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Mobile housing decreasing across state, Gallatin County

Mobile homes, while more affordable, are disappearing across the state. In their place, subdivisions are moving in.

According to tax records and the Gallatin County Treasurer’s Office, mobile home parks have been seeing a steady decline for nearly eight years, even before that. And it’s an issue that isn’t just felt here.

“Losing that affordable housing stock is pretty devastating,” says Shari Eslinger, housing director for the Bozeman HRDC. “When being able to afford a place to live becomes a problem, mobile home parks are a more affordable option.”

But when those start vanishing, there’s a new problem.

“It’s very challenging for those current residents and folks trying to help,” Eslinger says.

That’s where the Bozeman HRDC usually steps in to help, a growing challenge.

“We have seen a decline in mobile home and trailer parks,” Eslinger says. “Usually, that land is being sold for other residential development or commercial development right now.”

Eslinger adds the jury is out as to why.

“Trailers have a short lifespan and so sustainable affordable housing, moving forward, they might be looking at the sustainability,” Eslinger says. “They might be looking at cost of infrastructure.”

According to the Gallatin County Treasurer’s Office, declines in neighborhoods like this one have been going on for some time.

It’s not new news.

Since 2011, they’ve been seeing a drop and even before that.

From 2011 up until this year, 167 residents had to be evicted from their homes due to subdivisions moving in.

This has happened before.

In 2006, 92 residents were evicted from Bridger View Trailer Court north of town for a subdivision project.

And a year later, again, the same number in a mobile home park in Four Corners.

“That’s a large number,” Eslinger says. “It’s something that we can’t eat.”

Many are given about 180 days to relocate.

But with a waiting list 12 to 18 months long in most cases, Eslinger says that’s a whole other task.

One that the HRDC and others are trying to find a solution for.

“We’re ensuring that it’s something that they can sustain, moving forward,” Eslinger says.

Eslinger says the HRDC is a good resource for those feeling the weight of this growing trend.

You can schedule an appointment with a housing counselor to get help there.

By: Cody Boyer

The housing crisis is having a profound affect on London- Karen Buck

Twenty years from now we will look back at the transformation in the housing profile of London over previous decades and wonder how it happened and how come something so dramatic happened with so little public policy response. 

The consequences are with us already, of course, and the case for action is pressing.

I’m working with the mayor of London on shaping his blueprint for better private rented sector laws and I am delighted to do so.

I am also celebrating the passage into law of my own Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act which became law at the end of March.

This was a rare case of a private member’s bill originally opposed by the government making it onto the statute book.

It will address one of the challenges faced by renters, that of unfit housing which compromises their health and even safety. But there is more to do.

London has been grappling with a severe housing crisis, defined by shortage and affordability, for many years.

The change has been rapid and significant, but what does it mean and why does it matter – questions I try to answer in Capital Gains, a new Fabian Society report.

First, private renting is usually not a preferred choice, particularly over the long term and certainly not for families with children.

Fewer than 6 in 10 private tenants in London are satisfied with private renting as a tenure.

Satisfaction levels are fairly high when renters are asked about their own property, but not when the question relates to the tenure itself.

Second, there is a serious problem of affordability. Since the mid-noughties, the cost of private rented accommodation broadly followed changes in earnings across England.

However, the reverse was true in London, where the National Audit Office found private rents rose by 32 per cent, twice the rise in average earnings over the decade.

London’s poverty profile has changed in recent years just as its housing pattern has. The two are closely connected.

Workless households, especially those affected by disability, remain at risk but the rise and rise of in-work poverty, of poverty amongst private tenants and of poverty in the suburbs represents a real change.

To add to the pain, landlords are increasingly reluctant to let to tenants on housing benefit or, now, universal credit, with ‘no DSS’ practices coming back into the picture.

Even if we chose not to worry about the tenants, we should be concerned about the housing benefit bill which comes to some £22bn.

Third, as people are renting privately for longer they are reducing their prospects of being able to save for a deposit.

It is understandable and right that we focus on the housing affordability crisis but in the interests of a healthy and well- balanced city we should also be concerned with sustainable home ownership.

