Finding Home: Affordable Housing Crisis Leads To More Homeless Students

Third-grader Naveah Taylor bounds out of Reid Park elementary school in a pink jacket and backpack. Her favorite subject is math.

“I learned about adding fractions,” she said. “You only can add the numerator but not the denominator.”

Naveah started school in Charlotte this year. Kindergarten was in Jacksonville, Florida. First and second grade were in Atlanta. Then her parents couldn’t care for her anymore, and she and her brother Dakari came to live with her grandmother in Charlotte. He’s adjusted to second grade here and his favorite subject is science.

“I like that we go and explore stuff,” he said referring to an experiment about the densities of liquids. “Like at school the other day, we did a rainbow jar.”

Dakari and Naveah are with their grandmother now. Alohma West brought the kids to live with her in the one-bedroom apartment in west Charlotte she already shared with her son’s family. With seven people and several air mattresses, it’s a tight fit.

“We are still there on top of each other,” West said. “But it’s still better than being outside on the street.”

West’s grandkids are considered homeless under a federal law called McKinney-Vento. The classification applies to students living in a motel, car or emergency shelter. It also applies to those living in someone else’s home because they lost theirs or can’t afford their own. This qualifies Dakari and Naveah for meals, academic support and transportation from wherever they are to their home school that year.

The Department of Education reports more than 29,000 kids in North Carolina were considered homeless in the 2016-2017 school year. About three-quarters of those are living with other families because it’s too expensive to live on their own.

According to Shantiqua Neely, it’s not necessarily because people don’t have jobs. She’s the executive director at A Child’s Place, the organization helps homeless CMS students and families. She said it’s because rent is too expensive.

“Over half of our parent and caregivers that we serve are employed,” Neely said. “Things like affordable housing and lack of access to livable wages, and other factors like inter-partner violence and histories of eviction, play a big role in contributing to what we are seeing as family homelessness.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has the largest population of homeless students in North Carolina. Last year the district has identified almost 4,600. That’s up from nearly 2,500 10 years ago.

Neely said she is paying close attention to Charlotte’s efforts to make affordable housing a priority. The city says there’s a shortage of about 24,000 affordable housing units. She said she’s excited to see big corporations pitching in.

“I’m happy that we are talking about it in Charlotte,” Neely said. “But I’m looking for the day where it starts to translates to the population that we are serving.”

The city just approved spending more than $2 million to renovate nearly 80 apartments in east Charlotte to and keep them affordable. A quarter of those units would fall in the budget of most of the families that are in Neely’s program. She said the average family she serves makes about $800 a month.

CMS found through Project LIFT, a public-private partnership focused on west side schools, that kids moved so much that it’s difficult to track their progress. 50 percent of kids transferred to other schools after one year in the program. Neely said that movement is mainly within west Charlotte schools.

“We are servicing a family at one school and then we are in a meeting talking about that family, but that family is now at another school,” Neely said. “They are going back and forth all because parents are trying to look for that stability.”

Federal law requires the district transport kids from wherever they live to their home school for the rest of the year — even if they move outside the district. McKinney-Vento specialist at CMS Sonia Jenkins said about half of the 3,800 homeless kids this year live outside of their school zone, some even moving to Rock Hill or Gastonia because it’s too expensive to stay in Mecklenburg. She said the district spends $2 million on their transportation.

West is searching for a more permanent place and wants her grandkids to have some stability after years of being on the streets and sometimes living in squalid conditions.

“They definitely need a stable environment coming from not being fed, to being abused, to living with rats,” West said. “I mean, I listen to stories now that they have been with me a while. They are opening up more and they are telling me how the rats used to sleep in bed with them and it breaks my heart.”

CMS found students considered homeless were more likely to be behind in reading skills and tend to miss school more often.

School buses are pulling up and kids file out into the parking lot of the Center of Hope Salvation Army shelter in time for dinner. Today it’s chili, cornbread and salad.

As Kimberly Washington gets her food, she tells me her 8th-grade son didn’t get to school that day.

“He actually missed it this morning,” she said. “[The school bus] was one minute early.”

Because Washington doesn’t have a car, her son stayed at the shelter. They have been living in the shelter for a little more than a month. Washington said she ended up here after bouncing around homes of her family and friends. It started when she left an abusive relationship.

For a time, she was renting a room in a house — it was expensive. Then, she lost a temp job.

Washington is about to start as a cashier at Chick-fil-A. She’s planning to start saving up so she and her son can move out of the shelter. But as she looks for places, she’s finding rent has gotten more expensive.

“The wages that are earned in Charlotte, the compensation matching the cost of living. It just simply doesn’t,” she said. “I don’t understand how even though market rates increase, how rates of pay don’t match that.”

Washington’s applied for housing assistance but like many others, has been on the waitlist for years. She said she’s not expecting to get a voucher anytime soon.

But Alohma West is proof that a voucher doesn’t make it easier to find a place. She’s been looking for a bigger place for her and the two grandkids with a voucher, which provides a little more than a $1,000 a month. She said she’s called more than 30 places and is on several waitlists.

“But the problem is everywhere you look, nobody wants to take the voucher,” West said. “I can’t just sit. I have to get out. I don’t have a car so I have to look for something on the bus line. It’s been rough.”

While dealing with all this stress, West is trying to keep life normal for her 8- and 9-year-old grandkids. They have a homework routine after school and on the weekends, she tries to take them to free activities.

Often Dakari, her grandson in second grade, said they end up doing stuff at the apartment.

