Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":

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California moves to relieve housing crisis with key legislative wins

Several bills aimed at alleviating California’s persistent and worsening housing affordability crisis advanced through the state legislature late last night, re-igniting the state’s housing activists and raising hopes that housing relief is on the way. The six initiatives address different facets of the crisis, but have been seen as a collective success and an initial step toward more full-fledged efforts by the state to rein in skyrocketing rents and reverse the housing shortage. The California State Assembly passed Senate Bill 2 (SB 2)—the most controversial of the batch—a proposal that adds $75 to a $225 fee to mortgage refinances and other real estate transactions, excluding home and commercial property sales. The fee is projected to raise $250 million per year for low-income affordable housing, and provide a permanent and consistent funding source to rehabilitate and expand that market, the Los Angeles Times reported. When matched with federal, local, and private funds, it is estimated that the fee could raise over $5 billion for such housing over the next five years, according to The Mercury News. Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), also passed Thursday night, paves the way for a $4 billion bond designed to finance low-income housing development and provide mortgages to military veterans to go onto the 2018 statewide ballot. Providing housing for formerly-homeless veterans has been a particular focus of ongoing housing efforts across the state. Senate Bill 35 (SB 35) would streamline the approval of housing development, requiring cities and counties to develop land use plans that include a housing element and hold municipalities accountable to those figures. Senate Bill 166 would also pressure municipalities to meet their housing goals while also forbidding them from lowering residential density in their respective zoning codes to reduce the overall number of required units. Senate Bill 167 would strengthen the state's Housing Accountability Act—which compels municipalities to approve low-income housing projects, among other types of housing—by fining municipalities automatic fines of $10,000 per unit of unbuilt housing resulting from their violation of the act. Various municipalities around the Bay Area have caused controversy in recent years for violating the act, which in turn, has resulted in lawsuits from housing activists. Senate Bill 540 incentivizes “workforce housing opportunity zones” by allowing municipalities to adopt specific plans for local areas that are particularly in need of housing. The bill would streamline redevelopment efforts, especially in relation to California Environmental Quality Act approvals. Both SB 2 and SB 3 cleared the California State Senate earlier this year; those bills and the four additional measures will head back to that chamber for final approval today before being sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Brown has until October 15th to veto or sign the bills.
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First phase of Atlanta BeltLine’s reservoir and green space slated for 2019 opening

Last week, the City of Atlanta announced that the first phase of the Atlanta BeltLine's keystone project – a 400-foot deep former granite quarry proposed as a new reservoir and public greenspace – will open to the public in 2019. The Atlanta Beltline is a ring of former railways around the southern capital that is being redeveloped into a 22-mile ribbon of parkway that will eventually connect 45 neighborhoods. It is the single largest economic development project the city has ever undertaken. The Bellwood Quarry itself is an impressive site at a monumental scale, and has been featured in shows and movies like The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, and The Hunger Games.  The re-use of the quarry and parkland surrounding it, spanning 280 acres, is no small task. In partnership with the BeltLine, the Department of Watershed Management has drained the mineral pit of its standing water and is now boring a massive mile-long tunnel connecting it to the Chattahoochee River, with the end goal of providing Atlanta with 30 days of reservoir water rather than its current 5-day supply. Although the quarry is closed to the public for construction, it seems to be proceeding at a clip, and this announcement may be a hint that the process is being expedited in line with the end of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's term in November. After all, the quarry is a highly-anticipated legacy project. The RFP for design proposals for the park surrounding the reservoir closed yesterday after opening in late July. According to an anonymous source close to the project, the first phase of the Westside Reservoir Park will likely be a smaller prototype park on a small fraction of the total property, meant to garner public enthusiasm and draw investment while the larger reservoir project undergoes construction. Whether this pocket park will be completed by 2019 is a matter of skepticism within the organization, according to AN's source. One factor complicating matters is a recent shakedown in leadership: Paul Morris, the former CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., stepped down three weeks ago after a heated public controversy surrounding the organization's shaky commitment to affordable housing in new development around the park. However, Morris' replacement, Brian McGowan, brings a hefty amount of experience in civic and economic development to the seat, having formerly served as the Executive Vice President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, CEO of Invest Atlanta, and is now leaving a position as a Principal at international law firm Dentons. Whether the first chapter of Bellwood Quarry's extensive refurbishment will be open to the public by 2019 or not, the BeltLine and its partners have, at least for the time being, redirected public attention away from what's sure to be a long and drawn-out debate about what the BeltLine – with all its ecological, recreational, and economic benefits – will mean for surrounding neighborhoods in the long term. This is not a question limited to the BeltLine. Hopefully the project will spur lawmakers to push for more affordable housing than is currently proposed by ABI, which now works in tandem with the Atlanta Housing Authority. For the scale of the project – which circles the entirety of Metro Atlanta with a population of 5.7 million – 5,600 affordable units seems like a low bar.
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Chicago pilots program to stem gentrification on North and West Sides