Fourth, private renting is insecure and of variable quality. The PRS has the highest proportion of substandard dwellings of any tenure and its growth as a sector has a wider social impact which is not yet properly appreciated.

So, what to do?

We need to formulate a response which reflects the reality that experiences of private renting can be very different depending on who you are.

A low-income family reliant on some support from housing benefit will not experience renting in the same way as a young professional whose ownership hopes are deferred.

The big picture will involve some major choices about taxation and housing investment because the affordability and supply question underpins everything.

London needs 65,000 new homes a year overall, but we need to do much better at building social housing in particular, which will almost always be a better option for those on the lowest incomes and the more vulnerable groups.

The growth of the ‘build to rent’ sector can have an important role if done well – institutional investment in private renting has been long promised but is only now beginning to happen.

Firmer regulation is needed to limit the loss of rented accommodation to short-let platforms like Airbnb, with 60,000 properties listed (by no means all illegally, of course) in London alone.

We need to know where renters are, too. We know so little about the PRS and a register for London landlords would be invaluable.

For renters themselves, a starting point needs to be security of tenure – something which featured in previous Labour manifestos and which even the current government is considering.

Scrapping section 21 – the basis for ‘no fault’ evictions – would, with certain safeguards and balances, create open ended tenancies and offer much needed stability.

Renters also deserve protection from excessive rent rises and it is very good news that Sadiq Khan is committed to supporting rent control laws as part of his vision for London after the 2020 mayoral election.

We are in the midst of the most profound transformation of housing status in the capital for generations. Rebalancing our housing stock will be a huge and challenging task that must be undertaken.

Today, however, we must act to change the rental culture and tackle the pressures of affordability, insecurity and quality which are having such a profound impact on our city.

Source: Left Foot Forward

Public more worried about housing than Brexit, survey shows

The poll, carried out by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), found that 57% of people think the rising cost of housing will impact on them personally either a great deal or a fair amount in the next five years – with 56% saying the same for Brexit.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) agreed that Britain has a housing crisis, with 55% feeling it has been discussed too little over the past few years. This figure rises to 68% for renters.

Those surveyed also indicated support for social housing, with 76% agreeing the tenure is important because it helps people on lower incomes access housing which would not be affordable in the private rented sector, and 68% feeling it helps to tackle poverty.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the CIH, said: “These results send a very clear message to the new government. The housing crisis is real, and we are simply not doing enough. It’s clear that the British public supports more social housing.”

“We need to make sure everyone has a place to call home, and this survey reinforces what we’ve been saying for a long time – for too many people housing is simply unaffordable.

She said that the survey showed that people believe the government can and should do something about the housing crisis.

“We have given the government a solution, a solution that would add billions to our national economy and help millions of our fellow citizens.”

The CIH, together with the National Housing Federation, Shelter, Crisis and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, has called on government to stump up £12.8bn a year to build 1.45 million affordable homes over the next decade, including 900,000 for social rent.

Ms Alafat said the Comprehensive Spending Review is a “golden opportunity” for ministers to make a change to housing.

More than half (52%) of people surveyed supported new homes being built locally, up from 40% five years ago.

Among renters, 45% in the private sector were worried about their ability to pay the rent, with 43% of social renters feeling the same – compared with 29% of mortgage holders concerned about repayments.

Sixty-one per cent of renters or people living with their parents believe they will never be able to afford to buy a home.

Ipsos Mori gathered opinions from 2,181 adults across Great Britain, with the data weighted to reflect the population.

Source: InsideHousing

Councillors slam lack of affordable housing in proposed Middlewich scheme

A major developer is being asked to think again over plans to build 74 homes near Middlewich after councillors slammed a lack of affordable housing.

Cheshire East Council’s strategic planning board also wants to see if Seddon Construction should provide cash for schools and NHS services instead of £400,000 towards the Middlewich eastern bypass if it gets the go-ahead for the scheme off Warmingham Lane, in Moston.

The developer had proposed just eight affordable houses in the scheme, which would have completed the allocation set in CEC’s local plan for Glebe Farm and taken the total number of new houses along Warmingham Lane in Middlewich and Moston to 1,102.