“Because she do not have a car to take us anywhere,” he said. “So lately, she hasn’t had enough money to do stuff so we just do stuff at home.”

His sister Naveah added that she’s looking forward to finding another place to live that’s less crowded so she can take her Christmas present out of the box. She’s been waiting a few months to open the easy bake oven.

“We got to get a bigger space because there’s a baby in the house and he messes with completely everything,” she said.

West has until May to find a place with the voucher before it expires. She is searching for anywhere in the county so the children can stay in CMS schools.

Source: Wfae

Affordable housing top challenge in region when attracting people

While the local economy is healthy there is a need to attract new people to the Grey-Bruce-Huron-Perth region to fill jobs.

That according to Executive Director of the Four County Labour Market Planning Board Gemma (JEM-ah) Mendez-Smith.

She says there are some troubling indications even though unemployment is at an all-time low.

And one obstacle is a shortage of affordable housing.

“We have a very low unemployment rate, we have a vibrant economy,” said Mendez-Smith. “We need to grow the work force and one of those ways will be inviting people to move to our region and live and work in our region. So we need to consider how we will house them and that’s a huge discussion.”

Mendez-Smith says people looking at coming to the region to take entry level jobs for minimum wage or slightly more can’t afford the housing that is currently available to them.

She adds transportation has long been considered the major obstacle to people looking at moving into our rural areas because of little or no public transportation. But that challenge has now been eclipsed by the shortage of affordable housing.

Source: Blackburnnews

Canada government budget to focus on affordable housing changes on supply, demand, regulation

The Trudeau government will take steps in Tuesday’s federal budget to make home-buying more affordable with changes affecting supply, demand and regulation, The Canadian Press has learned.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has promised the budget will focus on ways to help improve housing affordability for Canadians, and particularly for millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to late-30s.

The changes, along with expected measures on adult skills training, pharmacare and supporting seniors, will be included in the Liberals’ fourth and final budget before the October federal election.

The budget’s housing measures could grab a lot of attention. Polls have suggested affordable home ownership is a key concern for millennials and could be a vote winner with the increasingly critical demographic.

Morneau has heard housing-policy recommendations from numerous sources, including academic, real estate and mortgage experts, on how best to help more people buy homes.

The Trudeau government will take steps in Tuesday’s federal budget to make home-buying more affordable with changes affecting supply, demand and regulation, The Canadian Press has learned.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has promised the budget will focus on ways to help improve housing affordability for Canadians, and particularly for millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to late-30s.

The changes, along with expected measures on adult skills training, pharmacare and supporting seniors, will be included in the Liberals’ fourth and final budget before the October federal election.

The budget’s housing measures could grab a lot of attention. Polls have suggested affordable home ownership is a key concern for millennials and could be a vote winner with the increasingly critical demographic.

Morneau has heard housing-policy recommendations from numerous sources, including academic, real estate and mortgage experts, on how best to help more people buy homes.

The federal changes, combined with provincial and municipal guidelines, were brought in to improve the quality of mortgage debt and to lower risks to the broader economy.

Morneau has insisted the stress tests were needed as a way to keep prices in some markets from rising at an unsustainable clip. He’s shown no signs that he’s prepared to dial them back.

There have also been industry calls for the reintroduction of insurance on 30-year amortization mortgages as a targeted way to help people at the lower end.

But Paul Kershaw, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, said many experts, himself included, have discouraged the government from weakening the stress tests or extending amortization out of fear such moves would only encourage people to borrow more.

Kershaw is the founder of Generation Squeeze, a group dedicated to informing policy decisions about the socioeconomic challenges of younger Canadians.

He wants policies that keep home prices from growing faster than earnings.

“We’ve tolerated — not only that, we’ve celebrated — home prices rising a lot over the last decade,” Kershaw said.

“And we need a government that says, ‘Nope, henceforth we want housing to be for homes first, investments second.’ ”

He recommends Ottawa change “outdated” tax policy that shelters principal residences from taxation, thus exacerbating demand, limiting supply and pushing up prices.

On regulation and enforcement, Ottawa could take steps to crack down on people who falsely claim a home is their primary residence as a way to dodge capital gains taxes.

Morneau recently vowed to do more to enforce laws in another area that’s been directly connected to housing: money laundering.

Last year, reports from an international anti-money-laundering organization and the RCMP warned that organized crime groups had bought luxury home sales in the Vancouver area to launder and hide their money.

On supply, Kershaw said the federal government could create incentives to encourage more cities to raise their housing density targets. Ottawa could offer a larger share of infrastructure transfers — like those for transit — to municipalities that agree to allow the construction of more homes to be built per plot of land.

To increase demand, Kershaw said the government could bump up the maximum, one-time withdrawal limit of $25,000 under the home buyer’s plan, which enables Canadians to borrow once from their own registered retirement savings plan to buy a home.

Ottawa could also increase the non-refundable, $5,000 first time home buyers tax credit, which offers up to $750 in tax relief, he said.

Source: Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Governor Cuomo Announces Opening of $17 Million Affordable Housing Development in the Village of Geneseo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the opening of Skybird Landing Apartments, a 60-apartment, $17 million affordable housing development in the Village of Geneseo. Half of the apartments are reserved for individuals who are eligible for onsite supportive services that offer job training and promote stability, health and independent living. The State’s investment in Skybird Landing Apartments complements Finger Lakes Forward by increasing access to high quality and supportive affordable housing to help residents stay in their community and live independently.