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a new pilot program to encourage affordable housing in the city’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. The program would focus on areas on the Near North and Near West sides, and along Milwaukee Avenue corridor. Since the dismantling of much of the city’s public housing throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, Chicago has heavily relied upon private development to fulfill affordable housing needs. To guide this the city passed the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), which sets rules for new developments over 10 units or that receive zoning changes. The current iteration of the ordinance requires that 10 percent of units in qualifying developments must be affordable, or the developer can pay in-lieu fees up to $225,000. The new pilot program would target particular neighborhoods which have shown signs of rapid gentrification. These include 9 miles along Milwaukee Avenue, incorporating parts of Logan Square, Avendale, West Town, and areas along the Green Line. The goal is to create 1,000 new affordable units over the next three years. To do this, the program proposes to raise the required affordable unit obligation from 10 percent to 15 or 20 percent depending on location. The in-lieu fee option would also be eliminated, forcing developers to build affordable units instead of paying to get out of the obligation. Lastly, the pool of eligible tenants would be expanded by increasing the threshold to 80 percent Area Median Income (AMI), 20 percent above the current threshold. “Access to affordable housing is critical to Chicago’s legacy as one of the world’s most livable big cities, especially as the real estate market undergoes unprecedented neighborhood development,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This initiative will create more affordable units in targeted areas while helping the city to assess the most effective ways of meeting neighborhood affordable housing goals.” If passed by the city council, the program will affect some of the fastest developing areas in the city. Both the Near North and Near West Sides have seen rapid growth, particularly around transit nodes. Thanks to a 2015 Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance, developers have been able to build large residential blocks with few or no parking spaces near major transit lines. The result has been a building boom, which many argue has exacerbated the gentrification in neighborhoods across the city.
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Abandoned NYC hospital to be redeveloped as affordable housing

Hoping to bolster its stock of affordable housing, New York City last week issued an RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) to redevelop the long-abandoned Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn into 500 supportive and affordable apartments. The 146,100-square-foot complex includes three buildings and open land that have been sitting empty since 1983. “It makes no sense in a community desperate for affordable housing that that prime site has been sitting here all this time," Mayor Bill de Blasio told a local town hall, according to DNAinfo. Brick structures on the site were built between 1915 and 1930. One is being used as a homeless shelter and the other was recently taken over by squatters. According to the RFEI, plans for the site need to consider its historic character, repurposing materials and the historic facades. However developers will be able to demolish one or more of the buildings “based upon highest level of feasibility.” A previous plan for redevelopment was halted in 2012 when the developer was indicted on bribery charges. De Blasio, who released his Housing New York plan shortly after taking office, has promised to add or preserve more than 200,000 affordable housing units in the city within ten years. “When more than 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in homeless shelters and hundreds of thousands more struggle to pay high rents with meager earnings, the City fails to live up to its promise of opportunity,” noted the report. The city recently reported that it has financed 77,651 affordable homes since January, 2014, putting it “ahead of schedule” to reach its goal.
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HUD report reveals housing affordability crisis unfolding across America

The nationwide affordable housing crisis is nearing a record high: More than 8 million renters in 2015 had "worst case housing needs," according to a report released last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Very low-income, unassisted families who pay more than half their monthly income for rent and/or live in severely substandard housing are labeled as worst case needs residents. The Worst Case Housing Needs: 2017 Report to Congress reveals that in 2015, 8.3 million households had worst case needs, a 66 percent spike since 2001 and a number approaching the record high of 8.48 million in 2011.

According to the report, cases “cut across all regions of the county and include all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of whether they live in cities, suburbs, or rural areas.”

