Search results for "affordable housing"
After settling a lawsuit with community groups in Los Angeles this week, Elon Musk’s Boring Company has agreed to halt its plan to build a 2.7-mile test tunnel underneath the city’s Westside. The lawsuit was filed following a preliminary approval from the Los Angeles City Council that would have shielded the project from stringent environmental review. After the approval, community groups began to fight the project, arguing that rather than building a test tunnel, Boring Company was actually pursuing “piecemeal” approval of a larger transportation project in an effort to minimize the appearance of its impact. The group argued that the City of Los Angeles violated California law in its initial approval. The terms of the now-settled lawsuit are confidential, The Los Angeles Times reported but the parties involved issued a joint statement saying they had “amicably settled” the matter. The Boring Company has agreed to cease planning on its test tunnel and will instead, according to the statement, focus on a recently-proposed plan that would link Dodger Stadium with regional transit via a scheme similar to the one proposed for the Westside. The so-called Dugout Loop would link the isolated stadium to the regional Red Line subway. The plan is supported by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and comes as a separate group works to create a gondola line connecting the stadium to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. Boring Company has been busy working on another test tunnel in the City of Hawthorne, where the company is headquartered. Musk recently announced that the test tunnel was complete and would open to the public in December. Musk also announced that he would be making good on an earlier promise to use excavated dirt from the tunnel to fabricate bricks for affordable housing projects. To push the initiative forward, Musk launched the so-called Brick Store where blocks will be available for 10 cents apiece to the public. The bricks will be free for affordable housing builders, according to Musk.
Interview With a Housing Vampire
Brad Pitt denies responsibility in Make It Right Foundation lawsuit
After a class action lawsuit against Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation was moved from civil to federal court on November 7, Pitt’s lawyers have submitted a motion asking that Pitt be removed as a defendant in the case. Although the actor founded and directed the New Orleans–based housing nonprofit, his lawyers claim that he had no role in actually designing or constructing the allegedly faulty housing at the center of the lawsuit. Make It Right, founded by Pitt in 2007 to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, is facing a class-action lawsuit for selling what Lower Ninth Ward residents allege were defective, easily-damaged homes. From 2008 through early 2016, Make It Right attracted Pritzker Prize winners and big-name studios such as KieranTimberlake, Adjaye Associates, Thom Mayne of Morphosis, Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, and more to build experimental, sustainable homes in the hurricane-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. A total of $26 million was spent to build 109 affordable homes in the neighborhood, and the project initially appeared to be a success and drew design-minded tourists to the area. The lawsuit, which alleges that Make It Right committed fraud, contract breaches, and engaged in deceptive trade practices, is looking to wring millions in repair fees from the foundation and its former top officials. Make It Right, which sued their principal architect John C. Williams on September 19 in civil court on allegations of providing defective design work, acknowledged that fixing rain-damaged homes could cost up to $20 million. Lawyers representing the class action plaintiffs filed a motion asking that the case be transferred to federal court because three of the former officers live in North Carolina, because the final settlement could top $5 million, and because Make It Right was incorporated in Delaware. As for Brad Pitt’s involvement, his lawyers claim that even if the plaintiffs’ complaints against the foundation have merit, Pitt shouldn’t be included in the lawsuit. While Pitt founded and fundraised for the charity, he claims his involvement didn’t extend to anything approaching the actual design of the buildings. Notably, Pitt is only asking that he be excused from the lawsuit, not that the case not proceed. As Nola noted, this is the first time Pitt has spoken publicly about Make It Right since the 2015 Katrina anniversary.
