Shelter Shorts

HUD Ordered to Desegregate in Baltimore

A federal judge chided HUD for concentrating African-American families in Baltimore public housing, and said the federal agency must work to disperse these families across the metropolitan area. Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled in favor of public housing tenants who had sued HUD and the city of Baltimore a decade ago, claiming local and federal policies had created “black ghettos.” Most of the judge’s criticism was reserved for HUD; he said city officials had tried to reverse years of housing discrimination but that HUD had failed to use its power to spread subsidized housing beyond the city limits. The case will now move to the remedial phase, in which the court will order HUD to take a regional approach to desegregation. (NY Times, 1/7/04)

Denver Mixes Housing With Transit

Now that Denver voters have approved a massive investment in public transit, the city, six suburban neighbors and the state plan to spend $53 million to encourage low- and moderate-income rental housing near new transit stations.

Fifty-seven new transit stops will be built with a mixed-use, “transit village” design. The locations eligible for the financial support must include 50 or more units of affordable housing within 1,500 feet of the station, according to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. At least 75 percent of the rental units must be for individuals or families whose income is at or below the area median income. (The Denver Post, 12/10/04)

Public Housing and Voting: Bad Combo, Senators Say

The bill that is funding federal housing activities in fiscal year 2005 almost contained a ban on using public housing funds to encourage people to vote. The ban, introduced by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, included voter registration and identification and get-out-the-vote activities related to any election.

Opponents of the ban said the government was singling out public housing authorities and low-income families unfairly, while the Department of Defense works to ensure that its employees are registered to vote. The federal Hatch Act already exists to prevent government entities from engaging in partisan political activities. Moreover, critics said the proposed ban ran counter to other programs Congress wants public housing authorities to provide, such as housing counseling and job training. These programs promote self-sufficiency and participatory citizenship. (National Housing Law Project, Housing Law Bulletin, 10/04)

Senator Seeks to Double Housing Tax Credit

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has introduced legislation in Congress to raise the amount companies can invest in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. By increasing the amount of possible investment to $3.70 per state resident from the current $1.85, Schumer says the program’s housing production would double to 260,000 units annually.

The tax credit program is by far the largest producer of affordable housing in the country. It has support not just among liberals, but also with conservatives who appreciate a tax credit of any stripe. Still, the program was threatened in 2003 by proposed corporate tax reductions, which would have reduced the attraction of the tax credits.

The original maximum allocation per state resident set by the program was $1.25. It was raised to the current level of $1.85 in 2000. (City Limits Weekly, 12/13/04)

Sacramento County Passes Strong Inclusionary Zoning

One of the more aggressive inclusionary zoning laws in the country went into effect in December in Sacramento County, California. Developers must set aside 15 percent of all construction in unincorporated areas of the county for low-income residents. While the 15 percent figure is not unusually high for California, where 117 cities and counties have inclusionary zoning regulations, the income guidelines are particularly strong in this case. Three percent of construction must be earmarked for the extremely low income, such as a family of three earning under $17,300 a year. The rest of the affordable units must be divided between very low-income families earning under $28,850 and low-income families earning less than $46,150. For projects of more than 20 units, developers must build the affordable units or give the county enough land to cover the obligation, but on smaller projects they can pay the county $10,000 per affordable unit rather than build it. (Sacramento Bee, 12/2/04)

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