Home builders and developers in Chicago have sued the city to block a tightening of its affordable housing laws, which were recently revamped to encourage more private development of units accessible to low-income residents. Hoyne Development and the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago say the longstanding Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) violates the Fifth Amendment because it involves the taking of private property without "just compensation.” Earlier this year Chicago City Council voted to overhaul of the ARO, which compels private developers to build affordable housing or pay "in-lieu" fees. Those fees were too low, many argued, and resulted mostly in developers paying their way out of having to devote a substantial amount of new housing stock to affordable units. But in their suit the developers argue raising the fees could backfire by making $900 million in planned construction suddenly infeasible. The new ARO fees take effect October 13. As Brentin Mock writes for CityLab, the outcome of the case could affect similar proceedings in Los Angeles and New York, where so-called inclusionary-zoning plans are in the works.
Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":
The New & Old in New Orleans: Ten years after Katrina, architects still figuring out how to rebuild housing in the city
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast region, inundating New Orleans with contaminated floodwaters, the city is in some ways still getting back on its feet. After much dispute on how to recover the city, architects and developers are looking to new construction and existing building stock for solutions. Many homes in the Crescent City were washed away or irreparably damaged. One of the most predominant home styles damaged in the storm was the so-called shotgun house, named as such due to its elongated style organized around a long corridor stretching the length of the house. That typology is has been deployed by numerous groups in the past decade to rebuild New Orleans. Developers and architects have been snagging headlines rebuilding what was lost. Most notably, Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, has built over 100 homes in the city, many by top name architects and more still with modern designs that reinterpret the city's historic shotgun house. Make It Right has lately been building "tiny houses," a style of housing meant for people on a small budget subscribing to a fast-paced, out-of-home lifestyle that's fitting for the urban environment. This fast growing contemporary style has its benefits:
- Storage space is limited, so there is a lower propensity to over consume and due to the size of the plot.
- The building is relatively simple and easy to maintain (a chore no city dweller wants to labor over).
This Fall, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal made by the city's Planning Department concerning the possibility of "relaxing" height and density limits for many of San Francisco's western neighborhoods. If enacted, the program expects to transform some of San Francisco's uninhabited residences and unused space into affordable housing units for newcomers. The city is exploring a density bonus program, which allows developers to gain building height among other incentives. The proposal, according to the San Francisco Business Times, would allow developers to build two-stories taller than normally allowed. Most parts of San Francisco restrict heights to four or six stories. Other provisions would allow parking minimum waivers and reduced setback and side yard requirements. That's all in exchange for building affordable housing. San Francisco hopes the plan could spur 7,000 new units of housing, 3,000 of those affordable. The proposal has been met with strong opposition from some neighborhood groups, the Business Times reported. Some San Francisco residents – in particular the Sunset and Richmond districts – are reluctant to expose themselves to neighborhood change. Western neighborhoods claim rezoning would render the community vulnerable to conflict, citing dense construction, parking concerns, and impacts on the transportation system. “Building density just for the sake of density isn’t the answer," Planning Department Chief John Rahaim said in a statement earlier this year. "We need to be concerned about quality of life and living space.” He acknowledged, however, that the city is in need of new affordable housing.
New York City Mayor De Blasio and Cardinal Dolan working on plan for affordable housing on church properties
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had some face-to-face time with Cardinal Timothy Dolan this week, and among the topics the duo discussed was affordable housing. In a city of nosebleed-inducing housing prices, Dolan said creating and maintaining affordable housing was "God's work," according to AM New York. The city and the archdiocese are working out a plan to use the church's extensive real estate holdings in the city to provide affordable housing and shelters for the homeless. "We still got some meat and potatoes to work out, but I think it's a go," Dolan was quoted in the newspaper. "And if you ask me, I don't have a choice because Jesus told me to do this. I didn't need the mayor to tell me to do this." Dolan added that he and De Blasio report to the same constituency: "namely God's people, the people of this city." "Amen, beautifully said," the mayor replied.