“Access to safe, affordable housing is a fundamental right and New York is making significant investments to combat homelessness and make housing more accessible throughout the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Skybird Landing Apartments will provide residents with supportive services and security, creating an environment for them to thrive while building a stronger local economy that will continue to move the Finger Lakes forward.”

“This significant housing development in Geneseo will provide affordable, quality residential units for individuals and families in the area,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The Skybird Landing apartments will include supportive services for residents on site, such as job training and health care resources. This development continues to grow the economy of the region as part of Finger Lakes Forward and builds on our efforts to invest in affordable housing across the state.”

The 60 new apartments, spread across six buildings, are affordable to households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Thirty of the apartments are available to tenants with a history of homelessness who will have access to supportive services and rent subsidies through Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, part of the Governor’s $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 of supportive housing.

Skybird Landing’s amenities include a community room, lounges, computer lab, laundry room, shared outdoor space and office areas for the supportive units. The name “Skybird Landing” pays homage to Geneseo’s National Warplane Museum, a warbird and military history museum founded in 1994. The National Warplane Museum is also home to Whiskey 7, a restored troop carrier that participated in the D-Day invasion, as well as host to one of the last turf airshows in the country each July.

HCR’s financing for Skybird Landing Apartments includes federal and state Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate nearly $12.7 million in equity, $3.5 million through the Supportive Housing Opportunity Program and $200,000 from the Rural Area Revitalization Program. Additional funding was provided by the NYS Office of Mental Health and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Governor Cuomo’s commitment to strengthening communities and growing the Finger Lakes economy is reflected in Finger Lakes Forward, a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative that builds on the more than $6.1 billion the State has invested in the region since 2012. Since 2011, HCR has invested $442 million in the Finger Lakes region that has created affordable housing for about 14,650 residents.

Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Skybird Landing Apartments is already contributing to the momentum that propels the Finger Lakes Forward, strengthening the community by providing more than 60 residents with greater economic stability, personal security, and the supportive services that they need to succeed. We thank our partners for joining us in fulfilling this critical mission.”

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “These beautiful, new apartments in Geneseo will give individuals with mental illness the safe, stable safety net that only housing can provide. Skybird Landing shows New York’s commitment to supportive housing, utilizing funding from Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, and embracing a collaborative community approach to ensure individuals with mental illness lead rich, full lives.”

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan said, “Skybird Landing is providing much needed affordable housing options for seniors and others in need of supportive services. By making it possible for more people to live independently, projects like this enhance the quality of life for residents and add to the fabric of our community.”

Assemblymember Marjorie Byrnes said, “These apartments are an example of the thriving community here in Geneseo, New York. I applaud those at Skybird Landing Apartments and their collaboration with Finger Lakes Forward for providing access to necessary affordable housing to help residents live independently. These new amenity-filled apartments will help residents thrive and help stimulate the economy throughout Livingston County.”

Mark H. Fuller, DePaul Properties President, said, “DePaul is pleased to be a community partner in meeting the need for quality affordable housing options in Livingston County and throughout New York State. We wish to thank Governor Cuomo and the State for providing DePaul with the funding that has made this project a reality. Skybird Landing is an example of progress and partnership in action.”

Gillian Conde, Vice President of DePaul Properties, Inc., said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s veterans. Skybird Landing is an important connection to the museum’s dedication to preserving World War II and Korean War-era military aircraft, equipment and the stories of the men and women who selflessly served our country at home and abroad.”

About De Paul Properties

DePaul Properties, Inc. creates and operates attractive, affordable housing solutions in urban, suburban and rural settings within environments that promote respectful community relationships.

DePaul, a progressive, private not-for-profit organization founded in 1958, is committed to providing quality services including assisted living services for seniors; residential and support services to persons with mental illness in recovery, some of whom have a history of homelessness; addiction prevention and support services, vocational programs and affordable housing. DePaul assists individuals in achieving their optimum level of independence and success in the environment of their choice, while remaining sensitive to assessed community needs and available resources.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $6.1 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs.

Source: Insurancenews

Making Housing More Affordable for Middle-Class Families in Toronto

Hard working middle-class families in Toronto deserve a safe and affordable place to call home where they can thrive and spend more time with their children.

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), today, announced the construction and funding of 259 new rental housing units in Toronto so that more middle-class families have an affordable place to live.

Through CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing initiative (RCFi), the federal government is investing $89 million for the construction of Terraces of Princess Gardens, a 16-storey building that will provide safe and affordable homes to 259 families.

The majority of the units will have rents at or below 30% of median household income in the area and at least 10% of the units will be accessible.

Located in the west end of the city of Toronto, this project will provide affordable housing options close to public transit, schools and services for middle-income families.

As a result, they can enjoy better social outcomes and contribute to vibrant and socially inclusive neighbourhoods.


“Through the National Housing Strategy, more middle-class Canadians — and those working hard to join it — will find safe, accessible and affordable homes in communities where their families can thrive, children learn and grow, and have the stability and opportunities they need to succeed.
Our Government is committed to increasing the supply of rental units for Canadians through projects like the one we are announcing today.”

— The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Children, Families and Social Development and the Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
“This is a major win for affordable housing in Etobicoke. This $89 million federal government commitment to our community will make a significant difference in providing a home and hearth for those worried that they can’t afford a roof over their heads.
I want to thank Minister Duclos for coming to Etobicoke with the great news of this incredible investment in our community. By increasing access to affordable housing, we are building stronger and healthier communities in a difficult Toronto housing market.
This investment provides more affordable housing options for middle-class families right here in Etobicoke Centre, close to public transit and our great local schools.”

— Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre
“Princess Management is happy to be able to participate with CMHC in this initiative to bring 259 superior housing units to this neighbourhood, in addition to the 467 units the company manages on this site. Princess Management looks forward to future opportunities within this initiative.”
— Evan Miller, Representative for Princess Management
Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

America’s 30 hottest real estate markets, where houses sell in less than two months – at prices above local home values

U.S. real estate markets are strong right now, but a handful of cities are on fire, with rapidly rising home prices and short sale windows.

A new report by GoBankingRates ranks America’s 30 hottest housing markets by the average number of days a home stays on the market, based on Zillow data from 2017 and 2018.

Researchers said that rising home prices tend to reflect shifting dynamics in a city – often signalling growing employment, rising wages or other factors. However some markets can get ‘overheated’ – when list prices significantly exceed median home values.

A cluster (eight) of those super-hot markets are in California, and many more are in the American West and Southwest.

This map illustrates the top 15 hottest housing markets in America - cities where homes are purchased in less than two months, on average

Sunnyvale, California had the hottest market in America, with the average home selling in 38 days and a median list price of $1.5 million – the highest of any market on the list. The Silicon Valley community has seen home prices soar 23.7 percent in two years.

San Jose, California ranked second, with homes sitting on the market a short 42 days, on average. The median list price for homes in the Bay Area community is $929,000, with home prices rising 24.7 percent since the beginning of 2017.

Fremont, California – nestled between Silicon Valley and San Francisco – has a 43 day average window for houses to sit on the market before selling. The median listing price is just over $1 million.

San Francisco follows, also with a 43 day window on sales. The city is one of three on the list with a median home price above $1 million ($1.2 million).

Oakland, California, ranked fifth on the list, with median list prices of $650,000 on homes that sell in an average of 44 days.

Seattle is the first city outside of California on the list. Homes there sell in an average of 44 days and the median list price is $678,265.

Newark, New Jersey comes in seventh on the list, with a 45-day average window before a home is sold in that market. The median list price in Newark is $249,450 – and home values have risen 53 percent over two years, likely due to the city’s proximity to New York City.

Boise, Idaho ranked eight on the list, with a 47-day window for homes to sell. The median list price is $330,000 – highly affordable compared to most other cities on the list. Prices in Boise are up 32.8 percent over the past two years.

Arlington, Texas followed, in ninth place, with a median list price of $249,900 – up 21.9 percent compared to two years ago. Homes there sit on the market for an average of 47 days.

Colorado Springs, Colorado rounds out the top 10, with homes typically staying on the market 48 days before selling, and a median list price of $319,000. Prices are nearly 50 percent lower in Colorado Springs than in nearby Denver, which could be driving the market’s growth.

Aurora, Colorado ranked eleventh on the list, with a median listing price of $359,450. Homes are on the market for an average 48 days before selling.

Denver follows, with a median list price of $469,000 and an average 50-day window before homes are sold.

Mesa, Arizona ranked thirteenth, with a median list price of $260,000. Homes typically sell in 51 days in this Phoenix suburb.

Gilbert, Arizon, also outside of Phoenix, came in fourteenth, with a $340,000 median list price. Homes sit on the market an average 51 days in this city.

Rounding out the top 15 was Raleigh, North Carolina, a city where list prices (with a median of $330,000) are more than 21 percent above the current median home value of $271,700.

This table shows the ranking of America's hottest real estate markets, based on the duration homes stay on the market (on average) and recent rices in listing prices


Source: DailyMail

One Million Social and Affordable Homes Needed to Combat Rental Stress

Australia needs to build more than a million social and affordable houses over the next 20 years to keep pace with the growing number of people struggling to pay their rent, new analysis shows.

UNSW City Futures Research Centre’s latest report said the number of Australians in rental stress – paying more than a third of their income on rent – meant there was a need for an extra 728,600 social housing properties and 295,000 affordable rental homes by 2036.

The research showed it would cost governments $8.6 billion a year to deliver these properties working with the not-for-profit sector, which is $3 billion a year less than current negative gearing and capital gains tax subsidies.

Lead researcher Laurence Troy said to cover the backlog of unmet need and future need over the next 20 years, two in 10 new homes would need to be social housing while a further one in 10 would need to be affordable rental homes.

“Our analysis shows that the sheer number of households in rental stress across the country means that if we’re going to meet the need, at least 12 per cent of all our housing by 2036 will need to be social and affordable housing… a very reasonable ambition in global terms,” Troy said.

One third of these homes – 316,766 – are needed in New South Wales, but regional Tasmania and South Australia need to see the highest growth rate in social housing.

Troy said based on their modelling, the best and cheapest way for governments to deliver on unmet housing needs was to fund it through a combination of upfront grants and low interest government supported financing.

“Delivering below market rental housing through the not-for-profit sector, as opposed to the private equity model, will save $3 billion a year by removing developer mark-ups and shareholder returns,” he said.

This costing analysis was commissioned by the community housing sector.

Community Housing Industry Association NSW chair John McKenna said the data would help the sector and governments plan housing where it was most needed.

He said the number of homes needed was clearly enormous but could be delivered if all levels of government worked together and recognised that subsidised housing was not possible without some form of government support.

“State and local governments need to step up to provide the housing their communities need – either through capital grants in cash or government land, and planning mechanism that recognise housing as critical local infrastructure,” McKenna said.

The report comes as more than 2,400 community leaders and members from almost 200 organisations prepared to fill Sydney Town Hall on Thursday night to fight for concrete political commitments on housing affordability ahead of the NSW and federal elections.

