News & Event
A gubernatorial forum and debate between the 2018 candidates will be held on Wednesday, May 9th at the Sheraton Airport Hotel, 1850 Post Road in Warwick, RI.
This forum will be focused on the issue of affordable housing, with the debate portion of the night to be moderated by Bill Rappleye of NBC 10.
Doors open at 6:30PM, the event will begin at 7PM, and is set to conclude by 9PM.
Attendees will be encouraged to actively participate and raise topics, questions, and issues for discussion.
Future forums are planned regarding the issues of: healthcare, "A tale of two Rhode Islands", and economic success.
Candidates confirmed for this event are, in no particular order:
Paul Roselli, Democrat
Spencer Dickinson, Democrat
Giovanni Feroce, Republican
TBA, Moderate Party
Invitations have also been extended to candidates Allan Fung (R), Patricia Morage (R), Matt Brown (D), Joe Trillo (I) and incumbent Gina Raimondo (D) but their attendance has not yet been confirmed.
To get up to date information, visit the Facebook Page of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island or RSVP here
Courtesy of North Kingstown Patch
By Mary MacDonald | April 27, 2018 6:30 am
R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp. is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year in a position of financial strength, says Executive Director Barbara Fields.
It has created programs to assist first-time homeowners, expanded its servicing of mortgages to include those generated by MaineHousing and emerged from the Great Recession with a surplus of financial assets.
But it is working against a backdrop of unaffordability. Half of all renters and 30 percent of homeowners in Rhode Island are housing-cost burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their take-home income on rent and utilities.
Fields has been executive director of the quasi-public agency since January 2015. She previously was the New England regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the director of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. in Providence.
What’s the best way for Rhode Island to increase access to affordable housing?
“Build, build, build,” she said.
How has the mission of R.I. Housing changed over the past 45 years? R.I. Housing was established by the General Assembly in 1973 as a public corporation of the state. We have an independent existence from the state, although they exercise a central control over our board. Our primary purpose was to encourage investment of private funds for the development of housing for low- and moderate-income persons, and to function as a source of capital for affordable-housing development. We were basically set up to be the state’s housing bank at a time when many other states were doing this. Today, there are 53 housing finance agencies [nationally].
Within Rhode Island, what is your share of home loan origination? Last year, we did 13 percent of the mortgages in the state. Origination … is only 15 percent of our business. Eighty-five percent of our business comes from working with 40 brokers and lenders and we consider them, obviously, critical and important partners. The No. 1 is [Coastway Community Bank]. They help bring us business. Housing is economic development. We help support local businesses. … Also, we were set up to bring private money in to help people get into home ownership. We go to Wall Street and float taxable and tax-exempt bonds, both for single-family and multifamily.
Since the [Great Recession], what has changed in our business is we also sell in the secondary market. We get a warehouse line of credit. We work with three or four banks. We purchase the mortgages and when we get enough, we bundle them and we sell them in the secondary market as securitized mortgages.
What’s the benefit of doing that? The interest rates have been extremely low. There are key Rhode Island officials … who got their first mortgages at RIHousing. [Former Auditor General] Ernie Almonte in 1982 or 1983 bought [his] first house. The rates were 15-16 percent and we could get you 12 [percent]. We forget. In a video on our website he stands in front of his first house. That speaks to what our major focus and mission is. People who are early in their career, buying a home and setting roots in the community. Last year was a banner year. We did almost 1,800 mortgages. The average age of someone who got a mortgage through RIHousing last year was 37.
Is there any focus this year for the organization? Rental apartments for working families, working individuals and a lot more seniors. We have a growing senior population. … [Recently], we got the first-ever Capital Magnet Fund. We got one of the largest in the country. It’s from the U.S. Department of Treasury. It’s $4.7 million and it will help us on a key focus. … We run a lot of federal programs on behalf of the state. One of them is the federal low-income housing tax credit. … There are two sets of credits. One is a deeper subsidy, called the 9 percent. It’s highly competitive. We’re doing as much as we possibly can with what we get. The other, which is a shallower subsidy [of 4 percent] that has to be used with our first mortgage, that is limited by the state’s bond capacity. We are not tapped out, and we would love to do more of those deals. And produce more rental housing and preserve housing that exists. [With] that Capital Magnet, we’ll be able to fill that hole, between the 4 percent and the 9 percent.