Most of the nation’s very low-income renters—those who earn less than 50 percent of Area Median Income—reside in the South (6.7 million), followed by the West (4.5 million). The areas with the highest concentrations of worst case households among very low-income renters, however, were in major urban areas: the New York metropolitan area, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the Chicago metropolitan area.

HUD's report revealed that while ongoing economic recovery will help increase incomes for very low-income renters, other factors continue to drive the affordable housing crisis. The report cites severe rent burden—those paying more than 50 percent of their income towards monthly rent—as one of the primary factors. Out of the households with worst case needs in 2015, 98.2% had severe rent burden.

The other main cause includes a scarcity of units with affordable rents. Despite an increase in overall rental units and in median renter’s income over the past two years, monthly rents also increased and the shortage of affordable and available units for this population became more severe. For the poorest renters, rent hikes outpace income increases, according to the report.

Nationwide, only 66 affordable units exist for every 100 extremely low-income renters, and of that, only 38 are available for occupancy.

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Oregon bill would encourage new affordable housing but has preservationists up in arms

A controversial bill under consideration that seeks to impose a 100-day limit on reviews for housing developments containing affordable units is currently up for debate in Oregon.

The far-reaching bill, known as HB 2007, would require cities and counties in the state to not only “review and decide on applications for certain housing developments containing affordable housing units within 100 days,” but would also limit local municipalities’ abilities to preclude these housing developments via future national historic district designations. Furthermore, the bill would also limit municipalities’ abilities to require lower development densities in some zoning areas, declare a housing emergency in the state, allow houses of worship to develop affordable housing on their properties, and prohibit municipalities from prohibiting accessory dwelling units or duplexes on lots zoned for single-family use. The measure, which is endorsed by the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland and 1000 Friends of Oregon, has been condemned as a handout to real estate and development interests by preservationists. Because the bill would impose limits on the influence of local historic districts, many in the preservation community see the bill as a wide-ranging and existential threat to the state’s historic fabric. The pro-preservation group Restore Oregon contends the bill is based on “false premises” and has offered a set of amendments to the bill, including adding language to the measure to increase incentives aimed at curbing market-rate development, adding disincentives to the bill that would limit the demolition of modestly-priced existing units, and enabling existing homes to be subdivided into as many as four units without prompting commercial zoning regulations as is currently the case in the state. The group also seeks to retain baseline protections for new historic districts. A hearing on the bill will be held June 22nd. See the Restore Oregon site for more details.
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Nonprofit developers propose $32 million mixed-income project for Midtown, Detroit

The transformation of Midtown Detroit symbolizes much of the wider change that is happening in Detroit. For good and for bad, areas of Detroit are quickly being developed, and with each new announcement comes questions of responsibility to the very people that have stuck it out in the economically-depressed city. Unlike much of the development, which is being funded by some of the city’s wealthiest, one recently unveiled project is being led by two nonprofits. This mixed-use mixed-income housing development will be located at the corner of Garfield Street and John R. Street, across from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, in the Sugar Hill district. Working with the City of Detroit to realize the project are Develop Detroit and Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH). Both developers are members of the Housing Partnership Network (HPN). Develop Detroit was founded in 2016 in the wake of the city’s municipal bankruptcy. POAH has been behind a handful of mixed-income complexes across the South Side of Chicago. "We’re partnering with this outstanding team because of the city's strong focus on equitable and inclusive development," said POAH Managing Director Real Estate Development Rodger Brown in a press release. "This transformational project is completely aligned with our core mission and we’re confident that in partnership with Mayor Duggan and Develop Detroit, our team can create a project that will further enhance the Sugar Hill Arts District and contribute to the economic growth of the city of Detroit.” Comprised of 84 units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space, the project will cost $32 million. Notably, 25 percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing for residents making between 50 and 80 percent of the area’s median income. Units will include studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom layouts. The residential units and the commercial space will also be served by 300 parking spaces and green alleyways. Construction is tentatively expected to begin by September 2018, pending full city approval. Phil Freelon, design director at Perkins + Will is leading the design in partnership with Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates. "Our work in Detroit continues to be an exciting and energizing experience for me,” said Freelon in a press release. “I look forward to the Sugar Hill project and expanding our partnership with the city as we work to implement innovative strategies that contribute to Detroit’s resurgence.”
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New 100-percent-affordable apartment complex takes root on remediated land in San Francisco

The Pacific Pointe development, designed by David Baker Architects (DBA) with Interstice Architects as associate and landscape architects, is the first 100-percent-affordable housing development in the new Hunters View area of San Francisco. The development is among the first completed projects in the new 420-acre neighborhood, a former naval shipyard that was—until recently—one of the most polluted sites in the country. After 20 years of remediation work, the enclave at the southern tip of San Francisco is now slated to receive upward of 10,000 new housing units as well as a slew of recreational and commercial programs.