CEC officers recommended the scheme for approval ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, and Jenny Friar, representing Seddon, urged the committee to agree – suggesting there were ‘clear economic, social and environmental benefits’ to it.

She added: “While viability concerns have influenced the mix of house types proposed on site, the proposed scheme provides a mix of house sizes that seeks to address local housing need as identified in the Moston neighbourhood plan.”

But Cllr David Nixon, chairman of Moston Parish Council, insisted the lack of financial contribution for health and education – and the failure to hit CEC’s own 30 per cent target for affordable housing – ‘cannot be justified’.

“This measly affordable housing will do nothing to enable couples to get onto the housing ladder,” he said.

“If viability can’t be achieved with contributions to education, health infrastructure and affordable housing, the view of Moston Parish Council is the developer should walk away.”

Cllr Nixon added that the Moston neighbourhood plan was disregarded by officers – suggesting the scheme went against its policies on design, housing mix and housing type.

Road safety along Warmingham Lane was also questioned by Cllr Mike Hunter, Labour member for Middlewich, who argued the access points to each new development on the road were too close – but officers insisted they were satisfied with the distances.

There had been requests for a £366,272 contribution from the developer towards education provision, as well as £76,896 for the NHS, £90,886 towards public open space and £13,000 for indoor sport and recreation facilities.

But Seddon argued this would not be viable alongside the bypass contribution and affordable housing target – and independent consultants Gerald Eve agreed with the builder’s assessment – leaving councillors concerned that CEC would have to pick up the cost for mitigating the scheme.

Cllr David Jefferay, Residents of Wilmslow, said: “If we are in a position where we have got a five-year [housing land] supply, we should be able to walk away if this is going to leave us with a big liability.”

His concerns were shared by Cllr Ashley Farrall, Labour, who felt the council should not allow its own 30 per cent affordable housing target to be ignored.

He added: “It just looks to me like this is some executive housing scheme just built for pure profit and not for the housing needs of this area.”

Source: CheshireLive

Osinbajo inaugurates 650 housing units project in Delta

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday, inaugurated 650 affordable housing units comprising 192 one-bedroom, 230 two-bedroom semi-detached terrace and 228 three-bedroom bungalows near Asaba.

The VP accompanied by Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa had earlier visited the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Chicken Edozie.

He arrived at the Housing Estate located in Aniocha North Local Government Area at about 6:30 pm, performed the ceremony and felicitated with the host community and the monarchs of the people.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the project which was started in February 2018 with initial N500 billion capital was funded by the Family Homes Funds, a social housing initiative of the Federal Government.

The fund with the initial shareholding by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) and Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), was to raise another N800 billion from Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) as a partner, to finance the program.

NAN reports that the fund’s objective is to work with partners to create 500,000 new homes and 1.5 million jobs by 2023.

The fund’s current program comprises 3,600 housing units now under construction in five locations and another further 21,600 homes to be completed across the country.

Source: The Guardian

Port Angeles Council floats idea of sales tax for affordable housing

Should city officials consider a sales tax increase to tackle affordable housing?

Port Angeles City Council member Mike French said the idea is worth a “hard look” given a new tax credit offered to cities and counties that lack affordable and supportive housing.

“This would be a sales tax increase that would pair with a sales tax credit from the state,” French said during a City Council think tank last week.

“It’s possibly an uncomfortable topic, but I think it’s something we should take a hard look at.”

House Bill 1406, which was co-sponsored by state Reps. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles and Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend and signed into law May 9, encourages “investments in affordable and supportive housing.”

It provides cities and counties that adopt qualifying local taxes with matching state sales tax revenue to be used on affordable housing initiatives.

One qualifying tax would be a maximum one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase authorized under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Section 82.14.530, French said.

If the council decided to put such a tax on the ballot — and voters approved it — the city would create an affordable housing fund and receive an additional 0.0146 percent in state sales tax revenue, French said.

The 0.1-percent tax increase would raise about $320,000 per year. The 0.0146-percent match would generate about $55,000 annually, French said.

The current sales tax rate in Port Angeles is 8.7 percent.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said the city should take advantage of the tax credit.