Heroic Food Farms in rural New York teams up with Ennead to provide micro-housing, mentorship, and jobs to displaced veterans
Shaken by war and existentially disoriented, most veterans struggle to reintegrate and find work. A nonprofit food farm on the outskirts of New York City is being eyeballed as a possible housing and training solution for displaced veterans. The masterplan by Ennead Architects and RAFT Landscape Architecture includes eight micro-housing units for individuals or couples. The homes, equipped with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette, will all be programmatically linked by a community building for living, dining and instruction. The housing units, which are positioned in relationship to one another, rest on piers to “sit lightly on the land” and are interconnected by raised decks. The architects declined to install a living room in order to encourage tenants to use the community building for leisure. Meanwhile, the existing farmhouse, hay loft, and barn will be renovated. "It's about striking a balance between creating privacy for the individual and fostering a sense of community with shared spaces that open out to the view," said Andrew Burdick, director of Ennead Lab, the architecture firm's public interest and pro-bono division. Sited on 19 acres in the hilly Hudson Valley, the shed-like dwellings are designed to meet Passivhaus standards of extremely low energy consumption. The configuration of the buildings – a quadrangle surrounded by residences with linked porches, takes after Thomas Jefferson’s academic village at the University of Virginia. Veterans will receive instruction and mentorship, as well as job placement at nearby farms during harvest peak season. On the Heroic Food Farm site, they will raise livestock and cultivate produce in the greenhouses. Though small in scale, Burdick hopes the food farm can become a prototype to help plug the gap in the U.S. labor market, whereby a simultaneous shortage of agricultural workers and high unemployment among veterans presents a promising opportunity to connect those dots. According to report by the Wall Street Journal, the shortage of farm workers reduces agricultural production by roughly 9.5 percent per year. Statistically, one possible cause is that 30 percent of farmers are over the age of 65, while less than 10 percent are below 35. Screenwriter Leora Barish, founder of Heroic Food Farms, told Architect Magazine: “We know that supportive housing is one of the keys to sustaining programs for returning veterans.” Currently, New York ranks among the top ten states with the highest veteran population and veteran unemployment rate.
One Dutch architect has re-envisioned suburbia and city centers as car-free urban forests in which dwellings are disguised as trees. Raimond de Hullu’s new home designs, known as OAS1S, feature tall, slim, detached townhouses shaped like the numeral "1" as symbols of the “deep human need to become one with nature.” “Imagine living with nothing but green around you. Imagine growing flowers or tomatoes on your facade,” de Hullu told Fast Company. Airy, wooden cabin-like interiors harken to a simple yet uncompromised way of life, each four-story structure completely ensconced in foliage and topped with a green roof. Each floor is connected by stairs encased in a glass hall with a skylight 39 feet above. An influx of sunlight and fresh air filters in through the large windows with loggias (a gallery or room with one or more open sides) and French balconies. Solar panels and other off-the-grid power sources are complemented by on-site water and waste treatment capabilities. “Competitive, middle-class housing for people who demand high-quality and green living,” de Hullu noted. De Hullu’s designs shoot for cradle-to-cradle construction, a zero-waste approach that comes from using recycled materials and repurposing unused scraps. More or less the size of a tree (20x20x40 feet), the “tree-scrapers” would be prefabricated from recycled wood, with organic insulation and triple glazing to keep the houses self-sufficiently snug. “We need a new building typology that goes beyond the usual technical sustainability. We need a 100 percent green concept, not only technically but visually, which is desirable and affordable at the same time,” said de Hullu. Delving deeper into the eco-friendly possibilities, the architect proposed a car-free neighborhood, where sidewalks are nullified in favor of houses built on a continuous, multipurpose park. Cars are relegated to “fringe” parking spaces a certain distance away from the complex. With a maximum of 100 houses per hectare (or about 40.5 units per acre), the layout is decidedly denser than suburbia but less concentrated than downtown high-rises. “The density of OAS1S communities is much higher because of the double land use as a park as well. The concept can integrate a mixed-use or single or multi-family housing, plus hotel or office use,” explains the architect. “On top of that, leisure and commercial use can be integrated at the ground level, covered by green roofs with tree-like units above.” Hypothetically, if these urban forests were to incorporate within established cities, the car-free idea has likelier sticking power as inhabitants could still use public transportation. In a more rural setting, the automobile would be less dispensable. To make the units affordable, de Hullu proposes a community land trust model, where a non-profit will own the land and homeowners can sell their properties for a limited profit.
