Housing

Housing matters. A stable, quality, affordable home is a foundation for so many other parts of life. How do we bring it in reach for everyone?

Canada Is Looking Better and Better (The Regent Park Story)

High-density public housing may seem like an idea whose time has come and gone, buried along with the ruins of notorious projects like St....
A black and white photo of Whitman, Philadelphia, residents shout and point to anti-housing demonstrators.

Integrating Whitman

A long-forgotten battle over a set of row houses in South Philadelphia makes current day NIMBYism look tame. What can housing advocates learn from how they finally got built anyway?

“Inclusive Communities” Are Inadequate for the World’s Housing Crises

Housing problems are growing and are likely to worsen with pervasive income inequality and a U.S. population projected to grow by 80 million people by 2050. Yet, the solutions do not match the demand.

Bigger Forces at Play

If social inclusion and the creation of mixed-income neighborhoods is embraced by so many, why does it seem to be so difficult to materialize this vision for the city? Let's look at some examples.

Why We Must Build

We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis . . . but we won’t get out without building.
A simple drawing of a balanced scale has a blue house labeled "before inclusionary requirements" on one side and a red house labeled "after inclusionary requirements" on the other side. Text above reads Do inclusionary housing requirements make housing prices go up for everyone else? No! followed by discussion. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Do inclusionary housing requirements make housing prices go up for everyone else?

A: No, they do not. Market-rate developers are business people. They charge as much as the market will bear. When housing prices go up . . .
Four charts and graphs illustrate how foreclosure rates are still higher than they were pre-crisis, and how recovery is slower in some neighborhoods. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Isn’t the foreclosure crisis over?

A: Not for everyone. Even after significant recovery, most of the country still has record high levels of . . .

Can San Francisco Get Mixed-Income Public Housing Redevelopment Right?

The HOPE SF program is aiming to explicitly avoid many of the problems mixed-income public housing redevelopments have faced, to create a truly inclusive process.

Making Mixed-Income Developments Work

A single development with an intentional income mix involves very specific challenges—both in its design and its management.
Two young students wear smocks as they paint in school.

Build Mixed-Income Housing–But Not in Isolation

A focus on housing connected to education and wellness will be needed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Using the Wrong Tools to Build Affordable Housing

Along with most Rooflines readers, I believe that having some portion of a community’s housing as long term or permanently affordable is a desirable...
A white three-level building.

Don’t Build Mixed-Income Communities, Buy Them

Building when you could buy is inefficient—and contributes to economic segregation.

It’s All About Choice

Rather than just developing homes for sale, City of Lakes CLT lets buyers pick houses to bring into the land trust.

A Tale of Two Markets: Affordability and the State of the Nation’s Housing in...

For first-time homebuyers with good credit, stable employment, and savings for a down payment, buying a home is more affordable than it has been in decades. For everyone else, however, lower home prices have been a disaster.

PETRA Perspectives: National Alliance of HUD Tenants

NAHT recognizes some positive features of the PETRA proposal. We see value in at least some consolidation to improve consistency and transparency. We appreciate...

Memphis’s Unwelcome News

Hanna Rosin has caused quite a stir with her dramatically titled Atlantic Monthly article American Murder Mystery. (For the record, we writers rarely get...

PETRA Perspectives: National People’s Action—Housing Justice Campaign

We all know public housing needs radical transformation to survive. The system teeters on the verge of collapse: The 1.2 million units of public...

PETRA Perspectives: PolicyLink

America has invested in building and supporting housing for lower income people and vulnerable populations for decades. This investment is a critical part of...

Thinking Gray—And Positive

When I think about all the boards and committees I’ve served on, the clean-up days and neighborhood association events and protests I’ve attended, I...
The cover of Shelterforce's 162nd issue, Preservation or Privatization.

PETRA Perspectives: Congresswoman Maxine Waters

While PETRA is flawed, it is also the only serious attempt any administration has made to preserve public housing in quite some time.