Everybody’s Home campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin said these new figures highlighted that Australia’s housing crisis was a major concern for everyday people.

“It shows the housing system is far more broken that we first thought – but it also shows that delivering the scale of new homes for people who need them is entirely doable with political will and commitment,” Colvin said.

The Everybody’s Home campaign has called for governments to develop a national strategy to provide 500,000 social and affordable rental homes, increase rent assistance to reflect increased housing costs, and create a plan to end homelessness in Australia by 2030.

“The massive turn out for the Sydney Town Hall Assembly tonight shows that housing and cost of living is a key issue that’s biting deeply in the electorate, particularly for millions of Australians locked out of the housing market [or] struggling to pay the rent,” Colvin said.

“We need to rebalance the budget and really redirect the funding for housing to where it’s needed most so that everybody in Australia has a home.”

Source: Probono

Affordable housing tops list of concerns in Marin resident survey

Marin County’s lack of affordable housing topped the list of concerns in a new survey of county residents.

Marin County supervisors reviewed results at their meeting Tuesday. National Research Center Inc., the firm the county paid $38,610 to conduct the survey, randomly sampled 3,200 residents, both in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county. Of that group, 695 responded, about 22 percent.

The survey consisted of 68 categories of questions with allowable multiple choice responses provided in each case. There was only one open-ended question in the survey to which respondents had to write their answer: What do you think is the single biggest priority Marin County government should focus on in the next two years?

The top response, submitted by 27 percent of respondents, was affordable housing. Close behind were traffic improvements at 25 percent and climate change/disaster preparedness at 22 percent.

“My feeling is we really do need to focus on that going forward,” said Supervisor Judy Arnold, regarding affordable housing.

Arnold noted that in previous resident surveys residents typically ranked traffic congestion as the county’s biggest challenge, except during recessionary periods when the economy eclipsed concern over traffic.

Arnold speculated that the launch of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) service may have eased concerns about traffic somewhat. She said getting the SMART train running was a difficult task that took years of work, and she said that the Board of Supervisors needs to put the “same amount of bravery and thought” into addressing the housing issue.

Affordable housing also ranked high when those surveyed were presented with five issues facing the county and asked to rate their importance. Forty-eight percent of respondents ranked preserving affordable housing as essential. Addressing climate change and disaster preparedness received virtually the same ranking on that question, while 56 percent of respondents said investing in county roads and other infrastructure is essential. The question did not explicitly ask respondents which of the five issues they consider paramount.

Sixty-six percent of respondents reported having an annual household income of $100,000 or more; 24 percent reported an annual household income of $250,000 or more. Sixty-percent of respondents said they are working full time, 48 percent outside of Marin County, and 24 percent said they are fully retired.

Eighty-seven percent of those who completed the survey listed their race as white. Fourteen percent said they were Spanish, Hispanic or Latino. Only 1 percent said they were African-American.

After surveys were mailed to randomly selected households in November 2018, Marin County also made available a web-based survey to residents. This “opt-in” survey was made available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and an outreach effort was mounted through the county’s community partners. Assistant County Administrator Daniel Eilerman said a total of 3,068 opt-in surveys were received, and the results closely match those of the random sample.

Concern over housing affordability appeared to vary depending on income. One hundred percent of respondents with an annual income of $250,000 or more said they were not under housing cost stress while 65 percent of those with an annual income between $100,000 and $250,000 said they were unstressed. Only 22 percent of respondents earning less than $100,000 annually said they were not experiencing housing cost stress.

Sixty-five percent of white respondents said they are not under housing cost stress while only 41 percent of respondents who are Hispanic or a race other than white said they are not stressed by housing costs.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said their monthly housing costs amount to $4,000 or more. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they own their own home while 33 percent said they rent.

Asked to rate the quality of service provided by Marin County, state government and the federal government, 22 percent of respondents rated Marin County’s services as excellent. Only 4 percent rated state government services as excellent and 3 percent rated federal government services as excellent.

Supervisor Damon Connolly said while the survey provided useful new information, “It also reinforced that we’re focused on the right issues.”

Both Connolly and Supervisor Kate Sears said they were impressed by the fact that 97 percent of respondents said they talk with a neighbor more than once a month and 88 percent said they do a favor for a neighbor more than once a month.

Connolly said the county needs to factor that sense of community into its wildfire preparedness efforts.

Marin County conducted similar resident surveys in 2005, 2007 and 2009 by phone. The latest survey was done primarily by mail due to increased difficulty reaching people by phone. Only 14 percent of respondents to the new survey said they consider a landline their primary telephone number.

Source: Marinij

The uncertain future of north Atlanta’s most affordable cities

Jerry Margolis removed the drawers from a wooden desk, a scraping sound piercing the empty in Margolis had just sold his work desk to a pair of customers.
As they moved it through an open door in the back of the antique shop and into a pickup truck, a piano version of Killing Me Softly played.

February brought the final days of business at Way Back When Antiques, Margolis’s shop in downtown Chamblee. The property, housed in an olive-green building on Peachtree Road, has been sold to real estate developer Selig Enterprises.

As Margolis prepared to close at the end of the month, his shop had only a smattering of furniture, books, and knickknacks remaining.
Selig reps tell Curbed Atlanta they’re “very bullish on the area,” and the property is part of a long-term strategy with no immediate plans to redevelop. They aren’t alone in their bullishness.

“I’m sure the rent will go up enough that I couldn’t afford to run my antique business,” Margolis says, adding that Chamblee has changed significantly in the 31 years he’s operated in the area.
“It’s grown up, and it’s gotten expensive, so the properties that you used to be able to get for just about nothing have doubled and tripled.”