The 60-unit apartment complex—developed by AMCAL Multi-Housing and Young Community Developers—is located near the center of the new environ, at the corner of Friedell Street and La Salle Avenue. The complex is organized as two interlocking L-shaped wings bridged by a two-level courtyard. The building features units ranging from one- to three-bedrooms supplemented by ground-level assembly and amenity spaces.

The five-story complex is punctuated along Friedell Street by a perforated Cor-ten steel panel–clad circulation tower that connects to a monumental stairway running through the principal courtyard. That stairway jogs across the elevated portion of the courtyard and eventually empties out onto a generous seating area with custom benches and native plantings. That elevated portion conceals play areas, building programming, and parking below, while stretching deep into the site where it is overlooked from multiple vantages by single-loaded corridors leading to unit entrances. The courtyards are articulated by generous planters framed by Cor-ten steel panels that are interrupted by jagged, stepped benches and wood platforms. Andrew Dunbar, principal at Interstice Architects said, “A fresh-air entry court is located at the lower level; above the parking, we were able to create a park-like courtyard that creates an intimate interconnecting ‘front yard’ for all the inhabitants.” The seating areas contain an unusual element: Raw 10-foot-long logs are embedded directly into the seating and stage areas. “We liked the surrealist effect of the logs as floating elements in the sea of wooden water—they speak to driftwood and offer imaginative play opportunities that recall the logging industry that once used the bay,” Dunbar explained.

The remainder of the complex is organized as a series of simple apartment blocks with several alternating sections of massing projecting beyond the main bulk of the complex. These overhanging areas create coverings for doorway stoops in certain areas and provide simple shade over windows in others. Along the stoops, the scale of the building breaks down to include more raised Cor-ten steel panel planters, modestly planted green areas, and broad stair landings designed for children to play on.

In most areas, the units are studded with flush-mounted floor-to-ceiling casement windows articulated to look double-hung. Window assemblies containing large picture windows are wrapped by planar shading devices that demarcate certain aspects of the program—namely the living areas. As is customary in much of DBA’s recent work, these shared ground-floor areas are detailed with smooth, cast-in-place concrete. The articulated portions of the building containing housing programs are variously clad in smooth, painted stucco, or horizontal siding.

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San Francisco modernizes its affordable housing lottery process

While we may live in Dickensian times, San Francisco has taken a small but important step toward humanizing the process by which qualifying individuals and families can apply to be considered for the city’s affordable housing lottery. Previously, San Francisco’s Office of Housing required would-be affordable housing dwellers to fill out hefty applications and apply in person at each specific housing development, only to watch on as numbered strips of paper were randomly picked out from a big box. The order in which numbers were selected would dictate the line of potential housing recipients. The process was cumbersome to say the least. The San Francisco Examiner reports that at a recent lottery for 60 available units in the Dalt Hotel in the city’s Tenderloin district drew 615 numbers out of several thousand applications submitted.   The carnivalesque and inhumane spectacle—San Francisco’s median rent recently fell slightly, but remains sky-high at a stunning $3,370 per month—is being replaced by the new Database of Affordable Housing Listings, Information, and Applications (DAHLIA) system. The new method was developed with help from Google and Salesforce and consists of an online portal that allows would-be residents to apply not only to multiple housing listings but also allows applicants to find out whether they have been selected via phone or computer. Barry Roeder, an official with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing, told the Examiner, “the big bin has gone away. No more carnival tickets and things like that. You can, in ten minutes, apply from your smartphone to a listing that you want. It pops up and tells you what your lottery number is and sends you an email with it. Within minutes of the completion of a public lottery, enter that number in DAHLIA again and it shows you exactly what your rank was in the lottery.” The new system is currently operational for all below-market rate listings generated by private developers as part of the city’s inclusionary zoning laws. Applications for affordable units developed by non-profit housing developers should become available within the next month.
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Marijuana reparations: A vehicle for housing reform in California?