Cooking with Gasolina
A Mexican food-themed museum is coming to downtown L.A. in 2019
The Downtown Los Angeles-based LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a cultural center located in L.A.'s El Pueblo Historical Monument, is pushing for a new Mexican food-themed museum to open in early 2019. The museum, dubbed La Plaza Cocina, is slated for the forthcoming LA Plaza Village, a new, mixed-use affordable housing development designed by Johnson Fain. The 355-unit complex has been under construction since 2016 and is nearing completion. Designed with landscape architects SWA, the development will bring 71 low-income units to the area, as well a variety of neighborhood-serving retail and cultural spaces, including La Plaza Cocina. The Los Angeles Times reported that the new 2,500-square-foot museum will focus on the history and evolution of Mexican food, with a particular emphasis on the development of Mexican-American cuisines in the Southern California region. It will also house a demonstration kitchen and host programs, events, and exhibitions associated with Mexican food and culture in L.A. L.A.’s Rodrigo Vargas Design is designing the interiors for LA Plaza Cocina. “Los Angeles is the Mexican food capital of the country, and it deserves a place that celebrates the history and culture that we have with Mexican food.” John Echeveste, CEO of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s important, not only to Latino families, but anyone who eats.” Echeveste described the museum as a “multipurpose space centered around Mexican cuisine in all of its ramifications." It will even feature a separate specialty store on site where visitors can buy spices, foods, and cultural media. According to the report, the museum will offer a slate of cooking and history classes taught by some of the region's best and most well-known Mexican chefs. In the future, it will provide cross-cultural programming with Mexican chefs via live broadcast in Mexico. The entire development is slated for an early 2019 opening.
Elon Musk’s Boring Company has completed its first tunnel, breaking through the other side of a 2-mile-long test track that began in the parking lot of Space X’s Hawthorne, Los Angeles, headquarters. Musk took to Twitter and posted a video of their tunnel boring machine breaking through the track’s final wall in what will eventually become the “O'Leary Station” for a Hyperloop network, though as Arstechnica notes, the location isn’t exactly where the Boring Company had received approval to build a station. opening date. Although Musk originally envisioned a Hyperloop-style system that would ferry cars under Los Angeles’s traffic-congested highways at 155 miles-per-hour, he later pivoted toward accommodating bikes, buses, and pedestrian traffic as well. This is the same style of system that the Boring Company was selected to build in Chicago to connect O’Hare and the Loop—though that deal is currently facing an injunction from the nonprofit Better Government Association. back in May, claiming that the stone they were mining was “seismically rated” in California. Then, in September, Musk promised that a “Boring Brick store” would be opening in two months and selling bricks for 10 cents each. Now, it looks like Musk is following through with his promise and has founded The Brick Store LLC. From public documents submitted in October, the Brick Store will open at 12003 Prairie Avenue in Hawthorne, only a mile from the Space X headquarters (and aforementioned Hyperloop tunnel). While it’s uncertain exactly how many bricks the Brick Store will be able to offer, Musk has promised that he’ll give them away for free to affordable housing projects.
Before the tunnel officially opens next month, the Boring Company will need to extricate their tunnel boring machine using the access shaft and clean up the rubble left behind. Musk claims that the Boring Company will eventually dig tunnels all the way to residents’ private garages.
Bricks will be free if used for affordable housing projects— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 13, 2018
The Neverending Story
Amazon's new Queens campus might displace 1,500 affordable units
Amazon’s confirmation earlier this month that it would be dropping one half of its future campus in Long Island City (LIC), Queens, immediately drew condemnation from state representatives and a group of New York City’s elected officials. As the furor grew over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to rezone a portion of LIC for the tech giant’s campus, Cuomo released an op-ed today where he hit back at critics of the plan and touted the economic growth that Amazon would bring to New York. Housing affordability had been a point of contention among critics of the $3 billion in subsidies that Amazon will be receiving, and a new report from Politico shows that Amazon’s campus will preclude the creation of 1,500 affordable housing units. Amazon’s investment in the city won’t be insignificant. According to the Office of the Mayor, the online retail behemoth is expected to create 25,000 new jobs by 2029, going up to 40,000 in 2034. In 2019, Amazon will take half-a-million square feet of office space at One Court Square (the Citigroup Building) while their 4-million-square-foot headquarters on the LIC waterfront is under construction. Once work wraps up in 2029, Amazon is expecting to potentially add another 4 million square feet to their campus by 2034. The site of this future development? Anable Basin, an industrial enclave currently owned by the plastic company Plaxall. Plaxall had been gearing up to enact a WXY-master-planned redevelopment of their 15-acre site that would have created 5,000 new residential units, 1,250 of them affordable. Developer TF Cornerstone was also set to build their own 250 affordable apartments on an adjacent site owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), but that project has also been subsumed. An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed to Politico that the no housing will be built on their Queens campus. Long Island City is home to the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the Western Hemisphere, but the official line from the de Blasio administration is that the Amazon campus will only be a net positive for the area. A spokesperson for the NYCEDC told Politico that HQ2 will buoy the neighborhood economically, and Mayor de Blasio seemed to agree. “One of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States—the synergy is going to be extraordinary,” said de Blasio.