Price hikes in what’s traditionally been a bastion of relative ITP affordability stretch beyond downtown Chamblee’s Antique Row, a longstanding concentration of antique stores.

Development of potentially regional impact has spread into neighboring Doraville, with the most visible example being Assembly Yards, a 165-acre mixed-use project on the site of the former General Motors plant.
Across the northern arc of intown Atlanta, Chamblee and Doraville are—or were—anomalies. Compared to high-rent neighboring cities Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Doraville until recent years have both seemed downright reasonable.
While Atlanta’s average rent is $1,379, Doraville’s is $1,053—23.6 percent lower. Chamblee, which has seen more development in recent years, now has average rents of $1,319, or 5 percent cheaper than Dunwoody and 8.5 percent cheaper than Brookhaven.
Median home prices in Doraville and Chamblee are similarly lower than their neighbors. Doraville’s median list price per square foot is $176, compared to Dunwoody’s $201, and Brookhaven’s $242. Chamblee has crept up and is now $200.

Though communities as disparate as Hapeville, Scottdale, and Whittier Mill Village are also relatively affordable and ITP, Chamblee and Doraville have greater transit connectivity than most of metro Atlanta. Both lie on MARTA’s gold rail line, in addition to having MARTA bus transit.
The Royal, a privately owned bus line, services Buford Highway, too. These amenities, as government officials stress, make the cities more attractive than ever.

With desirability comes cost, and concerns abound over rising prices—an issue echoed around the country and indeed the world in recent, post-recession years. But in Chamblee and Doraville, the changes of today and tomorrow could be particularly drastic.
These DeKalb County cities have much in common. Both initially prospered as agricultural communities strategically located on major rail lines. In 1917, Chamblee’s dairy land was transformed into the now relocated Camp Gordon, a military installation home to 40,000 personnel that spurred a building and retail boom.

At the end of World War II, the cities looked to industry. Doraville’s GM plant opened in 1947, spawning population and housing growth in the city.
This brought jobs to Chamblee as well, with corporations such as Frito-Lay, Kodak, and General Electric building plants. Chamblee and Doraville were places where industrial workers could afford to live and raise families.

In the 1980s, Chamblee’s plants downsized or closed. Doraville’s GM plant, the project that had sparked progress for both cities, shuttered in 2009.Today, Chamblee and Doraville have higher percentages of Hispanic and Asian people than Atlanta’s average, and this manifests in the local stores, services, and restaurants.
When you call many businesses in Doraville, they answer the phone in Spanish. Many residents call such diversity a plus.

As it did a century ago, large-scale development has come to Chamblee first. This time, instead of a military installation, it’s upscale housing and retail.
In Doraville, officials say, Assembly Yards is the first in a slate of high-end projects that could bring an economic boom but indirectly displace low- and middle-income residents—and change the fabric of the cities.
In Downtown Chamblee, a charming historic area next to a MARTA station where freight trains frequently roll by, there isn’t a blending of old and new. It’s more like the new is poking through the old. Though downtown has considerable open space, it goes for a premium. Land is cleared for The Bristol townhomes, advertised as starting at $600,000.
Signs touting space for lease are ubiquitous, and on a recent weekday afternoon, people strolled sidewalks and indulged in ice cream at a business shaped like a red train caboose. On one end of Peachtree Road, the main thoroughfare, there’s an aged barbershop, with a classic barber’s pole and weatherworn shop sign.
A five-minute walk down the street, three customers entered a newer, more polished version of the barbershop—same pole as the first—with gleaming barber chairs.

The flipside to all of that is the new Chamblee.

In recent years, Chamblee development has exploded. In addition to hundreds of high-end apartments, condos, townhomes, and office space that is finished or planned, there’s now a Whole Foods. The Peachtree Creek Greenway, a walk and bike path and another selling point, is planned to eventually connect Chamblee and Doraville to the Beltline.

“Within the built environment, you’re seeing a lot of changes that are taking shape based on plans that have been in the works for over 20 years,” says Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson, who has lived in the city since the mid-1990s.
Clarkson says planning began in the early 2000s to tie land use to transportation.
Chamblee installed zoning codes to require more density and mixed-use development in order to encourage walkability.

“Chamblee is still relatively affordable,” he says. “But with all the development that’s coming and with folks wanting to be in a very walkable environment, the rents and the outright purchase of housing continually goes up at a pretty rapid pace.”

Over the past two years, average rents in Chamblee have jumped 16 percent, double the rate of Atlanta. Median home prices have climbed 8 percent in the past year.

“You’d rather have real estate appreciation than going down,” Clarkson says. “Heck, I lived through the Great Recession. I think most folks around here did. We don’t want our property values going down.
You want them continually going up, but to this point, we’re still seeing certain pockets as relatively affordable.”

Amy Holmes, a Chamblee resident since 2002, enjoys living in a small city in a large metro. She’s impressed by the city’s planning—and how adding social activities such as summer concerts has helped Chamblee develop an identity.
“We’re really kind of thinking as a city,” she says. “We’re just all stunned by the sudden rise in housing prices, both cost of people’s houses but then the impact of that on rent.”

At the same time, Holmes says she and her neighbors can’t help but notice surging prices.
“We’re just all stunned by the sudden rise in housing prices, both cost of people’s houses but then the impact of that on rent,” she says.

Holmes is president-elect of the Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools, an organization of DeKalb public school parents. She says people at Huntley Hills Elementary School, where two-thirds of kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, are shocked by rising rents.

