Monthly Archives: January 2019

Some Inconvenient Affordable Housing Facts About Upzoning And Higher Density

Salt Lake City under cloudy and grey skies
Following World War II, the victorious Soviet Union took stock of a housing crisis to end all housing crises in the endless fields of rubble that lay across the Russian battlefields. Strangely, they did not immediately rezone the rubble for mixed income, and create tax...

Roadmaps To Affordability You Might Actually Enjoy

Image of greenhouses and rows of climbing vegetables at Iron Street Farm located on the South Fork of the Chicago River
Survey articles on affordable housing in America are prone to offer 'top ten' cities where the housing market is still somewhat affordable. Or 'top fifteen.' Or the like. That tends to be the only criteria. No mention is necessarily made of why you might...

The Many Colours Of NIMBY: ‘Unsavoury’ Seniors

lazy boy chair with handmaide quilt
NIMBY: Not in My Back Yard. Part of an ongoing collection of articles exploring some of the many ways that a worldwide affordable housing crisis is opposed. Well, of course some seniors are unsavoury. But really, when you come right down to it, who wants...

Affordable Housing Details You Might Not Have Considered: Access to Banking

image of hat worn by Canadian letter carriers in the 1970
Affordable housing is not just a collection of construction material and land costs. It's a purse that must stretch to cover a rental or purchase . . . after any and all other essential costs have been been plucked out. Food and utility costs...

Manteca Councillors Play Hamlet, Know A Hawk From A Handsaw When The Wind Is Southerly

Image of wooden rungs on a ladder attached to a fire truck
So what is the point of showcasing a modest-sized city council proclaiming self-congratulatory definitions of 'affordable' about the chamber? Manteca is just such a modest size city, and some on council are quite smug about how well they are doing in the daunting task of...

Alternate Universe Affordable Housing: Tiny Houses (Ho Hum) And Tiny Houses (Pixie Magic)

black and white image of abandonned tiny house
The august BBC has thrown the weight of its interest into a study exploring the 'Pixie Magic' style of tiny housing, including its many warts. Ideally those warts would be little white lumps on a scarlet toadstool cap above flower-boxed windows and a little arched door...

How Government Shutdown Extinguishes 1,000 Tiny Points of Light

1536 suspended LED lights against a dark sky
'1000 tiny points of light' was President George H.W. Bush's famous description of a nation's charities. They could generously care for the needy, absolving 'big government' of any obligation to do so. That idea lives on today in neo-conservative mythology. Once 'entitlement' programs are abolished,...

The Sad Parable Of A San Francisco Teachers’ Slum

Entrance of Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco
In truth, it was a teacher's slum that never was, but a sad parable nonetheless. These days, stories abound of middle class workers essential to a community who are less and less able to find affordable housing within, or even near, the community where they...

Need Affordable Housing? What ‘Big Government’ Could Do For You.

Statue of President Roosevelt and pet dog Fala. Shot includes inscription of FDR quote on systems of government
Way back when, remember Big Government? Oh. You think Big Government is still with us, a bloated zombie from a failed twentieth century socialist experiment, still hard at work draining tax dollars from self-made citizens, the better to unnecessarily meddle with their lives (momentary pause here...

Buckingham Palace As Social Housing: Shades of the Russian Revolution?

guards in red coats and black feathered hats parading at Buckinghoam Palace
An international architectural magazine with slightly dubious design senseCheck out the article link. All lower case. Really? Surely this is publishing art as an exercise in obscurity, not clarity. A little worrisome in a publication celebrating the art of architecture. has ferreted out a...

Happy 50th Birthday, Co-op City, NYC: Proving Project Housing Can Survive And Prosper

image of high rise buildings, which are part of co-op city in the Bronx
With dense living apparently the way of the future for modern cities, it's important to understand why it has in some cases proved itself unworthy. Communities of gentry in luxury high rise condos are successful. Middle class high rise apartments? The same. Some folks seem...

Need Affordable Housing On A Tight Budget? Here Are 3 Things The Free Market Can Do For you

image of three lighted red candles
Eager to climb onto the first rung of the 'housing ladder'? Not convinced by the snarky attitude of blogs like, that spend column inches eye-rolling at the sanity of the 'housing ladder', and are wont to call it the 'housing treadmill?' Except . ....

Chicago Low Income Housing Owners Supported By A Financial Institution That Cares

image of street front of de paul university in Chicago
Can low-income individuals and families actually own housing, rather then simply renting a home? For a lengthy honeymoon period leading up the the 2008 'Great Recession' low-income Americans were invited on a honeymoon cruise with the American Dream of home ownership. How come? Banks and other...

Affordable Housing Details You Might Not Have Considered: The Bay Area’s ‘Pay By Distance’

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, which serves the San Francisco area
Affordable housing is not just a collection of construction material and land costs. It's a purse that must stretch to cover a rental or purchase . . . after any and all other essential costs have been been plucked out. Food and utility costs...