What is the profile of your mortgage borrower? The average household income for the homeowners we served last year was … about $66,000 to $67,000. That’s teachers who may be in for a few years, certified accountants, nursing assistants, construction workers. This is the heart and soul of what makes up our middle class. And the average sale price was just under $200,000. And I’m proud of the fact that 27 percent of our mortgages are reaching the minority community. We’re seeing rising prices, so some of that rise is good, it means our economy is getting better. … One of the challenges is … just having more housing built in the state.
You’ve touched on the lack of inventory in single-family homes. What is the solution? How do we get more inventory? Build, build, build.
How? There are different pieces. Some of them we’re beginning to explore: if there are zoning challenges and communities that aren’t interested. Personally, I’ve been going around the state for the past year. I’ve been in Barrington, Middletown, Cumberland, talking to mayors, city councilors and town councils. I would have to say, by and large, they are welcoming. Everyone at this point has a story to tell. It’s either my son won’t leave the house, [or] soon it will be my mother won’t leave the house. Or my sister-in-law’s godchild and her fiancé are looking for a house, and they can’t find it. Seniors are staying longer in their homes. They’re living longer and are in better health. That’s not freeing [housing] up.
If there is an understanding of what the issue is, why aren’t more towns creating zoning to allow more density? I think South Kingstown just did some [rezoning] along Route 1. As I say to the communities, think about your community. I’ve been out with two mayors now, I’m about to go with a third, [and I say] drive me around your city, your town, and tell me, where do you want development? Because it is likely to come, and wouldn’t you want to proactively direct it to those places? In South Kingstown, they started talking about some properties that they knew.
There is always going to be some NIMBY-ism [or “not in my backyard”], but we have not had that raised as a major issue. We’re now funding our second project in Barrington. … We have done one now in Shannock Village, in Charlestown. These are apartments for families, most earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. Anyone can apply. But mostly you get people from your community. When we run the numbers in these communities, usually you find 20 percent of current residents would be eligible. … The most important thing to understand is there isn’t one type of housing that we advocate for. We have high-rise buildings. We have single-family homes being built. We have duplexes. We have ground-floor retail and townhouses.
So, people may have a visual that pops into their head when they think of affordable housing. They don’t want it developed in their community because they think it’s going to be ugly? We’re smarter about how to build [today]. We think about housing as part of the community, and community is the economic life of the state. I’m a community-development person coming into housing, so I am always thinking about the connection. We always look when we are financing multifamily rental, where are the parks, where’s the bus line, where do you shop for groceries? What is it that makes a community?
People still assume millennials are living in the basement with their parents. But they’re out there buying now, they are the starter-home market. You have a variety of mortgage programs, including down-payment assistance. But they’re running into an inventory problem. Are the state’s demographics part of the problem? It’s a variety of factors. You have millennials who are now ready to buy. You have a tremendous change in the economy. We went from the second-worst unemployment rate in the country to one of the lowest. We did a 10-year study. Even if the population grows slowly, we projected it would grow at 5 percent [over 10 years]. Households will grow at 12-13 percent. People are waiting longer to marry. You have a lot of singles, or two people in a house without a child until later. So, people need more houses. People are divorcing. You have more households being created by all of these factors. Especially if you go back and see what was going on 30 years ago. The average size in public housing is smaller. Occasionally we will see a proposal come in with a four-bedroom unit or a five-bedroom unit. But we are building one, two and three [bedrooms].