Administration Claims Homelessness has Dropped Dramatically. Really?

On July 29, 2008, the White House issued a statement that “chronic homelessness decreased an average of 15 percent per year between 2005 –...

Does Public Housing Have a Future?

Everybody hates public housing, except the low-income people who live there and the people on the long waiting lists to get in. After years of neglect, the Obama administration wants to save public housing for future generations. Let's let them.

Interview with Gabriel Metcalf, author of Democratic by Design

Gabriel Metcalf is president and CEO of SPUR, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes good planning and good government through research, education and advocacy....

CHA Back in Charge

After 23 years, the Chicago housing authority is no longer in receivership. The court-ordered receivership had placed administrative duties in the hands of a...

Are the Kids All Right? Austin Is Asking

Recently here on Rooflines, Tiffany Eng wrote about Oakland’s challenges in “family friendly” planning. Here in Austin, we're facing...
HUD Secretary Julian Castro poses in a formal headshot in front of an American flag.

Interview with HUD Secretary Julian Castro

Shelterforce got a chance to speak with Secretary Julian Castro about some of the current ways in which he’s working to make HUD a force for good in people’s lives, and what steps there are left to be taken.

The Next Step in Supportive Housing

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, individual-focused healthy lifestyles—regardless of socioeconomic status—became an increased topic of discussion. Along with clear correlations between...

Building Codes: The Good and the Bad

Recently, Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions argued here on Rooflines that outdated building codes—including things like minimum sizes and parking...

In Making Home Affordable, Banks that Helped Create the Foreclosure Crisis Continue to Profit

In February, the Obama administration launched the Home Affordable Modification Program, an ambitious program that will use up to $75 billion dollars to prevent...

When Supportive Housing Isn’t

The rationale behind supportive housing for people with mental disabilities is that pairing individualized services with permanent housing will help them live independently. But one San Francisco advocate sees more neglect than support.
One-pager shows a repeating image of a manufactured home down the center, with myths on the left about why they are bad, and facts on the right. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Are manufactured homes a bad form of affordable housing?

A: Not any more! There are many myths out there about manufactured (or "mobile") homes, but in fact they can be a very important source of quality affordable housing...

Building in Affordability

A range of existing policy tools can help preserve and expand affordable housing near planned transit stations -- but to have the most effect, they need to be put in place up front.

The New Rent Control Wars

On November 4, a near riot broke out in the usually quiet city of Alameda, Ca. The reason? A...

The FHA Refinancing Option for Troubled Loans—Doing it Right

Now that the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act has been signed by the president, let us examine one of its key provisions....

No Cover for Making Home Affordable

We’ve long known that the administration’s collection of foreclosure prevention programs, known together as Making Home Affordable, has been underperforming, with government data indicating...

Foreclosure Mitigation, Abandoned Properties, What’s Missing?

At an upcoming housing summit in New Jersey, there are promising presentations for anyone who sees the grave danger associated with the foreclosure crisis...

Demolishing Buildings, and Political Communities

Signs like the one above went up at Chicago's Lathrop Homes a few Fridays ago. In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority, in step with other...

Have We Been Wasting Affordable Housing Money?

It might seem like 10, or even 30, years is a long time to require affordability—until it’s over and your public investment is lost.
A drawing of a house with a red roof and a red path leading from door is accompanied by text explaining reasons why shared-equity homeownership makes sense in weak-market areas. Image links to pdf version.

Q: What’s the point of shared-equity homeownership in weak market areas?

Shared-equity homeownership is best known as a tool to fight displacement in hot-market areas. But in fact, it has many advantages in weak-market areas too.

A Tale of Two Anaheims

Disney may have won the day against the construction of affordable housing in its "tourism zone" but the coalition forged in the struggle against The Mouse is alive and well and pushing for a community benefits agreement in Anaheim's Platinum Triangle development.