Affordable Housing: Can It Be Lean And Mean And Also Green?

Image of a high rise public housing project in Albany New York
Exclusive neighbourhoods of single family dwellings are facing an uncertain future as the pressure of an affordable housing crisis bears down upon protective zoning. For more on this try: Minneapolis Drives A Stake Into The Heart Of The American Dreamscape Denser housing in cities offers some...

Can A Case Be Made For ‘Downzoning’ When Upzoning Is The Favourite Affordable Housing Flavour?

small home fronting on a laneway in Vancouver
Downzoning is, not surprisingly, the opposite of upzoning. A classic, controversial attempt to do city-wide upzoning has recently made the news in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis residential zoning districts, which previously allowed only single family dwellings, will henceforth have to permit not just one, but up...

Not A Property Tax, But A Land Value Tax. Vancouver Explores A Way Of Taxing Pure Land Speculation.

Image of Lake City Skytrain station in Burnaby, British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. is struggling with a world class affordable housing crisis which some locals believe is the worst, anywhere, in any country. In order to put the brakes on land speculation that is fuelling the crisis, Vancouver City Council is considering generating income by implementing...

Homelessness: Most of What You Believe About It Is Quite Probably Wrong

four storey apartment building in Cincinnatti
There are not that many homeless people, but those few are persistent in putting themselves in our faces, sleeping in our city doorways, panhandling on our streets. Wrong. Young people are attracted to the homeless lifestyle. Wrong. Older homeless people are addicts or people with mental...

Say It Ain’t So! Missing Middle Gobbles Up Habitat for Humanity Homes

Image of large stars and stripes flag in Fremont California
Habitat For Humanity, the affordable housing fundraiser par excellence, the folks who perfected volunteer sweat equity, have thrown up their hands in California and cried 'uncle.' The bottom line: in spite of their best efforts, Habitat for Humanity unable to fundraise fast enough to subsidize...

The American Housing Industry’s Addiction To Luxury Homes Is Damaging Its Health. And Ours.

image of person shaking their head
Builder Magazine is a construction industry booster, without question. But if it is inclined to sugar coat or trumpet industry successes, it also seems willing to tackle some of the industry's weaknesses in whatever manner seizes necessary attention. Builder Magazine has chosen to reframe 'big' (a.k.a...

Fanny Mae Unplugged: A Former CEO Offers Perspective On Last & Next Housing Crises

image of rainbow, home and family with text illegal and mismanaged foreclosures - all american greed
In 2008, an American mortgage repackaging crisis wound in financial players and governments around the world. It triggered a multi-year recession from which some countries are still recovering. The lengthy economic downturn is these days described in the news as "The Great Recession." It involved...

What Detroit Needs: Temporary Low Income Workers To Occupy Temporary LIHTC Housing

image of abandonned railway station in Detroit
Temporary low income workers? Too bad for Detroit that the world doesn't work that way. Because temporary low income workers would perfectly suit America's Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). The stated intent of LIHTC credits would appear to be the construction...

Why Americans Can’t Afford Housing: An Explanation From So Far In Left Field It May Be Right After All

image of medicines for sale in Seoul South Korea
There have been a number of recent stories in the press that have attempted, for good reason, to explore the 'other' side of the affordable housing crisis. What other side? Well, it takes two to create affordability. The seller . . . and the buyer. You...

The Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018: Explicit Maps Picture Why It’s Needed.

kitchen and living area of an apartment
As of mid-January 2019, The U.S. Congress has apparently passed from simple dysfunction into a legislative coma. One half of that august body offers up little yelps, accompanied by the paw movements of a sleeping dog chasing a rabbit in its dreams. The other half,...

Return Of The Living Dead? Faint Footfalls Of Yesterday’s Affordable Housing Grow Louder In The Gloom.

image of a statue of a person thinking
Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody's Analytics, stirs a fat chicken into the red-hot American housing pot, with an analysis of factors that are threatening housing in America, particularly affordable housing. He warns of the next great housing crisis since the 2008 housing collapse...

For Rent: The American Dream

Image of suburban house with weeds growing through driveway
No surprise, really, that the American Dream of single family home ownership in a nice neighbourhood has always been for rent (minus the ownership portion, of course). Homeowners can carelessly move from a job and a house they enjoy in one city, to a house...

Churning: A Preposterous Reinvention Of NYC Public Housing Problems

image of computer keyboard with key marked churn
A recent article in CITYLAB features a pundit with a narrow vision of New York City's public housing problems: he feels there's just not enough churning. Churning? It's a rental housing industry term. A lot of churning? Lots of people moving in and out of...

“Nobody Listened to Us!” Grenfell Tower Fire Survivors Demand A Legal Voice For All Social Housing Tenants

image of tower block and low rise flats operated by Warwick District Housing
The 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire in London has spawned several different regulatory and police investigations. So far, targets of possible manslaughter charges for actions contributing to the disaster include The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as well as the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants...