“Not having affordable housing is hurting our economy and this is a way, a time-sensitive way, for us to take action on it,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

The City Council took no action on the idea in its July 2 think tank.

Council member Cherie Kidd said a proposal to raise taxes would require “a lot of explanation.”

Think tanks were implemented by the council to encourage a free exchange of ideas.

Four or more council members cannot discuss policy or meet privately under the state Open Public Meetings Act.

French floated the idea to pursue the sales tax/tax credit after attending a Association of Washington Cities conference with Schromen-Wawrin, Mayor Sissi Bruch and Port Angeles City Manager Nathan West.

“We are not the only city that is facing the housing crunch,” Bruch said at the think tank.

“The state is very aware of the need out there for housing. So they are willing to work with cities and counties to try to get us some funding so we can do something for the housing.”

In a public comment period that preceded the discussion, Peninsula Housing Authority Executive Director Kay Kassinger urged the council to consider House Bill 1406 as a tool to help address the housing shortage.

The 20-year tax credit can be used to finance loans or grants to nonprofits or housing authorities to acquire, build or rehabilitate housing or to pay for rental assistance, Kassinger said.

“We’ve all been looking and talking about how we can affect the affordable housing issues and increase the stock here in Port Angeles, and this legislation provides the city with a new financial tool in this quest for additional affordable housing,” Kassinger said.

“It’s got to be a public-private partnership,” she added, “because we as an agency cannot build out of this problem.”

French said there were multiple presentations on House Bill 1406 at the June 25-28 conference in Spokane.

The idea behind the legislation was to allow cities and counties to “take the lead” on their own housing challenges, he said.

“It’s a great tool for local governments to spend our money in a way that’s tailored to our communities’ needs,” French said.

French added that the sales tax/tax credit would be more palatable than raising property taxes.

“The tourists would be helping to pay for the growing pains of our tourism industry,” French said.

“That seems more fair to me than a property tax.”

Kidd suggested that the city work with state officials to lift onerous regulations that dissuade builders from creating more housing stock.

“We’re getting down to ‘If you build an outhouse, what is your stormwater treatment plan?’ ” Kidd said.

“It’s just gotten so over-regulated within the city.”

Council member Jim Moran agreed, saying the state Department of Ecology considers a gravel driveway as a non-permeable surface, which requires costly stormwater mitigation.

“This is a multi-faceted question,” Moran said of the affordable housing issue.

“Whereas I agree with the option of getting some more state money — and I have no problem, Mike, with that one-tenth of 1-percent sales tax — I also would like us to pursue aggressively administrative relief in certain areas, specifically stormwater.”

French concluded his pitch by saying a sales tax increase would require a vote of the people.

“Do our citizens view this issue as salient?” French asked.

“Or do they think that this is something that they want their government to engage in?

“They might say no,” French added.

“And that’s fine. If they say no, then they’ve told us what they think.”

Source: Daily News

Kanye West takes on California’s housing crisis, with help from Star Wars

Iconic rapper, entrepreneur and sneaker tycoon Kanye West is trying something different for his latest business venture — he’s taking on the affordable housing crisis.

On a lot in the woods 15 minutes outside of Los Angeles, West reportedly is building prototypes of Star Wars-inspired structures he intends to develop as affordable housing for low-income residents. He’s even met with investors in San Francisco to discuss funding the proposal, Forbes recently reported.

Details on the venture are scant, and there’s no word on where West plans to put these space-aged structures. Attempts to reach West, the husband of reality TV star Kim Kardashian, were unsuccessful. But his plans represent yet another creative attempt to solve California’s housing crisis, and they’re joining a field already crowded with apartments made out of converted shipping containers, co-living spaces styled like grown-up dorms, and bunk beds rented for $1,200 a month. While Bay Area housing activists aren’t rushing to embrace West’s proposal, his very interest in the housing shortage shines a spotlight on the issue that could help pull in resources to build more affordable homes.

“We welcome his interest in finding solutions to housing low-income families and seniors and the homeless,” said Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the housing nonprofit California Housing Partnership. “But instead of focusing on a new design aesthetic, we would ask him to focus on what’s most needed, which are financing solutions.”

