#087 May/Jun 1996

Shelter Shorts

The Rich Get Richer Still… The Census Bureau recently found that the gap between incomes of the most affluent Americans and everyone else was wider than since the end of […]

The Rich Get Richer Still…

The Census Bureau recently found that the gap between incomes of the most affluent Americans and everyone else was wider than since the end of World War II. According to The New York Times, the Census report, A Brief Look at Postwar U.S. Income Inequality, found a pronounced increase in income disparity from 1968, when the gap began to widen, to 1994. From 1968 to 1994, the top 20 percent of households’ share of aggregate income increased to 46.9 percent from 40.5 percent. At the same time, the share of income earned by the rest of the country’s households declined or remained stagnant. Among the reasons The Times cites as possible explanations for the disparity: the shift in the economy away from manufacturing jobs that paid higher wages for relatively low-skilled workers; the decline in the number of workers who are unionized; and the increasing use of part-time workers.

NJ Governor Opposes Housing and Jobs Bond

New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman has indicated that she will oppose placing a $290 million Jobs from Housing and Economic Development Bond Act on the November ballot. The Act would supplement the state’s Balanced Housing program, which, according to the Affordable Housing Network (AHN) of New Jersey, historically receives far less money than is needed and currently has $82 million in funding requests pending. AHN also cites Rutgers University research projecting that the bond would create up to 12,000 permanent jobs.

The bond bill had bipartisan support in the state Assembly and Senate, but was stalled in the Budget Appropriations Committee when the committees’ chairs hesitated to bring the act for a vote without the Governor’s approval, according to AHN. With Whitman coming out against the bond, it’s chances before the Republican-controlled state legislature appear slim.

The Whitman administration, citing its desire to keep debt from increasing further, has decided to support a maximum of $300 million in bond issues this year. The Governor is already supporting a $230 million bond to dredge the Newark port and $70 million to remove underground storage tanks owned by the state, the Trenton Times reported.

“The issue here is not fiscal responsibility – the bond act will pay for itself,” said Martin Johnson of Isles, Inc, a CDC in Trenton. “The issue is balancing the needs of New Jerseyans. More stable communities will save taxpayers a lot of money. We are dismayed that they created this $300 cap and forced us to compete with the dredging issue. We should invest in both.”

The Whitman administration also points to its own housing initiatives, such as Governor Whitman’s proposed H-easy 2000 program, which would dedicate more than $500 million to a variety of housing programs. But Diane Sterner, Affordable Housing Network director, said that the new bond act would serve to supplement the governor’s plan, which she said relies not on new money, but a redistribution of funds already in place, including federal funding. Sterner added that Whitman’s plan aims to create more market-rate units and targets a much higher income population, whereas the proposed bond act would benefit more low-income and working-class people.

“I’m extremely disappointed that we won’t be able to help the working poor of the state,” said State Senator Robert Singer, a Republican who supported the bond. Assembly Republican John Kelly, who sponsored the legislation in the Assembly, said he was disappointed that the act is not a bonding priority this year, but he and other supporters should continue to work to make it one.

For more information, contact: Diane Sterner, Affordable Housing Network, 609-393-3752.

Homeownership Rises, Low-Income Renters Left Out in the Cold

With an addition of 1.7 million new homeowners in 1995, homeownership is rapidly rising in the suburbs, leaving behind many renters in the declining inner cities, reports The State of the Nation’s Housing 1996, from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “The search for better quality housing, public services, and employment opportunities encourages flight from the cities to the suburbs,” said Joint Center director William Apgar. “Home sales and construction on the fringes of metropolitan areas are booming, but residential activity in many older center cities has virtually halted.” The result, according to the Joint Center, is an America “increasingly divided,” with low-income households isolated in deteriorating center cities or depressed rural communities.

The study proposes looking to a combination of private and public initiatives to mitigate some of the cutbacks in federal housing and community development resources. These initiatives include: technological advances that save money; efforts to promote fair-lending practices; an increased contribution from state and local government, through better coordinated of programs, and expanded community participation, as well as housing assistance; and regulatory reform for both new construction and rehabilitation activities. “Of particular urgency is the need to fully utilize the current inventory of publicly owned and subsidized housing,” the report concludes. For more information, contact: Pamela Baldwin, 617-495-7908.


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