognizing that it would be inefficient for each community’s limited staff to devise separate approaches for a foreclosure problem that, in the south suburbs, is more than twice the regional average, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association worked with its 42 members to forge a cooperative approach that narrows the focus to towns along rail and economic development corridors.

With support from the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Metropolitan Planning Council, they formed the South Suburban Housing Collaborative, leveraged an impressive array of new private sector partners, and worked together to submit joint applications for NSP funding to the State of Illinois and Cook County.

For some of the towns, that meant accepting that the money won’t fund proposals within their own borders. For example, three commuter rail lines make 80 stops each day in Blue Island, which since 2005 has been working to strengthen its downtown business district’s connection to the main Metra train station. Blue Island has been partnering with its neighbors to spur new development along the entire transit corridor, so when NSP funding became available, Blue Island saw the joint application as an extension of this ongoing collaboration.

In the state application, Blue Island even agreed to focus on another Metra station just to the south, to redevelop a larger blighted site in nearby Robbins. The city recognizes that everyone gains through this joint effort. If all goes according to plan (and the Collaborative gets support from the county, state and NSP 2), the result will be 474 homes created or preserved, and close to 200 parcels demolished or land-banked for future transit-oriented development.

If there’s a silver lining to the foreclosure crisis, it’s that housing affordability and stability are now top of mind issues, catalyzing innovation and collaboration at local, regional, state and federal levels. Indeed, NSP 2 and HUD’s new Sustainable Communities Initiatives are already encouraging more strategic cooperation across municipal borders, and less wasteful competition.

NHC Member Partner Robin Snyderman, vice president of community development for the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today's "Live at the Forum" Event Highlights Regional Resilience, Focuses on Keys to Stronger Foreclosure Prevention and Response Efforts

Today, from 2-2:30 p.m. EDT, the Center for Housing Policy will host its third "Live at the Forum" event, featuring Todd Swanstrom of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Swanstrom will present findings from a new report from the Institute on Urban and Regional Development at Berkeley and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Building Resilient Regions entitled “Regional Resilience in the Face of Foreclosures: Evidence from Six Metropolitan Areas,” which he co-authored with Karen Chapple, University of California, Berkeley, and Dan Immergluck, Georgia Institute of Technology. Following the call, all three authors will answer questions related to the report’s findings on the HousingPolicy.org Forum until Friday, August 21.

Event Details:

Part I: Hear About the Report – The event kicks-off with a conference call at 2 p.m. EDT with a 30-minute conference call, where Todd Swanstrom will present major findings from the report. The call-in number is (712) 432-1001 and the access code is 498796833#.

Part II: Interact With the Authors – After the call, authors of the report will respond to your questions throughout the week on the HousingPolicy.org Forum, concluding Friday, August 21. All questions for the authors should be posted to this thread by hitting the "Add Reply" button. You are welcome to post at any time leading up to, during, or after the call. Questions will be answered on a first-come, first-served basis through Friday, so post early to be sure yours is addressed.

Please note that you must become a member of the HousingPolicy.org Forum to post questions online. For live technical assistance with this "Live at the Forum" event, please e-mail the HousingPolicy.org team at feedback@housingpolicy.org.

About the Report
Regional Resilience in the Face of Foreclosures: Evidence from Six Metropolitan Areas” looks at foreclosure prevention and response in weak market, mixed market, and strong market metro areas (Cleveland, OH; St. Louis, MO; Chicago, IL; Atlanta, GA; the Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino, CA; and the East Bay area of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, CA). The report also looks at judicial vs. non-judicial foreclosure processes, the impact of different lengths of foreclosure process on foreclosure prevention as well as on the potential for vandalism due to vacancy, and some keys to stronger prevention and response efforts.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Urban Institute Report Looks to Assess Future Sustainability of HOPE VI Redevelopments

In September, “Open House” will begin discussing lessons learned from the HOPE VI program, which was introduced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1992 to redevelop blighted public housing and help revitalize the surrounding communities. The blog will examine the ways in which the successes and shortcomings of HOPE VI can be used to continue the revitalization of Public Housing developments and to also inform the Administration’s new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a proposal that was introduced in May as part of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request.

This week, the Urban Institute released a new report entitled “The Uncharted, Uncertain Future of HOPE VI Redevelopments: The Case for Assessing Project Sustainability” as part of a series of reports focused on the future of public housing. Authored by Urban Institute Researchers Martin Abravanel and Diane Levy and University of Maryland Director of Graduate Programs in Real Estate Development Margaret McFarland, this report discusses the long-term viability of properties redeveloped under the HOPE VI program. The study also demonstrates the need for, and feasibility of, assessing the sustainability of these neighborhoods. Given the unique incorporation of mixed-income and mixed-tenure characteristics in these neighborhoods, this analysis is intended to help the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative build and expand upon the experiences of HOPE VI.

