Friday, April 29, 2011

Co-Housing and Land banking

As any policymaker, practitioner or developer will admit, expanding and preserving affordable homeownership or rental opportunities for working families has its challenges.  Just as local governments face barriers to expanding the supply of affordable housing, so too do some developers that want to build with affordability in mind, but lack the necessary resources.   So it should be no surprise that a colleague and I recently learned about similar challenges that exist within the cohousing movement. 

Cohousing is a housing model that offers individuals and families of all ages a community-based living situation, often likened to a close-knit neighborhood.  Typically, cohousing developments constitute private homes (single-family detached, condos, townhomes, etc.) owned by the occupant, with shared ownership of common facilities, such as a community kitchen, playroom, laundry room, library, or garden.  Though sharing facilities may reduce the costs of housing for some families, the cost of buying a home in a cohousing community is usually similar to comparable homes nearby and may still be too costly for lower-income households. 

Through a conversation with board members of the Cohousing Association of the United States (CoHo/US), we were pleased to discover how applicable some of our affordability “tools” are for cohousing communities seeking to provide affordable units for their members.   In particular, one tool -- community land trusts—might work very well in tandem with cohousing developments currently underway (according to CoHo/US staff, over 200 cohousing communities are in the pipeline). 

YLAH Reaches 100 Members

Young Leaders in Affordable Housing achieved a major milestone this week with its 100th dues-paying member. We are thrilled with the continued interest and are grateful for the generous support shown by NHC. While most YLAH members work and reside in the Washington, D.C., area, we are pleased to report that we also have members in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Texas, and the list is growing. YLAH is exploring ways to use technology and other means to make programming available to its members around the country.

YLAH was formally established in September 2010 as a professional society under the auspices of NHC. We are a dynamic membership network comprised of young professionals and students under the age of 35 who are interested in gaining greater exposure to professional and leadership opportunities in affordable housing. YLAH is committed to advancing the goal of providing housing to low- and moderate-income individuals and families through sound community revitalization policies and programs on a nationwide scale.

Denise Muha speaks to YLAH about federal housing assistance programs

The NHC Young Leaders in Affordable Housing (YLAH) recently hosted their second speaker series event featuring National Leased Housing Association Executive Director Denise Muha. During a brown-bag lunch at NHC's headquarters, Denise spoke to the group about the range of federally assisted housing programs. She gave an overview of the history and evolution of federal housing assistance, and assessed the outlook for today's programs in an increasingly challenging budgetary environment.

Denise observed that Section 8 programs, including both tenant-based and project-based assistance, are a major component of the Department of Housing & Urban Development's annual appropriations, and spoke about the implications of the current budget environment for the future of these programs. Her comments emphasized the importance of education on the differences between the various federal rental assistance programs and the roles they serve in providing decent, safe and affordable housing to Americans.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Centerpiece: Are Americans Rediscovering the City?

In recent years, urban theorists have debated whether the American city is entering a period of rebirth after decades of suburbanization.  On the surface, this would seem to be an easy question to answer, right?  After all, demographers have a wide variety of migration data to analyze, and the question seems straightforward enough: Are people choosing city living over the suburbs in greater numbers, or aren’t they?  Unfortunately, both sides can find support in the numbers.

The case against the “return to the city” movement is simple enough to make using the most recent information available: Based on an analysis of 2010 Census data for eight metropolitan areas with populations over one-million, fully 96 percent of growth in the last decade occurred in the suburbs.  The growth rate in these suburbs was seven times higher than the growth rate in their urban cores, and the suburbs added 14 times as many people.

There are, however, more subtle hints that residential preferences – and migration patterns – may be changing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Centerpiece: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

“Growing up, I never stayed at one school for a certain amount of time. I only stayed there for like two years at most. We moved around a lot here in the area, elementary and junior high. Of all the schools
I went to, the one I probably got the most out of would be high school, because I stayed there for three years. I would say that everything I learned from school was probably from there.” – Vivian

Residential instability can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on families and children. A new report from the Center for Housing Policy, entitled Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exploring the Effects of Instability and Mobility on Children, takes a fresh look at mobility and suggests that it may not be whether you move, but why and how often.

Like other households, low-income families move for a variety of reasons, including to be closer to a new job or school or to accommodate a growing family. In some cases, however, involuntary circumstances, such as a foreclosure or eviction, leave families with little time and few resources to find a new place to live. The research reviewed in the preparation of this paper suggests that children and families who undertake these unplanned or involuntary moves tend to experience increased school absenteeism and higher levels of neighborhood problems, including vandalism, muggings, drug dealing, and gang activity, compared with voluntary movers.

According to the study, frequent moves also jeopardize children’s health, emotional and behavioral development, and educational performance—resulting in performance deficits of up to one year behind grade level. As illustrated in Vivian’s story, staying in place can afford children the opportunity to catch up to their peers.

Findings presented in this report are drawn from four basis reports commissioned by the Center for Housing Policy. Together, these reports highlight the importance of emergency rent assistance, eviction prevention services, and homeownership counseling programs—all of which help to stabilize families in crisis and enable them to remain in their homes.

Read the report and access the basis studies.