If it seems like legalized recreational marijuana’s potential to instigate positive social change at the urban scale is little more than a pipe dream, think again. Several states and municipalities are already experimenting with innovative uses for legal marijuana revenues that hint at a possible urban dimension to the notion of so-called “marijuana reparations,” but these efforts do not go far enough. One approach comes from the state of Colorado, where lawmakers are working to change state law to allow municipalities to spend tax revenues raised via recreational marijuana sales to build new units of affordable housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. Officials there see a recent rise in homelessness as being related to the legal marijuana trade and are looking to utilize revenues from booming marijuana sales to fund re-housing and recovery efforts. The plan, if enacted, would seek to redirect $12.3 million in revenue—legal weed sales brought in $199 million in tax revenue in 2016—to build roughly 1,500 affordable housing units over the next five years. Oakland, California, on the other hand, is aiming to increase access to marijuana sales licenses via its equity permit program. That program aims to streamline the process by which formerly-incarcerated individuals who were jailed for marijuana-related crimes can apply for licenses to sell recreational marijuana. City Lab reports that by Oakland’s official estimates, African Americans made up 77 percent of marijuana-related arrests in the city during 2015. With such skewed figures, whites made up only seven percent of arrests for marijuana-related crimes that year while Latinos made up 15% of arrestees. The city is banking that by earmarking legal marijuana permits for formerly incarcerated individuals, some of those who suffered the most under the war on drugs will be some of the first to benefit from changing laws. These types of changes are a positive first step, but they do not go far enough in addressing the inequality engendered by the discriminatory racial paradigm that launched the war on drugs in the first place. Simply put, state and local municipalities have a moral, social, and financial obligation to rectify the impacts of the decades-long war on drugs that has unnecessarily criminalized African American and Latino communities across the country. The majority of people in prison are currently incarcerated at the state level, often due to local policing efforts. In the United States, the effects of racism on housing discrimination and incarceration rates are ongoing and well-documented. The intimately-related nature of post-World War II redlining practices, coupled with the facilitation of concentrated urban poverty by the interstate highway system, are directly responsible for the ease with which hostile policing and drug enforcement practices have been able to tear into communities of color left behind by suburbanization. Recent episodes of police brutality against people of color—and African Americans, in particular—point directly to the historical legacies that racist land use and policing policies have left on many communities to this very day. The historical legacy of these initiatives has also set up the parameters through which contemporary gentrification has been allowed to take hold in American cities. States and local municipalities are on the hook for limiting housing production over the last several decades. States like California have done an abysmal job facilitating housing production for years, a phenomenon that has created the rampant unaffordability crisis that is choking working class populations—the same groups suffering under draconian criminal policies—in major cities and small towns alike. Given these connections, it’s clear to see that the time to lay the groundwork for bold action is now; municipalities can no longer treat unaffordability and mass-incarceration as separate issues to be addressed piecemeal because they are a product of the same system of oppression. Here’s an idea for a holistic approach: What if states were to combine social justice–minded marijuana reparations efforts with housing market reform, as well? First, states like California should expand Oakland’s equity permit program to as many municipalities as possible, enabling at least the sales of legalized marijuana to economically benefit marginalized communities. The state should then administer revenues generated from recreational marijuana sales to directly incentivize the development of affordable and market rate housing within a certain proximity—say, one-quarter of a mile—of recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries or production facilities. This effort, if coupled with thoughtful increases in density around these facilities, would double- and triple-up the positive effects of the marijuana trade on marginalized communities by ensuring that new jobs and new housing are brought directly to communities besieged by the drug war. With this proximity-based approach, both urban areas and the rural communities across the state now responsible for growing and processing many cannabis products can benefit, as well. The state should also facilitate the development of community-based banks—again, located near dispensaries—tasked with providing private financing to individuals, families, business, and housing developers aiming to develop workforce housing within these communities. Formerly incarcerated individuals and their families should be given priority access to these funds, as well, an element could begin to facilitating paths to self-directed home ownership while also embedding more equitable access to financing within these communities. The potential impact of these policies could be high. In California, for example, recent legalization included levying a 15 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales as well as a wholesale tax of $9.25 and $2.75 per ounce on marijuana flowers and leaves, respectively. Recreational and medical marijuana sales are expected to reach $6.46 billion per year by 2020, potentially generating roughly $1 billion in tax revenues for the state. A rough calculation of the figures given earlier for Colorado’s affordable housing program indicates that state is aiming to spend roughly seven percent of marijuana revenue on supportive housing. Scaled to California’s marijuana economy, that would translate to roughly $70 million for housing reform. That’s a good start and, of course, the seven percent percent figure could go much higher. Additional funding could potentially be leveraged against funding from federal agencies for a larger effect, also. Either way, $70 million would certainly go far in communities that have seen economic disinvestment and marginalization for decades. Given the monumental shifts in marijuana policy and public opinion and the potential the booming industry has to generate vast amounts of wealth, it is essential that the spoils of legalized marijuana trade not only go to those who have access to capital and privilege necessary to start a marijuana-related business. It is also essential, given the ongoing housing crisis—and that phenomenon’s ties to other aspects of institutionalized racial inequality—that municipalities move to make housing reform a central component of any marijuana reparations program. These funds should be harnessed directly toward increasing business opportunities for individuals caught up by the war on drugs and be put toward the equitable redevelopment of the very communities torn apart by those policies.
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Historic abandoned Sears complex transformed into affordable housing

