Category Archives: Affordable Housing
A Fair Chance in the Economy is Humanly Possible
George Mason University Economics Professor Don Boudreaux wrote recently: “I do not in the least care about income (or wealth) inequality.”
This seems a pretty bold and heartless statement, but he clarifies:
“I care – very deeply – whether the process for pursuing one’s life’s goals is fair or not. I want everyone to have as fair a chance in the economy as is humanly possible. I despise special privileges that stack the deck either in favor of Jones or against Smith. (We can have a debate about what the details of “fair process” and “special privileges” look like, but this post is not the place for such a debate.) But I do not care about differences in monetary income or wealth as such.”
Every American is entitled to a fair chance to succeed in our economy. But here’s an incontrovertible fact: human bias and prejudice actively prevent some Americans at a fair shot.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about housing discrimination.
Zenobia of Petersburg Virginia wanted to move her family to a better neighborhood so her four children could attend better schools and build a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, she was turned down for housing repeatedly because she uses public assistance to pay for rent. This type of housing discrimination reduced the fair shot Zenobia is entitled to.
A recent study found that many low income Americans are trapped in areas with fewer opportunities:
One of the most disappointing results of the study, Tegler says, is that the majority of recipients of the Housing Choice Voucher Program still live near low-performing schools, even though the program is designed to provide greater housing options.
It is humanly possible to give these folks a fair chance in our economy. We have to eliminate discrimination against people using public assistance for housing. When people are able to choose great neighborhoods themselves, they will have the fair shot they are entitled to in our economy. We must also make sure that there is affordable housing in great neighborhoods.
The 10 minute video below was made by the Leadership Metro Richmond housing team. Housing is a regional issue that requires regional solutions.
The Richmond Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission presented its Final Report and Recommendations to Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the City of Richmond. The report represents nearly two years of research, public input sessions, and committee work. The commission’s findings stress the need for a regional rapid transit transportation system and a comprehensive housing policy. Commission Co-Chair Ellen Robertson plans to have the report presented to City Council during their informal session tonight, January 28, 2013.
The Virginia General Assembly moves pretty fast, leaving citizens with many concerns about what is happening with transportation. Despite the extensive media coverage, the details keep changing and many Virginians aren’t quite sure of the details lawmakers are proposing and debating. To help educate everyone about what’s going on, I’m summarizing the most recent developments and policy concerns.
Transportation is deeply connected to housing and we have to ask some serious questions about the current transportation proposal moving through the Virginia legislature. We know that the lack of affordable housing has forced Virginians to live farther away from their jobs which adds more congestion on our roads. We need a 21st century transportation solution.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has put forward a transportation proposal which basically:
- Raises the sales tax
- Permanently diverts more of the sales tax away from the General Fund (which also funds core services like education and health care) toward transportation
- Eliminates the gas tax
- Increases some transportation related fees, such as a fee on hybrids
As the 2013 Virginia General Assembly comes close to passing a significant new transportation package, there are critical questions that must be answered if all Virginians will be paying more taxes for transportation.
Will new transportation developments improve access that low and moderate income Virginians have to areas of high employment growth? Over the past few decades, the spatial mismatch between job creation in the suburbs and low‐income workers in the inner city has become more severe. This imbalance between jobs and housing deprives citizens living in areas where housing is affordable from accessing employment opportunities in high job‐growth areas. New transportation developments must focus on increasing access low income Virginians have to areas of high employment growth. This means not only roads, but also options such as mass transit.
For example, only 53% of the region’s jobs are served by the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation. Very few bus routes even extend into the surrounding counties. Those that do are primarily express lanes serving people coming into the city for jobs, not people going out of the city for jobs. This data was published in a report by HOME in December 2012 entitled Where You Live Makes All The Difference: An Opportunity Map of the Richmond Region.
Problem: Virginia’s transportation system is outdated and inhibits economic growth.
Solution: Connect transportation to housing, education and job growth.
Understanding and improving the connections among jobs, transportation, and affordable housing needs to be a top priority for decision makers and citizens across the commonwealth. Development in the suburbs has been largely auto‐centric. As such, there is now more demand placed on Virginia’s roadways than ever before as sprawl development has forced people to drive farther to get to work, school, and other activities.
Over the past few decades, the spatial mismatch between job creation in the suburbs and low‐income workers in the inner city has become more severe. This imbalance between jobs and housing deprives citizens living in areas where housing is affordable from accessing employment opportunities in high job‐growth areas. Often, public transit options are non‐existent or severely limited in suburban employment centers. Virginia should move away from subsidizing sprawl and towards promoting mixed income, mixed‐use developments. We should eliminate regulatory barriers to more compact development with a mixture of residential and commercial uses and housing with a mixture of styles, sizes, and prices. We should promote regional planning, incentives to guide new development to designated growth areas, and developments which serve a range of incomes. Virginia should provide greater transportation options by reorienting state and local expenditures to advance alternatives to driving.
This article was originally featured in a weekly newsletter of the Virginia Housing Coalition.
What is it? During the last session of the Virginia General Assembly (2012), the Virginia Housing Trust Fund was created, and an initial allocation of $7 million was made to the fund. The HTF will become operational during the 2nd year of the biennium – beginning July 1, 2013. The funding for the HTF came from a one-time payment that Virginia received as a part of the National Mortgage Settlement Agreement. No long-term funding source has yet been identified for the HTF.
How can the funds be used? The HTF will be administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The budget bill provided a basic description of how the funds are to be used. The funds are divided into two classes – grants and flexible loans. Up to 20 percent of the funds may be used for grants – with a special focus on reducing homelessness, including foreclosure and mortgage counseling. The rest of the funds are designated for loans that will need to be repaid to the fund. These loans will be low interest and can be designed to be as flexible as possible – for example, deferred payment or interest only would be possible under the program.