Conrad Egan, president and CEO of NHC, reinforced the need to implement assessments that will help continue the revitalization of Public Housing developments and also guide the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, emphasizing:

“Because the program’s intention is to improve the lives of people as well as the neighborhoods in which they reside, fresh policy and practical insights from seasoned HOPE VI redevelopments will be essential to the prospective success of the Administration’s proposed Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. How better to provide this, from the very beginning, than to draw on the lessons of HOPE VI properties using independent, evidence-based assessment—which heretofore has been in short supply.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guest Blogger Lilly Shoup: National Objectives Are Key To Developing a New Transportation Program

Transportation for America (T4 America), the country’s broadest and most diverse transportation coalition, believes that Congress needs to create a clear set of National Transportation Objectives with performance targets to ensure that our transportation investments promote economic development, energy security, improved health, greater access and mobility, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. T4 America believes a set of national objectives coupled with clearly defined performance targets are one of the most important reform components of a new transportation program.

Why National Objectives Are Critical – Four Key Reasons
  • National Objectives will help create an integrated system that uses multimodal solutions to address transportation challenges. A multimodal approach, oriented around national goals and targets, will ensure that projects are prioritized and selected based on their merit, and not on their mode.
  • National Objectives will allow states to plan and select projects to meet long-term goals instead of focusing on a six-year surface transportation authorization timeline. The creation of national objectives will ensure that elected officials, state departments of transportation, and local agencies focus on long-term goals by tying all transportation investments to clear, measurable goals and performance targets.
  • National Objectives will help inform and increase data collection, leading to valuable information on what areas need reform and what practices should be replicated. Clear objectives and performance targets will create a template for a system of data collection that will help us decide what information we need to collect to best measure our progress and guide our investments.
  • National Objectives create a focus on accountability and performance. Developing a set of national goals – backed by measurable and realistic performance targets – will create incentives to invest in the projects that provide the clearest benefits, and will eliminate loopholes in funding structure that reward poor infrastructure.
The upcoming federal transportation authorization is an extraordinary opportunity to remake our system and rebuild our economy – but we need clear national objectives tied to performance targets to guide our system into the 21st century.

Lilly Shoup joined Smart Growth America in 2009 and oversees the project management, design, and evaluation of research projects for the Transportation for America campaign. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and an Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and she is currently pursuing a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Maryland.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NHC Applauds Senator Dodd's Introduction of the Livable Communities Act of 2009

Today, NHC released a statement applauding the U.S. Senate's recent introduction of the Livable Communities Act of 2009, which is focused on helping communities nationwide coordinate and integrate their transportation, housing, economic development, energy and environmental needs. If passed, this important legislation would provide $4 billion in grants to help states and cities better plan for affordable housing and transit-oriented development, as well as help to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel consumption and more.

Introduced in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee by Chairman Chris Dodd and committee members Senators Dan Akaka, Michael Bennett Robert Menendez, Jeff Merkley and Charles Schumer, the Livable Communities Act builds on the Administration’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, which was introduced in March.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke about the Sustainable Communities Initiative at NHC and the Center for Housing Policy's “Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy,” where he emphasized the importance of developing integrated housing, land use, and transportation plans in metropolitan regions. To hear Secretary Donovan’s remarks in their entirety, please Listen Here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Senators Introduce "Livable Communities Act " to Make Neighborhoods Better Places to Live and Work

Yesterday, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), along with fellow Committee members Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dan Akaka (D-HI) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), introduced legislation to help areas across the country plan and implement development projects that better integrate their community’s needs for transportation, housing, land use, and economic development.

The Livable Communities Act builds on the Administration’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, which was introduced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, and Department of Energy as part of an interagency partnership in March. Prior to the introduction of the initiative, Dodd wrote a letter to President Obama encouraging him to create an entity focused primarily on revitalizing communities nationwide.

The new legislation, which authorizes $4 billion in grants to help states and cities pursue transit-oriented development and projects, is designed to help communities cut traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, protect green spaces, and create more affordable housing, among other goals.

Specifically, the Livable Communities Act will:
  • Create competitive planning grants that towns and regions can use to create comprehensive long-term plans that integrate transportation, housing, land use, and economic development;
  • Create challenge grants that towns and regions can use to implement these long-term plans through investments in public transportation, affordable housing, complete streets, transit-oriented development, and brownfield redevelopment;
  • Establish a federal Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to administer and oversee the Livable Communities grant programs; and
  • Establish a federal Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities that will include representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies to coordinate federal sustainable development policies.
Legislation on this topic has not yet been introduced in the House of Representatives. To learn more about the Livable Communities Act, please read this One Page Summary.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Mariia Zimmerman: Now is the Time to Reform National Transportation Policy to Create Livable Communities

Thanks to a growing body of research on housing and transportation cost trade-offs, Americans are increasingly looking towards strategies like transit-oriented development to reduce these combined cost burdens. The demand for transit in the U.S. has never been greater, with ridership at its highest levels in 50 years and more than 300 new rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects proposed in large and small cities and suburbs across the country.