Sears and Roebuck Company may no longer be the giant it once was, yet its physical presence is still all over the city of Chicago. As the company had no brick and mortar retail stores until nearly 30 years after its founding in 1886 as a mail-order catalog, many of its earliest buildings were for logistics and storage. One of those old structures is its large original headquarters and catalog printing facility. Abandoned for 40 years, the epic building has now been converted into 181 affordable housing units. Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, the complete renovation was lead by Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architects, James McHugh Construction Co., and Denco, for client Mercy Housing Lakefront. The six-story brick complex will house upwards of 300 residents in 79 one-bedroom units, 52 two-bedroom units, 40 three-bedroom units, and 10 four-bedroom units. Other amenities include a community room, laundry facilities, a computer center, and an exercise facility. The redeveloped complex will now be known as the Lofts on Arthington. Limestone and terracotta details throughout, as well as many of the other original details, were restored in the process of converting the campus. Nearly the entire roof and over 100,000 square feet of flooring had to be completely replaced. Much of the structure had to be updated as well, along with filling in underground tunnels once used by Sears to move across the complex. In recent years, Sears has continued its decline, with an announcement from the company’s leadership expressing “substantial doubt” about its future. Famously, the company’s namesake supertall tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2014, though most Chicagoans still refer to it as the Sears Tower. The Old Chicago Main Post Office, which was once the largest post office in the world thanks to Sears’s mail-order business, was vacated in 1997. Now with many of Sears’s old buildings being refurbished, and the Old Main Post Office being completely renovated, some of Chicago’s largest structures, from the golden age of mail-order merchandising, are getting a second chance at life.
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China plans to build two million affordable housing units in 2017

China is aiming to build two million affordable housing units this year in an effort to increase access to housing across the country, senior officials from that country report. According to Reuters, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) vice minister Lu Kehua explained that access to affordable housing was becoming a top priority for the government, as housing affordability across China’s largest cities has plummeted in recent years. Many parts of the country are currently experiencing a property boom that has left China’s low-income residents—especially migrant workers who have moved to China’s bustling cities from the countryside—out in the cold. The new units will be developed with an eye toward housing such populations, Lu explained. Official Chinese state publication Xinhua reports that the government has boosted investments and financing in public housing production in recent months to begin the process. Confusingly, the so-called property bubble in major cities comes as many of China’s smaller cities suffer from housing overproduction, resulting in “ghost cities.” China’s unequal, helter-skelter housing growth is straining city residents and has the potential to end badly, economically speaking, as builders take on more and more debt to build housing where it is neither needed nor in high demand. Of course, the low-skilled workers most dependent on the booming building industry there are due to suffer most in the event of economic collapse. Though two million new units is an impressive feat, the new affordable housing efforts are relatively paltry, considering China’s population currently stands at roughly 1.357 billion inhabitants, with roughly 70 million people living in poverty there. Overall, China provides affordable housing for roughly 11.3 million families. By comparison, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, administers roughly 4.8 million affordable units, according to a recent report. By one measure, China’s forthcoming affordable units, if developed proportionally in the United States, would result in over 466,000 new units. That number, coincidentally, is close to the number of new units needed to begin to address California’s housing crisis