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 . . .

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...

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.

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 white three-level building.

Don’t Build Mixed-Income Communities, Buy Them

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

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.
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.

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.

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 –...

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...
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.

The New Rent Control Wars

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

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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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....

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...

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.

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.

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...
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.

Slipping Away

As a wave of HUD mortgages expires in the next four years, an already dwindling supply of affordable units may nosedive with owners making windfall profits -- unless the right mix of federal legislation and local organizing can save the day.

Renters Rising

How San Francisco’s housing movement turned an assault on renters into a victory

Transit-Oriented, But Affordable?

Planning and community development blogs are aglow with talk of transit-oriented development (TOD), which is just that: development clustered around bus and train stations....

Alaska’s Pebble Mine Vote the Same Old Catch-22: Jobs or Environment

Much attention has been on Alaska politics lately thanks to John McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, not...

Foreclosure Mitigation Plans Need Work and Need Work Now

The Congressional Oversight Panel assembled a year ago when TARP was enacted in order to review the regulatory system and financial markets offered a...

“When Houses Become Widgets”

“What can cities do when limited-liability entities start buying up distressed properties as investments and then ignore basic maintenance?” asks Stephen Clowney, an assistant...

Eminent Domain to Stop Foreclosure: Clever, but Not the Only Solution

This article first appeared on Huffington Post. The heat wave may have broken, but the news is...

Justice in Delaware! Blocked Housing Project to Move Forward

“It’s unfortunate that your organization was in the newspaper today.” The words came to me over the telephone from...

Honoring Housers and Their Supporters: NLIHC 2013 Awardees

Every year the National Low Income Housing Coalition gives out a number of awards to individuals and groups who...

Detroit: Exception or Rule?

The bankruptcy of Detroit (the legal filing is currently on hold) has prompted a sudden flood of interest in...

Financial Destruction in Detroit

On Friday, Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city challenging the legitimacy of...

Poor Folk Are All Cost Burdened, No Matter What Their Housing Cost

Today the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard releases its annual State of the Nation's Housing report. As always,...

Here to Stay: New Approaches to Community-Based Supportive Housing

We’re beginning to see big changes in the housing world as states ramp up efforts to move people with...

Duty to Serve = Your Duty to Comment

In gridlocked Washington, rarely does one have the ability to truly influence community development or housing policy. Well, wait...

The Devils in the Details: Key Issues in Implementing the New AFFH Rule

For most of the Fair Housing Act’s history, its requirement to “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” has been largely dormant....

Housing and The “Flyover” Mentality

Right around the New Year, an article by Wired’s Emily Dreyfuss popped up on one of my newsfeeds titled,...

Covered Bridge: A Program That Keeps the Elderly in Their Homes

Nonprofit housers need to think gray in a new way. It has long been predicted that a demographic wave of retirement-age Americans would soon be breaking upon the shores of our communities. It has now arrived. Despite being forewarned, most communities are poorly prepared to meet the housing needs of this cohort. That is especially […]
NYC skyline painted on brick wall.

New York City Becomes a Hotbed of Community Land Trust Innovation

New York seems poised to move the concept of community land trusts in new and exciting directions.
police car

What—and Who—Is a “Nuisance”?

Why are nuisance ordinances proliferating nationwide, and who is disproportionately affected?

Interrupting Inequality Through Community Control of Land

Our belief is that community in CLTs emerges not from the simple fact of membership, but from the relationships, cooperative efforts—and disputes–of those occupying and making decisions over the land.
North Minneapolis tenants pose together with their fists in the air during a barbecue

Despite Win Against Landlord, Minneapolis Tenants Still Face Eviction

North Minneapolis residents fight to take control of their buildings after city administrator finds homes to be uninhabitable.

Public Land Should be Used for Public Good

When a vacant lot in Oakland was close to becoming the home of a 24-story, market-rate development, local activists worked together to prevent it from happening.

Without More Affordable Housing, Veteran Homelessness Will Return

Federal funding to end veteran homelessness has had a real impact, but a nationwide shortage of affordable housing could make its success temporary.
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?

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...

In From the Margins

Well well well — Wall Street goes into the dumper after years of “free market” worship and Congress and newspapers and all begin fumbling...

Beyond The Foreclosure Crisis: Bank Mistrust Could Forestall Recovery

The financial costs of the seemingly endless foreclosure crisis have been widely reported with Credit Suisse estimating that as many as 12 million families...

Finally! Relief for Latino Homeowners

Nearly a year and a half after news broke of widespread wrongful foreclosures at the hands of the nation’s five...

Get Specific on the Homeownership Crisis

Now that the presidential tickets are set, it’s time for the candidates to get specific about problems and solutions critical...

Data Shows Inclusionary Housing Is in Fact Inclusionary

Review of Is Inclusionary Zoning Inclusionary?, by Heather L. Schwartz, Liisa Ecola, Kristin J. Leuschner, Aaron Kofner. Rand Corporation, 2012. ...

DeMarco Replacement Named, CBO Supports Principal Reductions

We've heard noises before that President Obama might nominate Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) to replace Ed DeMarco as director of...

Could Kit Homes Make a Comeback?

It's interesting to look at housing trends from the past to try to find ideas on how to deal...

You Must Remember This: Uses of the Past in Community Development

“History is bunk,” declared Henry Ford to a newspaper reporter in 1916.  “The only history that is worth a tinker’s...

