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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Bedtime Stories: Affordable Housing And ‘The Little Engine That Could’

three parked front end loaders
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The beating drums of housing industry lobbyists thunder on incessantly, drumming the industry's idea of good sense into the beleaguered brains of city councils worldwide. One example: it only stands to reason (housing industry reason) that affordable housing is difficult or impossible to build...

NYC Plans To Shoehorn Affordable Housing Onto Teeny Quirky Lots

night time shot of flatiron building in New York City
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What do you put on a triangular handkerchief of city land that has been vacant for decades? If New York City finds the right design, it will be affordable housing. And if the design works for New York, who knows how far a practical, affordable...

Will Democratic Control of State Government Help New York Renters?

Capitol Building - Albany, New York
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For many years, Republican majorities in the New York State Legislature have blocked efforts to provide better protections for the state's housing renters, particularly those  suffering from predatory landlord practices in the overheated housing market of New York City. Democratic Party gains in the recent...

Rent Banks — What Are They? How Can They Help Tenants Stay In Affordable Housing?

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Rent Banks are funds to help rent burdened tenants keep their housing and avoid eviction. Here's a current example of a proposed rent bank (along with nine other ideas) to help Burnaby, British Columbia combat unaffordable housing and keep low income citizens from becoming homeless. Read...

Creating A Tax-Foreclosure Free City: Why Bother?

Most city spending is to the benefit of their citizens. Not surprising, therefore, that cities generally take a dim view of those who do not pay municipal taxes. For individuals and families who consistently flaunt their city responsibilities there are remedies. One common and...

How Housing Investment By Criminals Can Jack Your Own Home Payments

a two storey row of clothes dryers
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North American boom towns are experiencing a new kind of crime wave that is almost completely invisible to the general public and to authorities as well. If you live in one of these cities, this hard to prevent activity is taking money out of...

Should ‘Sacrosanct’ Middle Class Bleed Affordable Housing Dollars From Truly Needy

housing in Anacostia, Washington D.C.
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In North America, there is a growing pressure at all levels of government to find subsidy dollars for housing the middle class. That's the 'sacrosanct' middle class, according to Michael Anderson, director of the Housing Trust Fund Project at the nonprofit Center for Community...

Permitted Development Rights: Housing Stumbles As Red Tape Crumbles

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These days, there's a constant industry-driven drumbeat of propaganda that targets excessive housing regulation. It's the prime stumbling block for affordable housing everywhere, don'tcha know? Cut the red tape and the housing industry will be able to build it cheaper: the regulatory load adds a...

The Stubbornly High Number Of American Women In Jail: Is Eviction A Factor?

painting of George Manly Muir visitng women in prison, circa 1912
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It seems that the lucrative harvest of quasi-felons that enriches the American jailing industry is growing disproportionately female. Further, the lack of affordable housing may play a significant role in the unnecessary incarceration of poverty-stricken women. It's widely understood that the scarcity of rental housing...

Hospitals Still Spending Millions Treating People Who Are Homeless

In 2006, Malcolm Gladwell penned the story of Million Dollar Murray, a veteran who found home in the streets of Reno, Nevada. He also spent a good deal of time at the City's two hospitals, where his bill was conservatively estimated at $1,000,000. That was...

‘Grannie Flat’ Boomlet Is About Affordable Housing And . . . Grannies!

white cottage situated in garden
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Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are separate living suites within a principal residence, or standing alone somewhere on the property of that residence. A recent report from California has suggested that ADUs have become the single most effective (so far) way of adding affordable housing...

Affordability Through Homesharing Can Be More Positive Than You Think

manual typewriter bearing the typed word HOMESHARE
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Room sharing, flat sharing, or house sharing by students can be a delightful experience. Still, stories abound of horror-show partnerships that mar this often-necessary college-age adventure. The misfortunes of a few tend to stoke the fears of many. And yet more and more people are...

How Québec And British Columbia Became Canada’s Affordable Housing Leaders

park and low rise apartments, traffic signal in foreground
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In 1994, the Canadian Federal Government pulled the plug on its social housing programs. Seven years later, the federal government reversed its position and decided to put some funding to affordable housing. Immediately, British Columbia and Québec began using all the funding available to...