New Lease on Life
L.A. might repurpose its General Hospital as affordable housing
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion this week to study the feasibility of reusing the county’s abandoned General Hospital for affordable, low-income, and mixed-use housing. The motion was authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis as part an initiative that aims to establish a “Healthy Village” in and around the University of Southern California medical campus that surrounds the defunct hospital. The approved motion authorizes the County to lead a detailed feasibility study and to craft a strategic plan with relevant parties to bring the initiative to life. As the “birthplace of emergency medicine,” the Art Deco–style Los Angeles County General Hospital was considered a state-of-the-art institution at the time of its opening in 1933. The 800-bed teaching hospital played a vital role in the community and earned the affectionate nickname “Great Stone Mother,” an allusion to the building’s cascading concrete hospital wings. The New Deal–era structure was built amid the Great Depression and was designed by the Allied Architects’ Association of Los Angeles, a consortium of local architects that took on various municipal projects across the region. The hospital facility is also notable for its relationship to the Chicano Movement of the 1970s and to the community organizing that occurred in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. The exterior of the complex is also notable for its appearance in the opening credits of the television show General Hospital. The facility was replaced after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake following the passage of updated structural codes that were passed in response to the disaster. It was replaced by an HOK-designed facility that opened in 2008. The General Hospital is joined by Charity Hospital in New Orleans as one of two major abandoned Art Deco–style hospitals in the United States. In a press release, Supervisor Solis said, “We must be innovative and audacious if we want to end the homelessness crisis and simultaneously increase affordable housing in the region.” Solis added, “Today’s action to transform the abandoned General Hospital into a marquee facility will not only breathe new life into this historic building, but it will also help our most vulnerable residents regain control of their lives. When I look at this iconic structure, I see much more than an architectural gem: I envision a thriving community facility proactively helping people suffering from homelessness and other disadvantages get back on their feet.” According to the approved motion, the completed report and feasibility study will be due back to the Board of Supervisors by fall 2019.
AIA outlines 6 key post-election issues to pursue with new Congress
As the architecture industry’s chief lobbying organization, it’s the American Institute of Architects’ job to get the issues architects care about up to Capitol Hill. It hasn’t always made decisions that resonate with everyone on both sides of the aisle, such as its pledge to work with President Trump, and it's been accused of being too slow to respond to obvious problems instigated by the government, like the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent new rule on asbestos. But it has continued to battle in the political arena on behalf of architects across the country and revise its plans based on its constituents' goals. This year, as part of 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante’s vision, the AIA is urging architects to exercise their role as architect-activists and “take a seat at the table” in order to guide leadership at the local, state, and federal government levels on the future of American cities. Following last week’s midterm elections, the AIA held a “Post-Election Debrief” to outline six key issues it’s set to focus on as the new United States Congress takes shape. Affordable Housing It’s no secret that many cities across the country are experiencing an affordable housing crisis. From Naples to New York, Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, it’s harder than ever to find reasonable rent and mortgages for the nation's low-income families. The AIA wants to expand the current Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and push for a similar program catered to middle-income households. Proposed by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit would allow participating states the chance to receive federal tax credits based on population with 60 percent of units saved within a rental property for residents earning up to the median area income. Some see this motion as an unnecessary waste of federal resources, as it takes away from the poorest of the poor, and argue that changing exclusionary zoning laws would have essentially the same impact. Sustainability Numerous American cities have committed to reducing energy consumption by 2030 in an effort to comply with the 2016 Paris Agreement to combat climate change. New York’s own grand goal is to cut 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To do so, the city must focus on retrofitting its existing buildings with energy efficient materials. The AIA says it will continue to back legislation that helps developers do this, though right now, it’s a very costly task. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which passed last December, does a lot to incentivize property improvements for individual-income business owners. However, it raises the after-tax cost of retrofitting a building for energy improvements. To combat this, the AIA believes such investment should be credited as a “qualified improvement property,” so more property owners will be interested in greening their standing structures. Resilience Natural disasters are wreaking havoc on coastal American cities and beyond. Each hurricane, wildfire, and tornado season brings more devastation than the year before. While architects can’t control Mother Nature, they can support in-need communities in numerous ways once disaster strikes. The AIA seeks to expand its Safety Assessment Program (SAP) in order to train more architects with the skills necessary to analyze buildings post-hurricane, windstorm, or flood. Additionally, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) last month which gives states more room to manage post-disaster rebuilding efforts, as well as greater investment in preventing serious damage from occurring in the first place. Through a new National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, communities can plan and build resiliency projects with fair federal funding. School Safety Mass shootings are a nationwide epidemic. Architects may not have much jurisdiction over the design and security of nightclubs, open concert venues, or religious institutions, but they can impart their expertise into the future of educational architecture. This August, the AIA launched its school safety initiative, calling for schools to receive more federal funding and grants for architectural and design services. The AIA also wants the government to help create a new public resource full of best practices and design guidelines for architects to use in order to mitigate violence in schools through well-thought design. AIA representatives have spoken out on this matter already at the White House and in front of the U.S. Department of Education as well as Homeland Security. The new Sandy Hook Elementary School designed by Svigals + Partners opened this fall and has been lauded as a prime example of the kind of “open architecture” now needed for 21st-century schools. The AIA plans to introduce legislation on safe school design to the new Congress in the coming year. Architecture Firms A section of the federal tax code forces a high tax on any foreign entity investing in a U.S. commercial real estate property if they supply up to a certain percentage of funds. This law, called the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), was enacted in 1980 and partially repealed by Congress in 2015. The AIA believes it still stops new projects and jobs from reaching architecture firms by discouraging investment in local communities. The AIA is urging Congressional leaders to sign as cosponsor of the Invest in America Act, which would fully repeal FIRPTA and potentially bring 147,000 to 284,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy while providing hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure, affordable housing, and more. Student Loan Debt In 2013, the AIA and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) introduced the bipartisan National Design Services Act to help emerging architectural professionals with student loan assistance in exchange for community service. According to the bill, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would either reimburse students on their tuition who worked in underprivileged areas on public projects or provide grants for internships at community design centers. The bill was reintroduced to Congress in 2015 but has sat stagnant since. The AIA is asking architects to write into their local Congressperson to educate them on the initiative and call attention to how the student debt problem affects rising architects. To learn more about these issues and contact your local Congressperson, visit the AIA’s Architect Action Center.
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) principal Patrik Schumacher issued a claim in London’s High Court earlier today in an attempt to remove the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Those executors include Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo. The three executors, all trustees of the Zaha Hadid Foundation, immediately released a joint statement slamming Schumacher’s decision. It was stressed that before her death, Hadid chose the three executors to oversee her estate based on the closeness of her relationship to each.
A lawyer representing the three issued the following statement:
Wow. Patrik Schumacher has issued a claim in the high court to have Zaha Hadid's three fellow executors (including her niece) removed as executors of her estate pic.twitter.com/ehZWdbRsdy— Olly Wainwright (@ollywainwright) November 14, 2018
The attempt to remove these three executors is totally unjustified and misconceived. Unlike Mr Schumacher (who is seeking to gain financially from the estate), the three executors have no personal financial interest. They have at all times acted properly and in good faith with the desire to do their best for the estate given their friendship with Zaha Hadid.Rana Hadid was more pointed in her rebuttal, adding: “My aunt, Zaha, would have been devastated to learn what Schumacher is doing and we feel obliged to resist his claims in order to defend her great name and legacy.” A spokesperson for Zaha Hadid Architects told the Architect’s Journal that “this is a matter relating solely to the executors of Zaha Hadid’s estate.” This isn’t the first time Schumacher and the executors have butted heads, as the three took the ZHA partner to task after a speech at the World Architecture Forum in Berlin in 2016. In that speech, Schumacher called for the abolition of all social and affordable housing and getting rid of government land use policies. The executors and the rest of ZHA weren’t amused with Schumacher professing his libertarian views on a world stage while representing the firm, and they spoke out afterwards, saying his views were completely at odds with Hadid’s legacy. AN will update this story as more information becomes available.