There is some pushback in Providence that the new housing being constructed is primarily downtown housing not designed to accommodate families, who also need housing. Does Rhode Island need more small apartments? A healthy rental market has about a 6.5-7.5 percent rental vacancy rate, so you have turnover, you have empty units for people to come and look at. The nation is below that. Rhode Island dropped last year … to under 4 percent. And Providence is lower than the state. Providence is about 2 percent. So, we need rental apartments, as well as owner-occupied apartments. We’re in a niche, but it’s needed across the income ranges. Part of what’s increased the demand here also is people coming from the Boston area. This is an attractive place to live.
In Massachusetts, a state law called 40B seems to have more strength in getting affordable housing built in individual towns. (The law allows developers to bypass local zoning in towns or cities that have less than 10 percent of the housing stock available at affordable prices.) What is the challenge for Rhode Island’s affordable-housing requirement? FortyB has a lot more teeth. I would say, yes, we have a 10 percent law. … A [state] commission is looking at how to make it stronger.
Do you think it needs to be made stronger, to distribute affordable housing? Yes, I believe so. When you sit down and talk to a community about who would live in the housing you’re talking about, it becomes a very different story. Up here, it’s like numbers, ideas and images. Down here, it’s “Oh, it’s my best friend. It’s my brother-in-law.”
There are many Rhode Islanders who earn less than the state median, as well. I don’t care what your job is. No one makes in their first five years what they might later. We want to accommodate that. I’m sure Ernie Almonte’s salary is different today than it was 25 years ago, when we helped him buy his first house. But that was a good investment to make. It wasn’t a giveaway.
Some activist groups have recommended rent control in Providence, to dampen price escalation. Is rent control an option? My preference is to build. Supply is the approach now being done in Boston. If we can increase the supply, it helps to moderate the prices. We are also involved in several efforts to make sure we maintain the affordable units that we have, that work for people at the lowest income levels. We are very committed to preservation, whether it’s senior units or family housing. We need to preserve what we have. A lot of the housing we’re preserving is 30 years old.
Some community advocates in Providence think city incentives via tax-stabilization agreements should not be used on luxury housing. The Fane Organization tower could be the next argument over this. Should public incentives be used for luxury product? I would just say the TSA process needs to be predictable. No matter what program we run, people want predictability. In Providence, TSAs are needed so we have predictability. If you meet these requirements, you can come in.
Sen. Howard Metts, D-Providence, has raised the issue of discrimination against Section 8 tenants, that the people who hold the vouchers are having trouble finding apartments. He has proposed a law that would prevent landlords from using the source of income as a reason to block a lease. Is this an issue? Absolutely. Thirteen states have that law, including four New England states. We’re supportive of [his proposal].
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has proposed a transfer to the state of $5 million from R.I. Housing in fiscal 2019. Can the state “scoop” your funds? The board will have to vote on it. We’re going to minimize the impact. It will have an impact, obviously, but we’re going to minimize it. This came up in January. We know the budget will be made by the end of June.
Why did you agree to do it? The governor controls the board and we’re part of the team. Someone talked to the chairman. It’s not an optimal situation. But we’re going to minimize it. We get rated by the bond-rating agencies and we’re talking with them. They will take a look at our rating. But we happen to be in a strong position.
According to your most recent annual audit, your loan-loss contribution fell dramatically in fiscal 2017. What is the story behind that? The market is doing better. People are doing better. We had tremendous losses during the recession, now we’re on a different path. We hope it continues.
The same audit indicated that the three-month delinquencies on R.I. Housing mortgages rose between 2016 and 2017. What is the reason for that? We had a slight uptick, but we are on top of it. We are below nationwide and below New England. We have new metrics we’re following and are working with our 40 brokers and lenders. We look at people’s credit scores and we look at their ratios. We meet, we want [the Federal Housing Administration] to purchase our mortgages, FHA and Fannie Mae. We have some flexibility. We instituted a credit score to raise it a little, to make sure we’re in line with the rest of the New England states.
Some people think homeownership shouldn’t necessarily be identified as a dream for everyone. That maybe we shouldn’t be encouraging homeownership. Do you have any thoughts on that? We should always have a range of housing options. … There are people who need a homeownership opportunity, they’ve saved for years. It may be a single-family, a townhouse, a condominium. We need rental opportunities. Seniors who owned a home who need a rental opportunity. Supportive opportunities, say veterans, where there are services on-site for them. And we also work on properties where we have the vouchers. Every community needs to think, at different points in people’s lives … there are different reasons why people choose types of housing.