Interview with Sister Lillian Murphy, CEO of Mercy Housing

For Sister Lillian Murphy of Mercy Housing, your mission must not be an excuse to make bad business decisions.

New Orleans Voices

During my recent reporting in New Orleans for a story for Amnesty International on the continuing homelessness and displacement crisis, we saw the stark...

“Ethical Lenders” Employ a Tried and True Method: Long-term, Fixed-rate Loans

This report from ABC News focuses on Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, a nonprofit and part of a growing list of organizations that embrace...

With Cuts in Housing Counseling Funds, It’s Wait and See

Laura Buxbaum, the director of housing resource and policy development at the Maine-based Costal Enterprises Inc. showed up at this...

A Continued Pattern of Abuse

This post is part of an ongoing series based on the National Fair Housing Alliance report, “The Banks Are Back,...

“Political Lift”: An Interview with Rep. Keith Ellison

As we head into the election home stretch, pieces of Rep. Keith Ellison's interview with Shelterforce in our latest issue keep coming to mind. Ellison...

Bloomberg Thinks You Profited from the Housing Crisis

The following is, sadly, not a spoof, but a real cover illustration on an article about the housing market:Now,...

Two Steps to Rebalancing Housing Policy

Tax-writing committees in both houses of Congress are developing legislation to reform the tax code that may be seriously...

What Are Advocates Saying About Johnson-Crapo?

What is the affordable housing world making of the Johnson-Crapo housing finance reform? So far here on Rooflines, Dan...

New Report Dampens Outlook for Would-Be Homebuyers

While few housing advocates have unbridled hopes for truly affordable homeownership in Manhattan—where in order to live “comfortably,” a...

The Best Thing I Didn’t Hear All Week

I'm in Lexington, Ky., this week for the National Community Land Trust Network conference, hosted by the Lexington Community Land Trust. The Lexington CLT had...

One Million Families At Risk

The dangers of Mark to Market and the needs for preserving expiring subsidized housing.

Think Scattered Site Rehab Is Too Expensive? Think Again.

Vacant properties are so persistent in part because it's too expensive to do anything with them. At least that's the assumption. It's much simpler, goes this reasoning, and more cost-effective, to construct and manage a new multifamily building than to try to rehab and manage single-family homes spread over a wide area. But what if that's just not true?

Land Banks and Community Land Trusts: Not Synonyms or Antonyms. Complements

Land banks and community land trusts (CLTs) are often perceived as “off mission” or antithetical tools that are not suited for the same environments. Conversely, they also tend be conflated as one and the same. Neither perception, however, reflects reality.

Manufactured Housing: Underutilized and Misunderstood

What will it take for manufactured housing, the principal source of unsubsidized, affordable homes in the United States, to reach its potential? Limited and expensive financing options make life even more difficult for the financially vulnerable residents who live in manufactured housing (MH) communities. The continuing consolidation of ownership is taking a toll, and the […]
Upside-down image of a faucet dripping.

Trickle Up Housing: Filtering Does Go Both Ways

Here's something we don't talk about enough: developing affordable housing in a tight, high-cost market also increases overall affordability through filtering! Just in the other direction—it trickles up.
Photo credit: National Fair Housing Alliance

How Poorly Maintained Bank-owned Homes Harm Black and Latino Communities

Bank-seized properties in these communities of color have higher rates of neglect, and the situation has prompted a lawsuit.

Settling Homeless Families in Vacant Homes

Take Back the Land broke into foreclosed, vacant homes, performed repairs, and housed homeless families in them. The most hopeful lesson to draw from the land occupation and the squatting activities is that pressure can be applied anywhere.
women sitting in chairs on grass

Practical Ideas for Addressing Micro-Segregation in Mixed Income Communities

Practical lessons from long time community builders on promoting integration and interaction among residents of mixed income communities.
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

The Right to Stay Put

There is much work to be done around housing and equitable development, but the solution is not simply to move people around. A key challenge is creating real choice.