Amazon Prime Real Estate
Governor Cuomo proposes rezoning in Long Island City as Amazon confirms HQ2 locations
Now that Amazon has officially confirmed that it will split its second headquarters between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, each city is gearing up to address the logistical concerns of dropping in 25,000 new tech employees. To that end, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is reportedly planning to rezone the 20-acre Anable Basin site in Long Island City (LIC) using a General Project Plan (GPP) to accommodate the online retail giant. Though the area is currently zoned as a light manufacturing district, its owner, the plastic container company Plaxall, had previously tapped WXY for a master plan that would redevelop the industrial zone into a mixed-use redevelopment. Using a GPP, the same process used to rezone Brooklyn’s Pacific Park (neé Atlantic Yards), the state would potentially be able to initiate a rezoning of Anable Basin without the approval of New York’s City Council. As a result, the basin and two adjacent city-owned sites that Amazon has been eyeing could potentially become a mixed-use campus and series of office buildings, zoned at a much higher density than New York’s zoning code would typically allow. The Plaxall draft plan had previously angled to build 5,000 residential units, but as Crain’s noted, the GPP would allow for millions of square feet of office, residential, and mixed-use space. Although the GPP would still require an environmental review and is subject to community input during that phase, all of the recommendations received from the local community board and City Planning Commission would be non-binding. The pushback from New Yorkers against Amazon’s decision was nearly immediate. The backlash was built on a number of factors, including concerns over affordable housing in Queens, transportation issues, fears that Amazon’s influence would price out the borough’s diverse residents, and anger over the amount of state and city money being handed to the company. press release this morning, the company disclosed that New York State would be giving away $1.525 billion in tax credits. Most of that, $1.2 billion, would be returned through New York State’s Excelsior Program over 10 years, subsidizing each employee to the tune of $48,000. The remaining $325 million will be given to Amazon in the form of a direct grant from Empire State Development, based on the amount of square footage it’s expected to occupy. In return, Amazon has pledged to invest $2.5 billion in each portion of its dual headquarters. A portion of the property taxes from the new Amazon campus will go toward funding transportation improvements in Long Island City, and the tech company has also promised to carve out space for a tech incubator and public primary school. Still, those concessions haven’t mollified critics. As soon as Amazon’s decision to settle in Queens was leaked last week, New York’s incoming, newly-democrat controlled state senate and assembly pledged to stop the flow of taxpayer money to Amazon. Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim told Capital & Main that he would look into rerouting the state’s economic development money (mainly corporate subsidies) into student debt relief, and called the correlation between tax breaks and corporate incentives unhealthy. On Twitter, western Queens representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez let loose with a thread blasting Albany for giving away over a billion dollars in tax breaks when Amazon hasn’t initiated hiring quotas, protection for workers, or any promise to avoid displacing long-time LIC residents. State Senator Michael Gianaris and Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer also released a joint statement outlining their problems with what they described as a “massive corporate welfare” giveaway. In the release, both offices went on record as calling the Amazon deal a giveaway from the 99 percent to prop up the 1 percent. East Coast hub” to Nashville that would employ up to 5,000. The company will be building out one million square feet of energy-efficient efficient office space while investing $230 million in the city and expects to pay $1 billion in taxes over the next ten years. In return, Nashville has promised up to $102 million in tax incentives depending on whether Amazon hits its hiring targets. Amazon will begin hiring for all three of the newly revealed locations sometime in 2019, though it may take up to 15 years for the LIC and Crystal City locations to fully integrate their 25,000 employees.
Another Rail Yard Story
Atlanta council members green light controversial $5 billion Gulch project
It’s official. Atlanta is about to take on one of the most ambitious and controversial building projects in its history. Last Monday, in a midnight vote before election day, the Atlanta City Council approved a $5 billion proposal to redevelop “The Gulch,” a 40-acre swath of sunken rail yards and parking lots in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to the decision, CIM Group, the Los Angeles-based agency that’s been eyeing the site for some time, will now likely receive a large government subsidy as the sole bidder on the project. CIM’s big plans for The Gulch came to light last November when people started speculating the meaning of an impact fee assessment filed with the city that month, which proposed the redevelopment of over 10 million square feet of publicly-owned land next to the Philips Arena. Over time, it became evident that CIM, a company founded by the brother of Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, was responsible for the filing and wanted to offer The Gulch to the city as part of Atlanta’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. Despite news that Amazon will definitely not be coming to Atlanta, it seems that CIM’s plans to revitalize The Gulch are still underway. The scope of the project is nearly unparalleled, comparing only in size to Manhattan’s 28-acre Hudson Yards neighborhood and CIM’s 27-acres Miami Worldcenter development. Within The Gulch, the developer aims to create 9 million square feet of office space, one million square feet of retail, as well as room for residential and hospitality. The “mini city within the city” will sit atop a podium of parking garages and connect with a new grid of streets and parks. It could include more than a dozen new buildings, completely reshaping the city’s skyline. Newly-elected Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is a large supporter of the project. Leading up to last week’s vote, she started a massive campaign to “Greenlight the Gulch,” asking for the public and the city council to approve the around $1.9 billion subsidy package for the private project. In a tight 8-6 vote, her plan won out. Though the government is now on board, many locals aren’t game. Critics of the project say the area should be dedicated to a new transit hub (an idea that started in 2012), while others argue that an increase in luxury housing will raise rents and property taxes in low-income communities near downtown. While Bottoms's proposal requires CIM to build at least 200 units of affordable housing within The Gulch and invest $28 million into a citywide trust fund for affordable housing, some still hope for a better deal. Many say the process for approvals has been rushed and the public hasn’t gotten enough say. Since CIM’s plans were unveiled last year, things have moved at an unprecedented speed. Even opponents seem eager to build something in The Gulch, but only if it benefits the city, not the just owners who develop it. Given CIM’s large-scale goals for the site, this will be a fight with the public for decades to come.