Courtesy of Providence Business News
Washington, DC – A diverse range of organizations from various sectors announced a new campaign today to increase affordable housing for America’s most vulnerable communities.
The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign launched today at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC’s) Housing Policy Forum in Washington, DC. With financial support from the Funders for Housing and Opportunity, NLIHC launched this new multi-sector affordable homes campaign together with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children’s HealthWatch, Make Room, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and with a steering committee that includes Catholic Charities USA, Children’s Defense Fund, Community Catalyst, Food Research and Action Center, NAACP, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Education Association, and UnidosUS.
Stakeholders from multiple sectors are increasingly recognizing the importance of affordable housing to their own priorities and goals. The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign seeks to mobilize powerful new constituencies beyond housing to ensure that people with the lowest incomes have access to safe, decent, affordable housing in neighborhoods where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive.
Recent NLIHC research shows the U.S. has a shortage of 7.2 million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low income (ELI) renters, and 11 million ELI renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on housing. There are only 35 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 ELI households nationwide, and no state has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the lowest income renters. Just one out of four eligible low income households receives federal housing assistance.
The consequences of America’s affordable housing crisis are spilling over into many other areas like the education, health care, civil rights, anti-hunger, homelessness, and anti-poverty sectors. By combining voices and expertise, leading organizations from these sectors seek to build a broad national movement that promotes federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing.
The long-term goals of the campaign are to promote federal policies that:
The campaign will also act to defend against funding cuts and harmful policy changes in existing low income housing programs.
Opportunity Starts at Home is also working to strengthen the capacities of multi-sector state coalitions that share the campaign’s goals. The campaign has already issued capacity-building grants to partners in seven states: California, Idaho, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah.
“The time to act is now,” said Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO. “The housing affordability problem has reached historic heights. Federal housing assistance is chronically underfunded and faces increasing threats. It’s time for those who believe that everyone in America deserves a safe and affordable home to join in a movement that will ensure fundamental opportunities for people most in need.”
“UnidosUS is dedicated to improving opportunities for Latinos and we’re especially proud of our work over the past 50 years to empower Latinos to contribute and to share in the nation’s economic opportunities,” said Eric Rodriguez, UnidosUS vice president for policy and advocacy. “A good home is the foundation for many of those opportunities: a better education for our children, enhanced employment opportunities, and a safe and stable place for families to live. We joined Opportunity Starts at Home because too many hardworking families struggle to keep a roof over their heads and it will take all sectors of society to make progress and ensure that more Americans, including Latinos, have a place to call home.”
“The United States cannot say we cherish our children when millions of extremely poor children each year suffer through homelessness or are denied access to safe and affordable housing,” said Richard Hooks Wayman, national executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund. “Research shows that half of our intelligence potential is developed by age four. Positive child development is linked to a sense of safety, predictability, and routines. We must do our part to ensure that children have housing stability during a critical stage of development. We must do our part to ensure that housing in this nation is affordable and accessible. And we must do our part to ensure that investments in affordable housing production that keep children safe and secure is continued.”
“NAMI is proud to be a part of this multi-sector housing campaign because access to decent, safe and affordable housing is a critical need for people living with a mental illness,” said Andrew Sperling, director of legislative and policy advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It is simply not possible to achieve recovery and a full life in the community without stable housing. Given the current threats to rental assistance programs it is critical that NAMI joins with our partners across so many diverse sectors to fight for policies and future investments in affordable rental housing programs.”
“NEA is committed to the three million members and the 50 million students we serve and are pleased to support programs, campaigns and initiatives that are in support of students, educators and families,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. “We understand and know firsthand the impacts affordable and stable housing have on student success. We also know that given the wages and income of some of our members, it impacts where they work as well as their own families.”