Seattle is abuzz about zoning. Last week, The Seattle Times leaked a draft report produced by Mayor Ed Murray's housing task force, a 28-member committee steering the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). While the report outlines a variety of strategies to increase affordable housing in the Seattle region, one bold recommendation is getting a lot of attention: the upzoning of single family housing in Seattle to multi-family housing. On Monday, Mayor Murray released an action plan outlining the overall vision: build 20,000 affordable housing units and 30,000 market rate units in the next decade through public and private investments. By 2035, the city is expected to grow by 120,000 people. "The exclusivity of Single Family zones limits the type of housing available, limits the presence of smaller format housing and limits access for those with lower incomes," reads the action plan. "The City will allow more variety of housing scaled to fit within traditional Single Family areas to increase the economic and demographic diversity. The broader mix of housing will include small lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, rowhouses, duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats." A map on the HALA website shows that the proposed upzoning changes, if passed, would affect 16 percent of Seattle. But The Seattle Times reports otherwise. An architect and developer on the housing committee told the paper that the upzoning would affect all single-family lots. You can read the final version of the Seattle housing committee report at Seattle.gov.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is looking for developers eager to turn an abandoned juvenile detention center in the Bronx into the city's "next creative live/work community." The Spofford Juvenile Detention Center has been closed since 2011, and as DNAinfo reported, it had a notorious reputation for "verbally and physically abusive staff members and poor living conditions, which included serving kids food that was infested with roaches and giving them clothes and underwear that had already been used, according to a 2004 report from the Correctional Association of New York." In a press release accompanying its Request for Expressions of Interest for the site, the NYCEDC said, "respondents are encouraged to consider a wide range of residential and non-residential uses for the site, including commercial, cultural, institutional and light manufacturing." The city also wants developers to put an emphasis on bringing "high-quality, career-oriented jobs" to the Hunts Point community. The affordable housing included within the complex would count toward Mayor de Blasio's ambitious plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in a decade. “By encouraging the co-existence of commercial and light industrial activities with mixed-income residential use, we can better leverage our City’s assets to provide opportunities and strengthen communities throughout the five boroughs," said NYCEDC Interim President Kim Vaccari in a statement. Responses to the RFEI are due October 1st.
U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited Chicago today to announce a clarification to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that officials say will improve access to affordable housing in cities across the country. HUD finalized a bureaucratic rule that Castro says will correct shortcomings in the federal agency's provision of fair housing. The 1968 law, part of the Civil Rights bill, obligates HUD and its local affiliates to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a lofty goal that “has not been as effective as originally envisioned,” according to the new HUD rule. "This represents a new partnership with cities,” said Secretary Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Standing in front of Chicago's newly expanded Park Boulevard—the mixed-income housing development was formerly Stateway Gardens, part of the corridor of South Side housing projects that included Robert Taylor Homes—Castro said the new rule will make publicly available data and mapping tools to help community members and local leaders establish local goals for the development fair housing. He added that Chicago had already used the newly available data for a preliminary exercise linking affordable housing and transit planning. The change also allows local housing agencies more time and flexibility in presenting their fair housing priorities and goals to the federal government. Castro referenced a recent Harvard study that found kids from low-income neighborhoods were statistically less likely than their wealthier counterparts to achieve upward mobility. "A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their greater aspirations,” said Castro.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) plans to undertake its most ambitious urban renewal project to date. Through eminent domain, the agency would seize about 1,300 properties and entirely remake the Sharswood neighborhood which has been plagued with vacancy, blight, crime, and poverty. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that most of these properties are city-owned, tax-delinquent, or empty. This massive acquisition would include demolishing two of the Blumberg Towers, a 1960s-era public housing development in the neighborhood. In its place would come 1,203 new homes and apartments, most of which would be designated as affordable. The development—well, the new neighborhood really—would also incorporate a new headquarters for the PHA, a supermarket, a renovated school, new recreation centers and open spaces, and a mix of independently-owned shops and chain stores. The Philadelphia Daily News reported that city officials will move the 363 families currently living in the Blumberg Towers to other PHA properties. Those living or working inside one of the 73 occupied buildings on the agency's demolition list "will get fair-market value for their properties and relocation assistance." Despite concerns about the scale of the redevelopment, and worries about the PHA's ability to handle such a significant mixed-use project, a City Council rules committee recently gave preliminary approval to the PHA's plan. PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah says the project will take 10 years to complete, but that the agency hopes to get going on it this year or next.