PETRA Perspectives: National Low-Income Housing Coalition

The National Low Income Housing Coalition wants to be able to support PETRA. We believe that Secretary Donovan sincerely wants to preserve and protect...
Tommy Murray, a homeless veteran.

Ending Veteran Homelessness: A Goal with a Plan

The administration's campaign to end veteran homelessness involves unprecedented cross-agency collaboration, a willingness to embrace new methods, and substantial resources. It's a combination that just might work.
One-pager starts with "Does affordable housing lower property values? No!" Image shows 56 green document icons, 5 striped, and 1 gray to represent research that found positive, mixed, or negative effects and a map of the United States with dots to represent where those studies took place. Includes citations. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Does affordable housing development lower nearby property values?

A. No. No. No. Is 56 studies enough no for you?

It’s an Affordable Housing Victory, But How Do We Win Over the Towns?

Let’s get one thing clear: at least in New Jersey, we’re having the affordable-housing-as-mandate discussion. The fact that so many taxpayers, elected officials, and...

NHC-led Task Force Eyes the Future of the Housing Finance System

A task force led by the National Housing Conference this week released a set of “Ten Key Principles” for repairing the U.S. mortgage...

DeMarco Blocks Home Recovery, California Attorney General Harris Gets It Right

California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently subpoenaed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for information on their foreclosure proceedings in her state. While it is...

The Challenge of Scattered-Site Rental Management

In the winter 2011 issue of Shelterforce we looked at the difficult challenge behind managing scatttered-site rental housing by nonprofits, and...

The Threat (and Promise) of a Good Example

It’s embarrassing to admit, but those who vehemently oppose shared equity homeownership may have a deeper understanding of the sector’s...

Housing First, Or Housing Not-So-Fast?

Housing First, the model that says that homeless families need stable housing before they can address other problems in their...

Dare to See the Possibilities in Manufactured Homes

Residents in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto, Calif., are fighting to stop the sale of their community to a luxury...

Homeowners Empowered To Fight Eviction With This New Tool

The following is a story from Occupy Our Homes, a partner with Homes for All in fighting displacement. The campaign...

Affordable Housing Strikes Back

George Lucas seems to be on a mission to be an affordable housing developer—or at least to use affordable...

The REAL Rental Housing Issue

We know a few things about the majority of very low-income renters: They live in private market housing, not tax credit projects or public...

FHA Sends Mixed Signals to Nonprofits on Sales of Delinquent Loans

Last week, FHA announced 11 significant changes to the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP), a federal program that sells...

Should Online Shopping Change How We Use Space?

Should ground-floor use go from retail to housing? In San Francisco, the closing of once-popular San Francisco restaurants and the decline of...

“Nowhere to Live Safe”: Moving to Peace and Safety

We all experience stress in our daily lives, whether financial worries or problems at work or at home. Few of us escape some exposure to “adverse childhood experiences.” But many low-income families have to live, day in and day out, with corrosive fear for their children’s basic safety. A new policy brief, authored by researchers […]
Members of Boston Liberation Health hold a banner that reads, "Capitalism, racism, and heteropatriachy are making us sick. Join Liberation Health."

How Organizing for Justice Helps Your Mental Health

How do social justice, organizing, and mental health interact? Shelterforce chats with clinical social worker Dawn Belkin Martinez to find out.
an IV drip

A Marketplace for Health and Housing to Exchange Money—Has the Time Come?

Why would there be a need for a marketplace that values health? The answer is simple: our current “investments” in health are not working.
A view of a community in Oregon, with an American flag framing the left hand side. Lots of trees in the area.

The State of Permanent Affordability

In the face of accelerating gentrification, along with ongoing speculation and eviction, the idea of putting a substantial number of homes outside of the reach of the speculative market has been gaining momentum across the country.
A San Francisco, California, building that was privatized through the RAD program.