“The NAACP is proud to join this multi-sector housing campaign as it aligns with our goal of economic equality in housing,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “The research is increasingly clear that housing affects all aspects of a quality life; therefore, federal housing policy is very important for the people we serve. We find that threats to federal housing assistance are unprecedented and this campaign will indeed shed a brighter light on the needs of all people.”
“Housing affordability is one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. It limits economic mobility, reinforces racial inequities, reduces health and education outcomes, and is a primary driver of homelessness in the United States,” said Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign brings together an unprecedented multi-sector coalition, focused on increasing critically needed federal investments in affordable housing. We are honored to be part of this important effort.”
“No one should be without a safe and stable home, which is why the Opportunity Starts at Homecampaign is so critical, especially now,” said Ali Solis, president and CEO of Make Room Inc. “By partnering with organizations from the healthcare, housing and education sectors who share our mission, Make Room hopes to accelerate our goal of creating a country where everyone has a home that they can afford. We are honored to be part of this important campaign.”
“Too often, the issues of housing, health, education and income security are considered in silos, separate from one another,” said Doug Rice, senior policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “But a home is much more than just four walls and a roof; it’s the pathway to a healthier, more prosperous, and more secure life, and something that far too many Americans cannot attain. We are excited to join forces with leaders in so many fields to advance effective solutions to help our nation’s most vulnerable.”
“A stable, affordable home is a prescription for good health,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, principal investigator with Children’s HealthWatch. “Children’s HealthWatch is excited to join our colleagues on the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign to identify solutions that provide access to safe, decent, affordable housing in neighborhoods where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive.”
Learn more about the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign at: www.OpportunityHome.org
Opportunity Starts at Home is a new national multi-sector campaign to generate widespread support for federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing.
Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.
Courtesy of Opportunity Starts at Home, NLIHC
By KENDRA GRAVELLE | Jun 23, 2018
SOUTH KINGSTOWN—With the topic of affordable housing on the minds of many who live in South Kingstown, the town’s affordable housing collaborative committee hosted a workshop at the South Kingstown Recreation Center Tuesday to hear residents’ thoughts on the issue.
“By providing affordable housing it helps our community become a little bit more diverse, it allows for us to age in place,” said Cheryl Hartnett, chair of the affordable housing collaborative committee. “Then the other portion that really hits home for me is for it to remain a vibrant multicultural community.”
“We need to think about, what kind of community do we want South Kingstown to be?” she continued.
Planning Director Chelsea Siefert explained Tuesday that housing that costs 30 percent or less of someone’s income is typically considered affordable. And when it comes to affordable housing currently available in South Kingstown, Siefert added the town is “lacking.”
There are two kinds of affordable housing—there’s deed-restricted, income-based housing, and there’s affordable housing in a more general sense, which considers what housing affordability in South Kingstown is like overall.
A state mandate indicates that 10 percent of the year-round housing in a given town should be deed-restricted affordable. In South Kingstown, currently just 5.6 percent of the housing—612 units—fall under that category.
Siefert added that a perusal Tuesday of Realtor.com painted a grim picture of affordable housing in South Kingstown.
The website indicated there’s currently a very low number of affordable listings—just six two-bedroom houses were listed under $200,000—as well as a lack of affordable year-round rental properties.
Jen Krueger, member services director of Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale and a member of the affordable housing collaborative committee, added that the lack of affordable housing in town means that many who are employed locally—in the service industry for example—are unable to afford to live where they work.
“If you think about all these different kinds of places where folks are not able to make $25 of $30 an hour, they’re really, really having trouble finding any housing here where they work,” she said, adding those with disabilities or on fixed incomes are also struggling.
“There are just so many different people that really need housing that’s affordable,” she continued. “Even if someone gets a Section 8 voucher that they can use in South Kingstown or Narragansett, I personally have had a very difficult time finding rentals that folks may well have waited years to be eligible for.”
She said because of that, many families who have lived in the area for generations have been left with no choice but to relocated to more affordable towns up north.