Forbes describes the celebrity’s prototype low-income homes as a trio of structures rising up out of the woods. All three are oblong in shape and dozens of feet tall, resembling “the skeletons of wooden spaceships.” Apparently, they are inspired by the Star Wars planet of Tatooine, where Luke Skywalker lived as a child in an austere, igloo-shaped bungalow. West’s vision, according to the Forbes article published online Tuesday, is to perhaps house the homeless in the structures. He pictures the buildings possibly sunk into the ground, with light coming into the rooms through the ceiling.

But Schwartz says West’s plans may not be the most effective way to address California’s housing shortage, or to house the state’s homeless. Affordable housing experts favor building high-density apartments that are centrally located, providing easy access to public transportation, jobs and services to help residents thrive. Instead, West appears to be proposing low-density units that likely won’t be welcomed into any city center — and as a result threaten to isolate their low-income residents without access to important amenities, Schwartz said.

Instead of designing Star Wars-inspired structures, West would do better to invest resources into the many low-income housing projects already in the pipeline, or to partner with experienced affordable housing organizations, Schwartz said.

West’s plan also calls to mind the cautionary tale of another celebrity turned developer — actor Brad Pitt, who attempted to rebuild the storm-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. His foundation, Make It Right, built more than 100 homes, but then faced litigation claiming the homes were defective and falling apart.

Source: The Mercury News

New Orleans: Housing advocates say Lower property taxes could spur affordable housing growth

The increasing cost of housing in New Orleans — both rented and owned — is no small concern for people needing affordable housing, and those advocating on their behalf say freezing or reducing property taxes for some landlords and homeowners could help the growing crisis. Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy and Communications for the GNO Fair Housing Action Center said rent costs can be overwhelming for some residents. “Two-bedroom apartments are now a thousand dollars a month,” Ciardullo said.

According to a national study, for many people, the cost of rent outpaces their earnings. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reported across Louisiana, there is a shortage of rental homes that are affordable and available to “extremely low income” households.

Andreanecia Morris is executive director of HousingNOLA and is heavily involved in the affordable housing debate. “It’s highlighting the problem at a national level, but it also gives us the chance to look at what’s happening locally, and the fact that New Orleans is one of the most expensive places to live in the state of Louisiana, it’s got some of the highest housing rent costs in the state of Louisiana,” Morris said. Ciardullo agreed.

“We have new data that shows that you now have to make $19.38 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in New Orleans, and that is far more than a lot of the folks in our hospitality and tourism economies make,” he said. Morris added that many factors affect what landlords charge renters.

“It’s not just simply people being stubborn. When you look at construction costs, when you look at property taxes, when you look at insurance, that justifies some of the increase,” Morris said. “And so, that’s why we’ve got to have policies to intervene to bring those costs down, so landlords can then pass that on to their renters. Bills approved by the state legislature allow for voters to decide a constitutional amendment that would let the city reduce property taxes for small landlords. Morris said there would be a lot of public discussion before an election happens. “Landlords who are already interested in renting to the average New Orleanians, but the numbers just don’t work, this can give them the chance to do that. And again, they’re still going to kick in on their taxes,” Morris said. “We’re not talking about tax obliteration, we’re talking about tax freezes, a little bit of tax relief, so that you can pay your property taxes.”

Also, the city would be able to do the same for some homeowners struggling to afford property taxes. “We have created thousands of first-time homeowners with millions of dollars post-Katrina to become first-time homeowners, and they’re at risk of losing their homes now. So, we want to see those folks take advantage of those kinds of programs once it comes to bear,” Morris said. Ciardullo thinks it’s the right approach for an area with a shortage of affordable housing. “I think it is maybe one of the best opportunities we’re going to have to address the affordable housing crisis that we have at the scale that we need it. It’s going to support renters by ensuring that builders who build small new rental properties, if they accept these tax incentives, will have to rent them at affordable rates. And, it’s going to support our longtime, low-income homeowners who are seeing their tax assessments skyrocket,” he said.