“I feel a real panic around in the air about just what is our future in terms of affordability of housing,” she says. “I know that for people who are thinking, ‘I’m going to retire and sell my house and it’ll be worth a lot,’ that’s true that that’s a good thing for you.

But if people are planning to stay here and really have this be their home and would like other people to be able to move into the area, especially families that are going to have kids, it feels like a real catch-22 that has no great solution.”

Losing proximity to Chamblee’s MARTA line has been particularly detrimental for middle- and working-class families, observes Mary Hall, who works in Chamblee and lives nearby.

“It’s pretty clear that there’s been a shift in the kinds of folks that can afford to live within walking distance of Chamblee MARTA Station,” Hall says.
Half a mile from Assembly Yards, Doraville’s Mozart Bakery is nestled between two chicken restaurants, one serving KFC (Korean fried chicken, that is) and the other Mexican grilled chicken.
The Buford Highway bakery is a quiet place, where frosted cakes topped with fruit rest behind a glass counter, breads and cookies sit neatly packaged, and menus are in English and Korean.

Welcome to Doraville City Councilmember Stephe Koontz’s de facto office.
“What really makes this area unique is that it’s kind of been preserved, and it hasn’t been gentrified yet,” says Koontz, a longtime Doraville resident.” We have the opportunity to set the tone of what the development here will look like.”

In addition to Assembly Yards and the Peachtree Creek Greenway, there are talks in city council to develop a city center around Doraville MARTA Station.
The city owns a whole block there, so its leaders are considering moving civic services to make way for a dense town center. (Those plans are really a return to the past, as Doraville’s old downtown was leveled to make way for MARTA, which opened in 1992.) This filming hub was created in the Assembly project’s first phase.

Following Chamblee’s lead, Doraville is trying to update its image by dropping the word “industrial” from Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, though most people still refer to the road by its original name.It’s a symbol for how changes from Chamblee could spill north into Doraville.

“There’s people that would like to see this area get gentrified, the prices of everything go up and basically what happened in Decatur,” Koontz says. “When I talk to people that moved to Decatur 10 years ago, they moved there because there was a mix of ethnicity.
There was a lot of quirky little shops like you see on Buford Highway now, a lot of interesting restaurants and places where you could buy different kinds of things, shops you didn’t see in other parts of Atlanta.”

Hundreds of new apartments have been built in the core of Decatur in the past few years, but Koontz says Doraville, as is, doesn’t have enough rental properties to accommodate everyone.

“We’re being affected by other parts of metro Atlanta destroying their affordable housing,” she says, before referencing Beltline areas in particular. “As old-stock apartments are torn down in metro Atlanta and replaced with $3,000-a-month luxury apartments, those people are being displaced, and they’re coming here.”

Sandy Chavarria has lived in Doraville since 1998, when she was a child. As a teenager, she worked in the cafeteria at the Buford Highway Farmers Market.
The stores she frequents, the carnicerías she goes to for her meat, are all there. She says Doraville isn’t known for splashy city development like Dunwoody or Brookhaven, but she sees the city changing.
“People don’t see it physically, but I know that we are growing. I see it. I see more people walking on the streets. I see a lot of people in the MARTA station.”

Nonetheless, Chavarria feels that development could benefit Doraville, in terms of making a physical and infrastructural statement. But having rented in Doraville since moving out of her parents’ house, she says finding somewhere affordable has become tougher.

“Being raised here in Doraville, I want to continue living in Doraville, but until I can afford to buy a house…it’s really hard to stay within the Buford Highway corridor,” she says.

Though some apartments are renovated and have improved living conditions, landlords sometimes charge higher prices without making needed repairs, says Rebekah Cohen Morris, an English literature teacher living in Doraville and housing equity director at Los Vecinos de Buford Highway advocacy organization.

Meanwhile, other housing is being redeveloped. A new elementary school will replace Shallowford Gardens apartment complex. Carver Hills, a black neighborhood created by GM, is slated to be redeveloped into single-family houses and townhomes. (Residents were in unanimous support of selling their properties and moving.)

Cohen Morris says displacement issues are both obvious and not.
“We’re seeing a lot more people just kind of open their homes and their apartments and allow [in] families that lost their homes due to it being torn down for a new condo or townhome,” she says.
“We’ve seen other people start living together, like two or three families in a one, two, or three-bedroom unit. It kind of masks some of the displacement.”
Chamblee’s history as an industrial area has perhaps worked in affordable housing’s favor.
So far, development has taken former industrial property, not touching any affordable or older housing, according to Mayor Clarkson.
“Now, unfortunately,” he says, “a lot of that affordability hasn’t aged well and more than likely will need to be replaced in the not-too-distant future.”
“I don’t know why thinking about executives living in your neighborhood isn’t considered diversity. I think you need all walks of life.”
Clarkson is interested in exploring incentives for housing affordability through federal opportunity zones—economically distressed communities where new investments could be eligible for tax benefits. One of these opportunity zones is near Chamblee’s MARTA station.
“That area’s where we have a lot of aging multifamily [housing],” Clarkson says. “I think there’s going to be some real good opportunity, no pun intended, to look at what that opportunity zone means as a vehicle for helping us.”
So far, the area around Chamblee MARTA Station has seen the addition of affordable housing exclusively for seniors.
Developed by the nonprofit Mercy Housing Southeast, Senior Residences at Mercy Park, a 79-unit apartment complex, rents one-bedrooms for $550 to $681 monthly to people at least 62 years old.
Ronit Hoffer, project developer at Mercy Housing Southeast, notes the Walmart and Whole Foods nearby.
“If it’s a transportation-oriented development, if it’s right next to MARTA, then the idea is you don’t necessarily need a car, which is good for low-income folks,” says Hoffer. “Chamblee’s got a lot going, and we’re sort of getting in on it on the ground floor.”
Conversely, Clarkson is pleased that Chamblee has seen more executive move-up housing built, as most of the city’s housing has traditionally been affordable but smaller.
“It was a perpetual moving in, moving out. And so with the advent for infill housing, more infill subdivisions, some larger homes, you get a greater diversity,” says the mayor.
“I don’t know why thinking about executives living in your neighborhood isn’t considered diversity. I think you need all walks of life, all socioeconomic levels, all ethnicities. I think it’s very healthy.”