Hartnett echoed some of that. She added she appreciates the town’s vibrancy, but doesn’t think it can be sustained if housing prices remain where they are.
“The other thing that saddens me when I drive around town too is the empty storefronts,” she added. “In order to fill those storefronts, we need to be able to entice businesses to come here, and in order to do that there needs to be homes for their employees.”
Those in attendance—including many local leaders as well as Town Manager Rob Zarnetske and Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow—were divided into groups to discuss among themselves their visions for affordable housing and the hurdles which pose challenges to those visions.
The round-table portion of the meeting churned up all kinds of thoughts on the topic. Among those mentioned was a resounding concern over the lack of education on what affordable housing means.
“[There’s] a lack of understanding among the general public of what we mean by affordable housing,” Zarnetske said.
“A major challenge is actually this notion that the ideal is pretty close to what we’ve got,” he continued. “A lot of people in town really think we’ve got it exactly right.”
Several people Tuesday mentioned the concept of NIMBYism (not-in-my-back-yard), and added it would be crucial to break through stereotypes.
Some of the points listed under visions were thoughts of utilizing accessory units; encouraging starter homes; sharing resources with the University of Rhode Island; and the possibility of adding more diverse housing.
“Right now we have a lot of single-family houses, we don’t have a lot of smaller structure or multi-units,” planning board member Joe Murphy said.
Kenny Burke, who’s on the affordable housing collaborative committee, urged those eager to lend a hand to become involved with local nonprofits doing work in affordable housing, including the Welcome House of South County, the Jonnycake Center and Galilee Mission. He also encouraged residents to follow what’s going on in the local committees.
Siefert added a public hearing during Monday’s town council meeting will invite residents to share their thoughts on proposed zoning changes for multi-housing developments. She also said the town currently has a request for proposal (RFP) out to hire someone to help review the town’s inclusionary zoning ordinance.
“When you have a major land development project or major subdivision that’s six units or more, you have to provide 20 percent as deed-restricted affordable housing,” Siefert explained. “We want to figure out how we can better make use of that, incentivize it better, get more concrete results out of that.”
With a lack of affordable housing in the town, Hartnett added Tuesday she was pleased to see so many South Kingstown residents advocating for changing that.
“I’m happy to see that our wheels seem to be spinning,” Hartnett said. “Affordable housing is a hot topic and I love to see everyone that’s come out engaging in the community.”
Courtesy of The Narragansett Times
These changes could help offset the impact of the lowered corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, which effectively reduces the value of Housing Credits to corporate investors. Some experts estimate that the lowered corporate tax rate will significantly reduce investor demand for the Housing Credit and could result in 20,000 fewer homes being built under the program annually.
Courtesy of NLIHC
By CONOR DOUGHERTYJAN. 18, 2018
SAN FRANCISCO — The last time that Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code, in 1986, it created a tax credit meant to encourage the private sector to invest in affordable housing. It has grown into a $9 billion-a-year social program that has funded the construction of some three million apartments for low-income residents.
But the Republican tax plan approved last month amounts to a vast cutback, making it much less likely that such construction will continue apace. Because the tax rate for corporations has been lowered, the value of the credits — which corporations get in return for their investments — is also lower.
“It’s the greatest shock to the affordable-housing system since the Great Recession,” said Michael Novogradac, managing partner of Novogradac & Company, a national accounting firm based in San Francisco.
According to an analysis by his firm, the new tax law will reduce the growth of subsidized affordable housing by 235,000 units over the next decade, compounding an existing shortage.
Already, developers and city agencies are scrambling for new financing and scaling back longer-term plans.
Don Falk can see the fallout from his window. Mr. Falk is the chief executive of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, an affordable-housing developer in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin district. Directly across the street from his office sits a new project, a rising eight-story building that will have 113 units, a third of those set aside to serve the city’s swelling homeless population.
A year ago, as the market for tax credits started falling in expectation that a Republican president and a Republican Congress would steeply lower taxes, the project developed a $3 million deficit. The city stepped in to cover the shortfall, but the financing problem was an early indication of what affordable-housing groups and developers expect to be a declining pace of new building.