Missed some of our articles, tweets, or Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! D.C.’s newest museum goes underground to explore the American police system The new National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., opened to the public in mid-October and teaches civilians what it's like to be police officer. Florida residents demand border wall around Habitat for Humanity housing Habitat for Humanity announced that an upcoming affordable housing development in East Naples, Florida, will have to be built with a concrete border wall. Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it? News of a Crystal City Amazon headquarters may have been premature; it now seems the tech giant is looking at Long Island City as well. What did the 2018 midterms mean for East Coast architects? Let out a sigh of relief; the 2018 midterm elections are over, and voters passed judgment up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a wave of measures. West Coast sees big wins (and losses) in architecture and urbanism ballot initiatives As Democratic voters retook the House of Representatives and key gubernatorial seats, a series of initiatives saw mixed results in western states. That's all. See you Monday.
Florida residents demand border wall around Habitat for Humanity housing
Habitat for Humanity recently announced that an upcoming 23-acre affordable housing development in East Naples, Florida, will be built with a concrete border wall. According to NBC2 News, residents within the nearby communities have called for a physical barrier separating the already-existing neighborhoods from the new property. The proposed development, Regal Acres II, is slated for construction within a secluded area off Greenway Road in East Naples, near the East Tamiami Trail. This particular plot of land is surrounded by lakes, preserves, and other green space. It’s parent site, Regal Acres, was built from 2010 to 2015 and is located next door. When the nonprofit housing group called for an area rezoning earlier this summer, locals started complaining that once complete, there’d be too much affordable housing in the area. Some said such projects aren’t evenly distributed across the county, while others said additional housing would ramp up traffic congestion and hinder commute times. Not only that, but per the Naples Daily News, local residents don’t want to see cars parked on lawns, a complaint inspired by past frustrations at the first Regal Acres neighborhood. Nearby homeowners also worry the new development, and its residents, will infringe on their privacy. Nick Kouloheras, president of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, told NBC2 that throughout the community input process, several other concessions were made to please nearby residents and gain approval for the project, but finding a solution to the rising concerns over superfluous low-cost housing was the most difficult. Habitat negotiated the construction of an 8-foot-tall solid wall on the north and south ends of the property connected by a chain-link fence. The Collier County City Commission made a unanimous decision in late October to approve the rezoning and the build-out of Regal Acres II. According to Kouloheras, the addition of the perimeter barrier not only blocks future low-income families from easily connecting with other neighbors, it also bumps up the overall price of the project. “These concessions that we made are to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kouloheras told NBC2. “There are some families we will not be able to help because of those concessions.” Naples has been long-known as one of the most affluent cities in South Florida. But the reality is that 40 percent of Collier County residents can’t afford to live there; the cost of buying and maintaining a home is too high, especially with the threat of destruction due to hurricanes. The community is on the brink of an affordable housing crisis, and city officials are seeking ways to fix the problem such as increasing density or offering housing incentive programs. For 40 years, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County has been building such solutions. They’ve completed over 1,700 homes in Naples and the adjacent Immokalee community since their inception in 1978. Regal Acres II, expected to begin construction in the summer of 2021, is one of 15 affordable neighborhoods that they’ve built, renovated, or planned over the years. Many of those have been heavily contested by the public.