Gilbert Montano, the city’s chief administrative officer, said increasing the amount of affordable housing remains a top priority for Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s administration. However, he said any proposed change to property taxes must be thoroughly explored. “I think there’s always a couple of sides to each and every proposal that we have to be thorough as we deal with property taxes, because certainly that’s a lifeblood of the city as well. But, if it’s used as a scalpel instead of a hatchet, I think proposals can be looked upon much more favorably,” Montano said. City services like police and fire departments benefit from property taxes, as do a number of other local entities.

“It’s going to require a lot of thoughtful discussion, you know, there’s always unintended consequences whenever you take from certain thresholds as it relates to the city budget,” Montano said. The proposed constitutional amendment would be voted on statewide. According to Morris, a shortage of existing housing in New Orleans is not the issue. “There’s a lot of room, there’s enough blighted and vacant properties, there are homes that are sitting,” she said. Morris also said she is urging senior citizens to take advantage of the program which already freezes their property taxes at a certain level. “We see how the freeze program works for seniors, it gives senior citizens the chance to stay in their home. We’re talking about building wealth, especially in a community like this, that’s majority African-American, where we want to talk about that wealth building, closing that wealth-divide, being able to pass that property on to the next generation is how you get to closing that racial wealth gap,” Morris said. “You can’t do that if you’re going to lose that house to speculators and investors who are going to pick it up for the property taxes.”

Source: Fox 8

How a housing shortage is threatening Berlin’s urban allotments

Birds tweet and shears snip as one of Berlin’s many urban gardeners tends her city centre allotment, but behind the tranquil scene a battle is raging over the real estate.

“Schrebergärten”, or allotments, offer city dwellers a chance to grow plants and vegetables in small, private gardens and provide a green-leafed retreat from the hustle and bustle of inner-city life.

Berlin has 71,000 allotment plots spread over 890 settlements, often alongside busy railway lines or motorways. They make up three percent of the city’s surface area, according to local government figures.

Three-quarters of them are owned by the city and rented out for a modest fee.

“Two years ago, we celebrated our centenary,” recalls Suzanne Johnson, 60, of the Eschenallee allotments in the Tempelhof district where she has been lovingly cultivating her plot for 10 years.

She picks some radishes, proudly shows off her tomato plants and points to a small pond in the corner, where she marvels that every year dragonflies are born.

However, the atmosphere has become more that of a battleground than urban paradise.

Signs hanging around the allotments declare that plot owners are “Against Demolition!”.

The site – one of 15 in Berlin earmarked for demolition from next year, according to a draft by city planners – will be torn down to make way for a school.

“I think we should be able to find another solution,” says Johnson, referring to patches of wasteland dotted around the city, because allotments are “also a part of Berlin“.

The “Schrebergärten” have been around for 150 years. During the industrial revolution, workers were given a plot to help fight malnutrition.

Later, in wartime, they helped feed the local population and, after 1945 when much of Berlinwas in ruins, the allotment sheds were used for emergency housing, which is banned today.

Then, during the Cold War when West Berlin was an enclave inside the communist East German state, allotments were “extremely coveted”, Johnson said.

“At that time, there was no chance of getting away to the surrounding countryside,” she said.

Under pressure

But the Berlin Wall is long gone now and the allotments’ existence is under attack as the capital city struggles to meet demand for housing.

Some 50,000 people are moving into the city each year, increasing the need for homes and sparking steep rent hikes, to the point that Berlin‘s senate voted this month to freeze rents for the next five years.

Housing experts say the city needs 200,000 new homes by 2030, putting allotments, often rented by the elderly and families, firmly in the sights of real-estate developers.

A year ago 54 percent of Berlin residents indicated they backed the complete or partial destruction of allotments, according to a survey by the Respondi institute.

Among 18 to 29 year-olds, the figure shot up to 71 percent.

Being able to afford housing “is a right”, but gardening is “a privilege”, argues real-estate investor Arne Piepgras, who is pushing city authorities to “put an end to the madness” of allotments.

‘When a garden dies…’

Piepgras describes the rent rise in Berlin as “unbearable”.