Bernheimer and Dattner start work on BAM building as construction in Brooklyn’s art district kicks up a notch
As Downtown Brooklyn's skyline grows taller, denser, and a bit more interesting, construction is whirring along in the BAM Cultural District just across Flatbush Avenue. The latest project to break ground within the area is bringing the borough new cultural institutions, affordable housing, and well, architecture. It's the Brooklyn Cultural District Apartments. The 115,000-square-foot structure was designed by Bernheimer Architecture and Dattner Architects with some landscaping accoutrement by SCAPE. The mixed-use building includes a restaurant along with the Center for Fiction and space for the Mark Morris Dance Group. Above the building's cultural podium are 109 apartments, 40 percent of which are below market-rate. "Extensive glazing at the lower floors highlights the cultural components and activates the pedestrian experience," Dattner explained on its website. "In-set balconies and double-height terraces articulate the upper base and tower." The Brooklyn Cultural District Apartments is intended to flow into the collection of high-design buildings and public spaces that are appearing one after the other on numerous sites around it. The building's restaurant, for instance, flows into Ken Smith's Arts Plaza which itself flows into the slightly cantilevering Theatre For a New Audience by Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. Between the new apartment building and the existing theater and plaza is yet another planned building—a 200-room hotel with a jagged facade by Leeser Architecture. There's one more big project to mention on the block: FXFOWLE's 52-story mixed-income residential tower that is quickly ascending into Brooklyn's skyline. On the other side of Fulton Street from the tower is the BRIC Arts Media House, another Leeser project. Adjacent to all of this is the site of Francis Cauffman's very artsy and wavy medical center that is currently under-construction. And across Lafayette Avenue is TEN Arquitectos' 32-story, mixed-use residential tower that is beginning to make its ascent.
A residential development in downtown Minneapolis is set to give the city its first woonerf, a road type developed in the Netherlands that integrates vehicle traffic and parking with pedestrians, bicyclists and public amenities. The BKV Architects–designed Mill City Quarter housing breaks ground later this year, starting with a six-story building that will include up to 150 rental housing units priced to be affordable for those making 60 percent of the metropolitan median income or less. Later phases will add more units, say developers Wall Cos. and Lupe Development Partners, including 45 units for those with memory problems and 105 for assisted and independent living. Taking up the block at the northwest corner of 2nd Street and 3rd Avenue, the development hopes to connects the Mill District—home to the popular riverside Mill City Museum, Guthrie Theater, and soon a massive mixed-use development in the shadow of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium—with the rehabbed warehouses and thriving cultural scene of the North Loop neighborhood. Bisecting that block is a former rail corridor leading toward Mississippi River trails and a riverside visitor center that Minneapolis' Park Board has proposed for just downstream of the 3rd Avenue Bridge. Mill City Quarter's developers have agreed to make that side street into a woonerf with 80 diagonal parking spaces flanking colored pavement demarcating reduced-speed vehicle traffic, green space, bike lanes and pedestrian zones. Minneapolis' Park Board approved plans for the “amenity-rich plaza street,” through the $73.8 million development, but expressed concerns over developer and former City Council member Steve Minn's plans to install a gate at the park end of the woonerf, which he said he'd keep closed during park off-hours, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. By exempting the development from a new parks law that would require them to donate land to public space, the Park Board gave their agreement some teeth—if the developers restrict public access to the land they could be on the hook for $61,400.