After HUD: Seeking New Answers to Old Questions

Three years at HUD gives you quite the perspective. Ask anyone who has worked in the esteemed Weaver Building—affectionately known as 12 floors of...

Suing the Suburbs

Fights against the displacement caused by rapid gentrification tend to focus on the gentrifying neighborhoods themselves. But some housing...

The Promise and Challenges of Co-ops in a Hot Real Estate Market

The Clinton neighborhood, also known as Hell’s Kitchen, sits in the western middle of Manhattan. From the urban disinvestment of the 1960s through the...
Rancho Lindo, an apartment complex in the San Joaquin Valley in California.

When Deep-Income Targeting Doesn’t Hit the Mark

Deep-income targeting, where the focus is on housing those with the lowest incomes, can mean dramatically different things to affordable rental housing developers in different states, and even in different market areas within the same state.

Let’s Get Rid of the Words “Property” and “Manager”

One of my first jobs as a young housing professional in the 1980s at a local public housing authority...
Key in a lock

These Changes to Tax Credit Criteria Are Breaking Up Concentrated Poverty

A recent examination by New Jersey Future has found that strategic changes in the way federal funds are allocated for affordable housing in the state have meant that many more affordable housing projects have been directed away from high-poverty neighborhoods and toward areas that offer greater economic opportunity.
A Childlike drawing of a yellow house with a multicolored roof, cactuses in front, and a tree with Christmas lights in front.

7 Policies to End Family Homelessness

Improving the well-being of homeless children and their families led Enterprise Community Partners, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, and New Destiny Housing to convene a Family Homelessness Task Force comprised of over 40 organizations.

Proposed Changes to the Mortgage Interest Deduction: Some Simple Facts

The discourse around proposed changes to the federal tax system, especially between talk show pundits and economists and politicians—each with their own allegiances—is devoid...
Public Housing building

It’s Time to Build New, Mixed-Income Public Housing

An interview with Ryan Cooper, co-author of the report (with Peter Gowan), Social Housing in the United States, about current approaches to government intervention in the rental market, the politics of home ownership, why public housing needs to be mixed-income, and envisioning a society that provides adequate, affordable housing to all of its citizens.
An African-American man and woman stand happily outside on their front porch. The woman is wearing a red coat and a black and white hate, while the man is reader a read Oakland A's hat and a black jacket.

Getting Ahead of Gentrification in the South Side of Columbus

More than a decade after several groups came together to improve substandard housing in the South Side of Columbus, signs of gentrification and forced displacement are beginning to emerge. Can something be done so current residents can afford to stay in their neighborhoods for years to come? The short answer is yes.
This woman says Four-County employees assaulted her. She did not want her face shown.

Taking Sexual Harassment Seriously: Tips for Nonprofits

Sexual harassment is a topic that’s not often addressed in the community development field, but it should be.
housing justice for all rally

What the Fight for Universal Rent Control in New York Can Learn from Prop...

Voters have set up an unprecedented fight between progressive housing groups and real estate interests. It will be a brutal fight. For proof of this, housing advocates in New York need only to look at California.

Losing Ground

In communities of color throughout New York City, growing numbers of homeowners with subprime mortgages are finding themselves at risk of losing their homes, the bitter fruit of years of predatory lending practices.

Meeting the Housing Needs of an Aging Population

Our aging population is more economically and ethnically diverse than any before, and will require a greater and more varied inventory of housing stock.

Stirring Up Change in the Steel Belt

The steel belt, once famous for its smoky cities, is capitalizing on a renewed public awareness of the environment to achieve tangible neighborhood change....

Section 8 Is Only One Part of Addressing the Housing Crisis

Editor’s Note: The following is a response to a comment posted by Rooflines blogger Nandinee Kutty that points to “serious weaknesses” in Section 8...

Banks Sitting on Foreclosed Homes

Here’s an interesting piece from the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on a “shadow inventory” of foreclosed houses — possibly 600,000 nationwide — that have...

Is This What Gov. Cuomo Meant by ‘Stronger’ Rent Laws?

The latest battle of the Rent Wars has ended in Albany, and the kindest word that I could find to describe it from the...

What Does an Affordable Rural Rental Housing Strategy Look Like?

Affordable housing advocates were happy recently to see the Senate Appropriations Committee tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get...

Protecting Domestic Violence Victims from Eviction and Homelessness

Imagine calling the police because you were in danger of your life. Now imagine getting evicted for doing so.

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,...

HUD: Minorities Shown Fewer Homes, Apartments Than Whites

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this month released its report on Housing Discrimination Against Racial...

AirBnB: Way to Make Ends Meet or Destroyer of Affordable Housing?

Confession time: Despite the work that I do, when I began using AirBnB as a business traveler, I didn't...

7 Policies That Could Prevent Gentrification

The following are seven policy initiatives that could be part of a community stabilization agenda using smart growth and equitable investments to prevent or mitigate gentrification in Roxbury and other at-risk neighborhoods in Boston.

The Measures of “Safe and Decent” Housing

The definition of “affordable housing” is widely agreed as a household spending no more than 30 percent of its...

Part II: The Great Production Debate

In response to an earlier piece that examines the potential of design enhancement for neighborhood revitalization, housing development consultant Bob Santucci argues for high-quality, low-cost affordable housing production.

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.