If all of Berlin‘s allotments were torn up, he says that 400,000 social housing units with vegetable gardens on the ground floor – as was common in 1920s Berlin – could be built, solving its housing problems.

However, Jürgen Kropp, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told AFP that razing all allotments would presume they “are worthless” while, with global warming, the opposite was true.

Kropp insists that allotments, thanks to the plants they grow, help control temperatures during heat waves, drain rainwater after storms and are a rich source of the fauna and flora that a healthy urban environment needs.

“Of course we need these oases, especially if we continue to build with concrete,” he argues.

At her allotment, Johnson admits she pays little for her beloved plot, 300 per year after buying the lease for 2,000.

“But we don’t spend our time tanning ourselves on sun loungers — our work benefits everyone,” she says.

School classes regularly visit, and in autumn, bags of free apples are hung at the entrance for passersby to take home.

In her eyes, “gardens are social infrastructure” worthy of preservation and, while a building can be rebuilt, “when a garden dies, it dies for good”.

By Isabelle Le Page

Amherst Town Council OKs affordable housing project

By a nearly unanimous vote Monday, the Town Council approved Community Preservation Act funding for a proposed 28-unit affordable housing project at 132 Northampton Road.

The vote was 11 in favor and one abstention to appropriate $500,000 for the Valley Community Development Corp. project. District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne was not in attendance at the meeting.

“We’re of course pleased that it got funded,” said Laura Baker, Valley CDC real estate project manager.

Of the units in the proposed development, all of which would be single room occupancy units, eight would be reserved for those making $31,050 annually or less; eight would be reserved for those making $49,700 or less; 10 would be reserved for those making $18,650 or less, with a preference for the homeless; and two units  would be reserved for those making $18,650 or less who are clients of the Department of Mental Health.

The project has drawn objections from several people in the neighborhood, some of whom used the public comment period on the matter to once again note their disapproval.

“I have never been against affordable housing,” said abutting neighbor Barbara Gravin Wilbur.

She went on to suggest that the city focus on providing affordable housing for families over single people.

Neighborhood resident Aimee Gilbert Loinaz said she is a public health professional, and said there would be a need for 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week services at the facility.

“Where is the programming expertise?” she asked.

She also criticized the development process for a lack of neighborhood outreach, and suggested that the screening process Valley CDC uses for tenants could be in danger of violating the law.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, who abstained in the final vote, suggested that the council wait on voting for the project.

“I am asking that we postpone this vote tonight,” she said.

She expressed a desire to see more about the supervision plan for the site from Valley CDC, and expressed concern at the prospect of tenants not being able to have overnight guests. She also said that those who have asked questions have been shamed and accused of opposing affordable housing and hating homeless people.

“That’s not true for me and I don’t think it’s true for the residents,” she said.

Asked after the vote about the overnight guest policy, Baker said that no policy forbidding overnight guests has been decided on for the 132 Northampton Road property. Baker also said that none of Valley CDC’s properties has 24-hour supervision.

“It is not typical in affordable housing,” she said

Pam’s suggestion to delay the vote didn’t gain traction with her fellow councilors.

“I find it incredible that anyone would say that this has been rushed,” said District 4 Councilor Evan Ross, who said he first learned about it in January.

“It’s been consuming more time than any other singular issue,” he said.

“To delay would be ridiculous,” said District 2 Councilor Patricia De Angelis.

Nevertheless, De Angelis did say that both sides of the issue needed to find more ways to talk across distances and move forward together.

Some of the councilors also said that issues with the plan would be best figured out in the zoning process.

Speaking in favor of the project, resident John Page noted that he himself had grown up in affordable housing.

“Amherst needs the people that need affordable housing,” he said, naming teachers, firefighters, people getting started in their careers, seniors and people with disabilities as beneficiaries.

Nate Buddington, who chairs the town’s Community Preservation Act Committee, rejected the call for 24-hour-a-day supervision for the proposed development.

“This isn’t a halfway house and it’s not a mental health facility,” he said. “It’s housing for low-income people.”Baker said the next step for the project will be to prepare a package to get a project eligibility letter from the state, after which an application would be submitted to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette

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