Failing to keep pace with this demand and continuing to poorly coordinate transportation investments with housing and land use plans creates burdens on our transportation system, and means a greater share of household budgets going to feed the car in order to get to work, school, or affordable housing located on the urban fringe.

When Congress returns, in addition to deciding the fate of health care and climate change, it must also determine the future of the federal surface transportation program which is set to expire on September 30. At stake is whether our nation will continue providing the majority (over 80%) of transportation funding to highway projects that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, or seek to invest more in transportation choices such as transit, bicycling and complete streets, and require greater coordination between regional transportation plans with long-term metropolitan growth, housing and environmental goals. Congress Oberstar has offered one proposal to help move us in the direction, but the debate has just begun.

A growing coalition of diverse voices, led by Transportation for America (T4 America), are asking Congress for major reform in what and how it invests transportation funds. At stake is whether or not we’ll seize this moment in time to invest in infrastructure to preserve neighborhoods, strengthen our economy and create sustainable communities. Given the integrated challenges we face to housing affordability, climate change, oil security and economic prosperity, we don’t have a moment to lose.

Get Involved with T4America

Mariia Zimmerman is the policy director at Reconnecting America, a national transportation non-profit devoted to improving the connection between transportation systems and the communities they serve. She helps to manage the Center for Transit-Oriented Development, and is a founding member of the T4 America campaign.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Special Guest Blogger Maya Brennan: Durbin Proposes More Federal Action If Mortgage Mods Don’t Reach Target by November

At a forum hosted yesterday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) addressed the importance of ensuring that mortgage modifications are available to prevent any avoidable foreclosures and thus “fix the problem that caused the recession in the first place.” With unemployment rising and option ARM payment resets looming, Durbin argued that “Americans don’t have time for voluntary half-measures.” He thinks servicers can certainly meet the Making Home Affordable program’s target of starting 500,000 modifications by November and is putting them on notice that he will seek further legislative action if they do not meet that target on time.

What is needed to reduce the impact of foreclosures on communities and make a national loan modification plan really work? Durbin outlined four steps for Congress to take: (1) pass legislation to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to stay in their residence by paying fair market to the bank, (2) provide funds for cities and states that want to create mandatory arbitration programs such as the one in place in Philadelphia, (3) institute penalties if servicers refuse to meet the foreclosure reductions they have agreed to as part of the Administration’s plan, and (4) make bankruptcy available as an option at the end of the road for home mortgages as it is on all other secured assets.

In response to a suggestion that perhaps better financial education is really what is necessary to ensure that families do not agree to loans with terms that don’t work for them, Durbin replied that financial education is good, but even with legal representation at the closing table the average person cannot keep up with all of the tricks and traps of the financial industry.

Maya Brennan is a research associate for NHC's research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Economists Analyze Costs and Benefits as President Obama's High-Speed Rail Plan Takes Shape

Publications such as “Stretched Thin” and “A Heavy Load” from NHC’s research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, have clearly demonstrated the connections that exist between housing and transportation, reinforcing the need to create comprehensive policies that take into account the full “costs of place” for families and individuals.

In March, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, and Department of Energy recognized the need to work more closely together to accomplish these goals and announced an interagency partnership to promote sustainable communities. While this initiative is working to create better transit options that tie together local communities, President Obama is also looking to transform America’s transportation policy on a larger scale, spearheading the creation of a high-speed rail system.

President Obama has described his vision of “whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination.” As part of this, the Administration is envisioning 10 high-speed rail networks scattered throughout America, not only in the Northeast, but also in California, Texas, Florida and Wisconsin. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included $8 billion for this plan, and the House of Representatives voted for an additional $4 billion towards high-speed rail projects less than two weeks ago.

Photo: www.whitehouse.gov

While high-speed rail systems have worked well in other countries, spurring economic growth and improving quality of life, some economists are skeptical about how this will work in America. The first in a series of three, a recent New York Times blog post from Edward L. Glaeser focuses on this issue, weighing the costs and benefits of such a system in the U.S. – specifically when it comes to the costs of building the system, and whether or not Americans would actually take advantage of it.

In this first post, Glaeser touches on the costs associated with producing rail systems in other countries, noting that in Europe the cost can be anywhere from $37 million to $53 million a mile. Cost estimates in the United States range from $22 million a mile, for a Victorville, Calif., to Las Vegas route, to $132 million a mile for connecting Baltimore and Washington.

To learn more about plans for the high-speed rail system, watch President Obama's remarks below, and make sure to stay tuned to "Open House."