The Promise and Peril of HUD’s RAD Program

After a public housing property in Hopewell, Virginia, was privatized through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, some families were threatened with eviction and...
ballot drop

Affordable Housing Was On the Ballot, Here Are Some Election Results

A majority of voters nationwide supported funding for affordable housing as state and local governments try to address the problem in the absence of an adequate federal response.

Balancing Act

Old definitions may be obsolete as CDCs weigh whether to grow and how to build their impact in today's social and economic environment.

Bringing CLTs to Scale in Atlanta

To ensure affordable housing around the Atlanta BeltLine, the new Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative will balance citywide scale with local control of individual land trusts by existing CDCs.

Leaving Grandma Out in the Cold

The demise of the federal program that funded senior housing construction bodes ill for the increasing numbers of low-income seniors who struggle to afford a decent place to live.

Speak Out for the Neighborhood Stabilization Act

The foreclosure crisis is a tragedy for an increasing number of families, but what is frequently missing in the media coverage is the negative...

Keeping Hope (And Housing) Alive in LA

Wall Street is in meltdown. Banks are collapsing. Developers can’t get loans to build homes. Housing values are plummeting. Millions of Americans are facing...

Strategic Default Can Make Sense, Right? Well, Not So Fast

Walking away from one’s mortgage, particularly a mortgage that is underwater, has increasingly become a viable option for homeowners who can no longer live...

Remaining Hurdles Dampen Positive Changes to the Housing Market

Over the past month, the Obama administration has achieved several Home for Good victories for homeowners and consumers.  Among them...

No Time for Timidity

Advocates for shared equity homeownership have been talking for years about “going to scale.” Many people have been working diligently...

A Different Approach to the Recent Mortgage Settlement

A central feature of the recent $8.5 billion national mortgage settlement is a “throw up the hands and send some...

Fair Treatment of Homeseekers Improves, But Still Needs Work

A realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members...

Keeping Rural Seniors in Their Homes

Through my work researching housing for rural seniors, two things have become evident: first, rural America is older than the...

Put the “Choice” in “Housing Choice Vouchers”

In June, Alexander Polikoff, lead counsel in the decades-long Gautreaux Chicago Public Housing desegregation litigation, spoke to HUD staff on the FHEO Speaker Series. ...

Fair Housing’s Giant Two Steps Forward

It’s a rare moment when two branches of our federal government take major steps to expand opportunity for all...
The towering Co-op City in the Bronx, New York, the largest cooperative housing development in the world.

The 30 Percent Rent-to-Income Ratio Doesn’t Add Up in NYC

The 30 percent standard only ‘works’ in calculations where it is irrelevant. The residual-income approach, on the other hand, can turn what all too often becomes an abstract and theoretical discussion into a series of researchable questions.

“Your Lease Should Be Next to Your Bible,” #RentersDayofAction

This Tuesday, advocates took to the microphone on the steps of Newark City Hall, speaking passionately about the city...
Small American flag with fringed edges attached to a wire stick.

Why Giving Up on Homeownership Is Giving In

These ideas aren’t new, but pulling them together in a collective, coherent way will push back against those who, like their predecessors of 80, 70, 60 and 50 years ago, would deny long-term stability to those for reasons more than just the color of their money.
"Coming Soon, Very Sad" painted on border wall outside of new development.

We Are All NIMBYs…Sometimes

If we built enough housing, we would still need subsidized housing for many people, but market prices would be low enough that most people could afford them. But we’ve chosen not to. And the reason we give for that choice, more than any other, is that we are trying to preserve or improve the character of our communities.
Word "stale" spray-painted on side of train car.

Oft-Quoted Studies Saying Gentrification Doesn’t Cause Displacement Are “Glaringly Stale”

Oft-cited study concerns 1990s renters already paying huge portions of their income on housing.

Where the Disenfranchised Can Voice Their Opinions

Community control of land involves the constant process of inviting the most disenfranchised members of our community to voice their opinions and feedback on how the land is being used. The community for us consists of families who have been negatively affected by slumlords in inner-city Miami.