This Week in Land-Use Regulation, June 21

This Week in Land-Use Regulation, June 21


City Observatory on America’s most diverse mixed-income neighborhoods. Using census data on race and income, City Observatory finds that San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles are the cities with the greatest share of residents living in racially diverse mixed-income neighborhoods (DMIN), though only 10-14% of residents live in DMINs even in these cities. Eight metropolitan areas measured had no residents living in DMINs. Greater urban density improves economic and social outcomes for minority residents by increasing housing opportunities and by exposing them to neighborhoods with less concentrated poverty, while anti-density zoning tends to exacerbate segregation.


Joint Center for Housing Studies released its 30th State of the Nation’s Housing report. 30 years after the JCHS released its inaugural report, this year’s update finds that many of the problems identified in the first report haven’t improved, or have become more severe. Despite the construction of 40 million new housing units in the US since 1988, the median rent rose 20% faster than inflation, leaving half of all renters paying more than 30% of their income towards rent. The JCHS site also includes interactive graphics to track home price growth, housing unit availability, migration, and other statistics related to housing in the United States.


Federal housing vouchers incentivize lower-income residents to move to high-amenity areas. A new paper published in Regional Science finds that the structure of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program encourages recipients to consume more local amenities by moving to higher-amenity areas. HCV benefits are generally calculated by subtracting 30% of income from the gross rent or the price of a moderately-priced dwelling. The paper estimates that about one-third of the value of housing subsidies is due to increased amenity consumption, though the authors note that if social mobility is the goal, it could make sense to increase coverage.


Minimum wage can’t pay for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s report finds that a minimum-wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country. The national “housing wage” (hourly wage required to afford an apartment) is $22.10 for a two-bedroom unit and $17.90 for a one-bedroom unit. The study has received some criticism for its methods, namely for the size of the units rented and the fact that it assumes the resident should spend no more than 30% of income on housing, but it contextualizes housing affordability relative to tenants’ wages.



Shared living spaces as a tool for affordable housing. As major cities across the US face a housing affordability crisis, it’s time to rethink the traditional single-family occupancy model for housing. In addition to renting out spare bedrooms or living with older relatives, other options to take advantage of underutilized housing space include accessory dwelling units (sometimes called “tiny houses”) or dorm-style living with private bedrooms but shared common areas.


Portland, Maine city council votes down affordable housing mandates. The failed legislation would increase the number of housing units to be sold at prices affordable to middle-income (up to 120% of area median income) renters. Inclusionary zoning measures passed in 2015 require 10% of housing in developments with 10 or more units be priced for such renters, and the failed measure would have required 18% of such developments be leased at affordable prices.


Banks are lending more to apartment construction. Loans to new apartment projects are growing, after a slight decline in recent years. Thanks to changes made in the recently enacted Economic Growth, Consumer Relief and Consumer Protection Act, it is now easier for banks to lend to apartment construction before running into rules related to capital requirements. Newer loans are equal to about 50 to 60% of apartment construction costs.


Ben Carson’s proposal to raise rents in public housing. The HUD Secretary’s proposal would raise the minimum rent in public housing from $50 to $150, and raise rents in publicly subsidized housing from 30 to 35% of gross income. For high cost-of-living Washington D.C., this change could affect up to 10,000 households.

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By |2018-06-21T06:33:12-07:00June 21st, 2018|Blog, Land Use Regulation|