But to make affordability work, Chamblee needs density, Clarkson says.

Councilmember Koontz also wants density for Doraville. She says the city should look at how to incentivize mixed-income housing that’s a combination of high-end larger units and more basic smaller units, with uniform exteriors.

Koontz says the city council is beginning to explore how to attract these housing options, discussing measures such as bonuses for developers and reduced parking requirements near the MARTA station.

“If we displace the current residents that live here and lose the diversity and the population that live in this area, not only is that going to change the whole housing market, it’s going to cause all the businesses up and down this corridor to fail,” Koontz says. “If we wait five years, it’s going to be too late.”

Chamblee resident Holmes says she worries about her neighbors being forced to move because of cost.

“Part of the reason that all of us have liked our neighborhoods in Doraville and Chamblee is because there’s a wide variety of people. When I moved into Huntley Hills, there’s plumbers and electricians and there’s also lawyers, etcetera,” she says. “That’s a normal cross-section of American society to live in, which is a cool thing.”

Hall feels that planners need to study and take things slowly in order to avoid unintended consequences.

“Growth is necessary and important,” she says. “But it shouldn’t come to the detriment of the cultural mix that makes this a really strong area and the families that have raised their kids.”

Cohen Morris, who is running for Doraville City Council in November, says the city needs to preserve affordable housing and develop mixed-income housing in high-density areas, especially near the MARTA station.

“We need to be really intentional so that we don’t overlook people and so that everyone gets to share in the new successes that the cities are experiencing,” she says.


At Way Back When Antiques, a faint smell of wood in the air, Margolis reflected on the changes he’s seen in Chamblee over the decades.

“If it goes like the city wants it to, I think it’ll be really neat. It’ll be a walkable city,” he says. “The properties that antique shops are sitting on become too valuable to the owners to just rent out to an antique shop, and if they need to raise the rent, antique dealers can’t do high-end retail. And that’s what Chamblee is becoming—high-end retail.”

Outside, a MARTA train pulled out of the Chamblee station and passed an increasing number of upscale stores and homes. Traveling on an elevated track behind Way Back When Antiques, the train bent into the distance and out of sight.

Source: Adina Solomon

Rethinking Housing Finance

Water pass garri is a very apt way to describe the housing finance situation in Nigeria. The Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank at a recent industry event mentioned that since inception in 1973, the FMBN has funded 18,935 mortgages at a total cost of N193.4 billion.

To put things in context, Nigeria has a mortgage to GDP ratio of circa 0.6%, which is puny, compared to our regional nephew; Ghana which stands at 2%, and very abysmal when viewed against south Africa with a 31% ratio. Clearly, while the mortgage industry has been around for nearly half a century, it has not shed its nascence.

The obvious question then is; if the mortgage industry is so underdeveloped, how have Nigerians been acquiring homes?

Available data suggests that over 90% of homes in Nigeria are acquired by incremental building. This is analogous to buying a car in parts; one tire today, a carburetor in six months and a pair of seat belts a while later.

However, as grossly inefficient as this method of home acquisition is, given the very high interest rates for mortgages, it is by far the more practical, and affordable option open to most Nigerians.

In light of the pittance that the FMBN brings into the housing finance pool, the effective mortgage interest rates in Nigeria which ranges from 15% – 22% will make even soulless loan sharks in more advanced economies drool with longing. So, why isn’t capital flowing, as it should in the direction of the greatest return?

Why isn’t the Nigerian mortgage sector awash with patient international capital in pursuit of the clearly higher returns that can be made?

There is a long list of reasons but these three are perhaps most critical. Firstly, the significant foreign exchange risk associated with volatile frontier markets; secondly, the fact that capital is mostly sector agnostic, and so even if it comes into Nigeria,

it would probably go into sectors with less risk, and greater asset liquidity; and thirdly, the often ignored fact that in spite of the touted housing deficit figures, the high poverty rate in the country means that there is actually very little effective demand for housing.

Since pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is in reality a rare miracle or a freak accident, how else might we succeed at the more practical matter of attracting capital into the mortgage sector?

Apparently, our current macro-economic and policy environment makes it difficult to pull in patient institutional capital.

Consequently, it will be useful to explore other avenues for attracting capital that are relatively cheap, and somewhat patient.

One such vein of capital can be diaspora remittances. Most recent data indicates that annual remittances through formal channels amounts to about $25billion.

A useful backdrop against which to view this figure is the total mortgage loans generated by FMBN in its nearly half a century of operation; 193 Billion i.e$0.5billion.

Clearly, given the right policy, and legislative framework, and a conscientious marketing programme, the Nigerian Diaspora can with a tiny fraction (2%) of their annual remittances, equal FMBN 50 year performance.

Source: Wole Olabanji

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