Kate Hartley, director of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development — the agency that backstopped Mr. Falk’s development when it needed help — said the lower corporate tax rate had increased the cost of building affordable housing in the city by roughly $50,000 per unit. That adds up to a lot of multimillion-dollar leaks, she said, “and we have less money to build the units we want to build.”
For renters like Sandy Hernandez, who lives south of San Francisco in a two-bedroom apartment with her ex-husband and two children, this is coming at the worst possible time. Her building was recently purchased by a group of investors, and next month her $1,900 rent is scheduled to go up $850 — more than 40 percent — to $2,750. Ms. Hernandez said there is no way she can pay that much, but she’s stuck because the list for affordable housing is so long.
“It’s hard because there’s a lot of people in the same situation,” she said.
Programs to build subsidized rental housing date back to the Great Depression, and were greatly expanded during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty.” Support for these programs started to wane under President Richard Nixon, and they were vastly scaled back under President Ronald Reagan.
But unlike public housing programs, which tended to expand under Democratic administrations and shrink under Republican ones, tax credits proved enduring and politically popular.
Conservatives saw the approach as a tax break and a way to use private markets to solve public problems. Liberals saw it as a way to direct federal money to local communities. Since 1987, it has funded construction and rehabilitation of about 30 percent of the nation’s 10 million affordable units, which are defined as units that people making 60 percent or less of a city’s median income could afford.
“It’s the most successful social program that nobody has heard of,” said David Erickson, director of community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the author of “The Housing Policy Revolution.”
It works like this: State governments award credits to affordable-housing developers, who transfer them to corporations in exchange for equity in rental buildings whose units are set aside for low-income tenants. Corporations use the credits as a coupon against future taxes. Low-income housing tax credits are particularly popular among banks because affordable-housing investments help satisfy their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act.
The need is particularly great today. The number of renters has surged over the past decade, with the country adding about one million renters a year since 2010 — about twice as many as the previous rental peak in the 1970s and ’80s, according to a 2017 report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Developers have responded with an apartment building boom. But since renters tend to have higher incomes than in years past — households making more than $100,000 a year accounted for a third of the growth in renters over the past decade — many of the newer units are in the pricey glass and steel buildings that have sprouted in downtowns across the country.
There are some indications that the rush of building is helping increase affordability, especially at the upper end of the market, where vacancies are rising and rents are falling. Still, low-income housing remains undersupplied. About half of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and a quarter pay more than half.
In California, legislators have proposed a range of fixes, from more money for affordable housing to fewer building regulations and increased tenant protections. State Senator Scott Wiener, the author of a recently enacted law that makes it harder for cities to block housing developments, has followed up with several proposed bills that would, among other things, increase construction around train stations and other transit hubs.
At the federal level, Senators Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, and Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, sponsored a proposal to increase the number of low-income housing tax credits by 50 percent.
For now, there is little to suggest the rental burden will get better anytime soon. Over the next decade the younger half of the millennial generation will move into their 20s and 30s, adding to the pool of renters. Over that same period, more than a million units of affordable housing financed by low-income housing tax credits and other government programs are set expire and shift to higher rents, according to the Joint Center.
One result of the surge in higher-income renters is that units that policymakers politely refer to as “naturally occurring affordable housing” — run-down buildings where lower-income residents can afford an apartment without subsidy — are being pulled toward the higher end of the market.
In Redwood City, on the peninsula between San Francisco and the heart of Silicon Valley, private equity firms have been snapping up buildings that house lower-income service workers and repositioning them for higher-income tech workers. The pitch to investors is straightforward: With housing scarce and demand rising, there are returns to be made buying old buildings, marketing to new tenants, and steadily increasing the rent.
That has put a squeeze on tenants like Ms. Hernandez, a 41-year-old holding down two low-wage jobs, one cleaning houses and another at an elder care facility. She has spent a decade waiting for a subsidized rental apartment to open up.