Strong Calls For National Affordable Housing Leadership On Both Sides Of The Atlantic

At last! Solutions to the affordable housing conundrum have coincidentally been offered in both the United States and the United Kingdom that match the scale of this ever-widening crisis. The demands from each side of the Atlantic are not the same-old same-old boutique private/public partnership...

The Middle Class Unaffordable House: Are There Middle Class Income Solutions?

protest banner to raise the wage create jobs
Most explorations about the affordability crisis in a nation seem to turn on the cost of housing. Ever more expensive building materials are assembled by ever more expensive labour to build a structure upon ever more expensive free market land. Solutions to housing affordability require...

Land Trusts – What Are They? What Do They Mean For Affordable Housing?

Land trusts are an alternative to private land ownership. Key features are: Ownership by a third party (a trustee) Controls on the use of the land Constraints on the value of the land Why talk about land trusts in an affordable housing blog? A growing number...

Battling Beyond the Back Yard: Affordable Housing Activism Succeeds Outside The Neighbourhood

Image of podium and flag in Chicago's Council Chamber
Affordable housing activism has so far been a powerful force influencing the world-wide affordable housing crisis. One of the most surprising (and in some ways dispiriting) exhibitions of successful activism takes place at the neighbourhood level, where small groups of activists have manned the...

Down And Out In Delaware: Some Hard Facts

image of shadow figures and words painted on the side of homeless shelter for veterans in delaware
Like the meaning of 'affordable' housing, the meaning of 'homelessness' is frequently parsed or twisted by special interests (or by the ignorant) who wish to push one agenda or another without doing their homework. A typical example is a recent opinion piece from Victoria, British...

What Is Housing First? Why Is It So Popular?

Housing First is an approach to ending homelessness. Its key features include Personal outreach to people who are homeless, with the specific purpose of encouraging them to accept assistance to move to permanent housing Practical assistance to people who accept service Rapid access to...

Colorado, Where The Wages Of Sin Is Affordable Housing (And The Munchies)

image of denver's city hall with bright red flowers in the foreground
As North America's housing crisis deepens, there is a growing gap between land and housing costs on one hand, and the amount that a growing number of potential homebuyers and renters can afford to pay on the other. Governments have elected to subsidize this gap....

To A Business High Priest At The Altar Of Affordable Housing: A Little Research, PLEASE!

Image of 68 unit affordable housing project in Victoria British Columbia
A little research, PLEASE. This means you, Catherine Holt, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO and author of an opinion piece in the Victoria, B.C. Times Colonist. You have us in the palm of your hand with your headline: Catherine Holt: Non-Market Housing is Essential. Excellent!...

Fire-Bombing Banks In Ireland: A Warning For Other Nations?

hills and fields in County Roscommon
The Irish are quick to anger when the border with Northern Ireland is involved. Just recently, someone advised a Belgian bank to hire Unionist security people from the Republic of Ireland in order to evict a 64 year old farmer and two sons from...

NYC And HUD Spar Over Affordable Housing Time Bomb — Decaying Public Housing

Image of public housing building owned by the New York City Housing Authority
It's a time when cities everywhere are waking up to the cold, hard reality of the affordable housing crisis. Helped by subsidies, the private construction industry has focused its attention on affordable (for some) middle class homes for purchase. But city managers are facing the...

Cities Can Unite To Force National Government Action On Affordable Housing: An EU Perspective

image of the arc de triomphe in barcelona, constructed to welcome visitors to the city
An intriguing, wide-ranging article from Ireland reports on a recent affordable housing conference for European Union cities. The conference was held in Vienna, Austria, which in itself is a city and country worthy of great interest from an affordable housing perspective. Why? Because much...

Honey, I’m Back! Densified Kiss-And-Ride California Transit Nodes Return From The Dead

Black and white image of California State Capitol in Sacratmento
The idea of allowing high density zoning near California transit hubs gained steam earlier in 2018, when Bill SB 827 was introduced in the Sacramento Legislature. Beyond measures to increase density, the bill suggested other attractive features, such as reducing automobile emissions by linking...

Get Out Your Wallets, NIMBYites! Here Comes Affordable Housing Cap-And-Trade

Image of housing in Newark, New Jersey
All right, all right, there's no need to panic yet, neighbourhood Chicken Littles. The sky is not falling, nor has affordable housing cap-and-trade invaded your exclusive housing corner of American Dreamspace. But it's an intriguing idea. And amazingly, it has been tried before. (Full disclosure:...

Social Rent: From Socialism To Slapstick . . . And Back Again

Image of man driving a small car from an armchair mounted on the roof
The title of this article pays homage to a much more impressive one which we'll get to in a moment. It's partially entitled " . . from Stalin to Mr. Bean via Orwell." A casual definition of a bandied-about term — social rent — is...
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