Jesshill Love, an attorney for the investors who now own Ms. Hernandez’s building, said that with demand exploding, the rents could have actually been raised even more. “The decision was made by the property management company not to raise the rent to full market value in an effort to minimize the impact upon the families,” he said.
The backlash has been fierce. Rent-control measures have popped up in cities across the Bay Area. Last week, Ms. Hernandez and other tenants in her building gathered at the offices of Redwood Landing, the building’s management company, chanting things like “Hear our cry, rent’s too high,” while holding signs that read “Stop Displacement Now.”
The protest attracted lots of honking horns and a visit from Redwood City’s mayor. Directly across the street from the hubbub sat a recreational vehicle parked for the evening. Its two homeless residents popped their heads out to see what was going on.
Lisa Hannibal, 52, who lives in the vehicle and is unemployed, said that she was also on a list for affordable housing, but that nothing had opened up.
“We’re at the hard-suffering point,” she said. “But it can happen to anybody these days.”
Courtesy of The New York Times
NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley is receiving a grant of $258,000.
By News Desk, News Partner | Apr 18, 2018 3:26 pm ET
From the Office of U.S. Congressmen David N. Cicilline:
U.S. Congressmen David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) announced that Rhode Island community organizations are receiving nearly $450,000 through NeighborWorks America to support affordable housing and revitalizing local communities. NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley is receiving a grant of $258,000, while the West Elmwood Housing Development Corp. is receiving $188,000 in new funds.
"Quality affordable housing is the bedrock of the middle class, and this investment will give more Rhode Island families the opportunity to find a new home," said Cicilline who advocated for a $35 million increase in annual federal support for NeighborWorks America. "Benefitting families in West Elmwood and across the Blackstone Valley, these resources will open the door to a new life for so many Rhode Islanders. It's vital that we continue to ramp up support for effective programs like these that have a proven record of delivering results for Rhode Island."
"Too many families lack access to the safe and affordable housing that is vital for financial stability and economic security," said Langevin. "I am pleased this grant funding will provide needed investments to revitalize our neighborhoods and help Rhode Island families find a place to call home. Woonsocket and Providence will use these additional resources to fund community development and support counselling services for families in need."
The final government spending bill approved by Congress and signed by the President included $140 million for NeighborWorks America. It also boosted support for affordable housing and community development, including increases of $1.25 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, $808.5 million for the Public Housing Capital Fund, $412 million for HOME Investment Partnerships, and $175.6 million for Housing for the Elderly, among others.
NeighborWorks America supports more than 245 local and regional non-profit partner residents. Since it was established in 1978, NeighborWorks America has worked to advance affordable housing in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
"With the generous support of Congress, NeighborWorks America is proud to award these grants to NeighborWorks network organizations throughout all fifty states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to provide affordable housing opportunities, build strong neighborhoods, and create jobs. Through our strong investment in our network, we franchise excellence throughout our nearly 250 organizations," said NeighborWorks America's Interim President and CEO Jeffrey Bryson. "A strong indicator of the value of these grants is that in fiscal year 2017, we leveraged $59 dollars of other investments for every $1 provided by Congress to NeighborWorks America – resulting in a direct investment of $8.3 billion in communities across the country."
In FY 2017, NeighborWorks America and the NeighborWorks network provided over 455,000 housing and counseling services, including:
NeighborWorks is a Congressionally-chartered nonprofit that supports a network of nearly 250 nonprofit organizations, located in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico by providing grants, technical assistance, and best-in-class training that assists their efforts to build and maintain affordable housing and to engage in community development initiatives. In fiscal year 2016, NeighborWorks funding leveraged $7.1 billion in investments in communities across the country and over $50 million in Rhode Island. It helped more than 360,000 families nationwide, including 2,069 in the Ocean State, to obtain affordable housing. NeighborWorks organizations also created or maintained more than 53,600 jobs and helped 21,000 individuals and families purchase homes nationwide, including 324 jobs and 130 new homeowners in Rhode Island.
Courtesy of Woonsocket Patch
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