Kingston, ON, Pinpoints Today’s Affordable Housing Crisis . . . 50 Years Ago

Affordable housing? It's déja vu all over again in Kingston, Ontario, as the local paper compares the current affordable housing crisis to the one the city was suffering in 1969. The verdict? Not that much has changed. 50 years ago the city was wringing its...

Sell Surplus Land: One Way Small Govt Policies Can Fit Affordable Housing Needs?

exterior view of multi-level parking garage
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Conservatives in power? Recent history in the Province of Ontario suggests that 'small government' will be the order of the day. Divest, download, promote private initiatives, anything to shrink the meddling of provincial government in everyday lives. It seems that the current Conservative government has...

For Whom the Bell Tolls: Dare We Say For Revered Habitat For Humanity?

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Habitat For Humanity is universally admired — a wildly successful hands-on religion which combines charity and sweat equity in its clarion call to service. Over the years, volunteers have responded by the millions, joining hands and hand tools and donations to support Habitat's relentless...

IRS Cranks Up The Curtain For Another Peek At The Land Of OZ

cloud in the shape of a question mark
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Back in the day, there was the plain not-so-old Opportunity Zone (OZ), which has now become a Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) . . . doing so apparently 'just beQOZ.' Not long ago (measured in weeks), we sketched what the OZ (now QOZ) could do for down-at-the-heels...

Ontario’s New Housing Plan Wallows in Happy-Clappy Possibilities, Few Promises

The Ontario Government has just announced its housing program. The principal strategies? Building more housing and selling government assets. There is also a sweeping announcement about possible changes to regulations affecting development, rent controls and appeal processes. See Ontario: More Homes, More Choice Is this...

Impact Fees: What Are They? How Do They Affect Affordable Housing?

tile mosaic in the shape of an eye
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Many people would like to move to Happy City, for its climate, ocean views, good job prospects, excellent schools, and so on. Housing developers believe in Happy City enough to invest their capital in new housing construction. They are happy to profit from people...

Chicago Tried To Do Two Things At Once: Is It A Fatal Flaw Of Inclusionary Zoning?

high rise towers in open green space
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Inclusionary zoning projects seem to offer the best of all worlds. In the form of public/private partnerships, they appear to address both the capitalist free market right to profit from value-added enterprise. And at the same time they address the human right to adequate...

It’s Alive! Toronto Smart Neighbourhood Horror Sparks Lawsuit                                          ...

car with google logo and camera strapped to roof
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Remember why you left that small town? Where secrets about you were whispered behind your back because all your neighbours knew everything about you? Okay, you may not remember that particular disease, but many small town refugees do. And the perfect antidote was the big...

Can You Get There From Here? Plugging Low Income Americans Into Affordable Housing

coaxial cable and wall plug
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An individual or an agency interposes itself between you and your objective and offers to help. Sure, you can hope for convenience, but hardly ever a cost saving. Help when searching for affordable housing might be one exception when the help is provided by a...

Student Housing Woes: Worthy Of Worry Or Wrong-Headed Whining?

view of high rise hosuing through window
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To an American student complaining about unaffordable housing, a sensible college administration might point out that earning a degree can well add an extra million dollars or so to lifetime earnings. And a sensible, cash-strapped undergraduate might well respond, "Can I have that up front,...

North American Housing Industry Slow To Respond To Affordable Rental Demand

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After the sub-prime mortgage blowout in 2008, there were uncountable housing evictions. As well, many homeowners stretched beyond the limit of their resources abandoned their underwater mortgages (more money is owed to pay off the mortgage than the house is worth). For those forced to...

U.S. Prez Hopeful Touts Rental Assistance. Seismic Shift In American Dreaming?

election poster of young child with text I shall be grown up before we get our house
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It's election promise season in America. (With U.S. political campaigning practically all year, every year, when is it not these days?) Leading up to the 2016 U.S. elections, there were virtually no promises that reflected the growing affordable housing crisis in America. Prior to that...

Housing Just Gets More Expensive For Low Income Renters

exterior of rooming house in historic district, Boise, Idaho
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Apartment List, a private sector web-based rental housing listing service in the United States, has just released its report tracking trends in income and housing costs from 2008 to 2018. It offers information about housing affordability by income level. This is a great advance...

Do We Need Smarter Cities? Or Are There More Important Fish To Fry First?

diagram of hexagonal smart city, containing a creative city, containing a creative capital
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There is all kinds of fuss around Toronto over the idea of having a smart neighbourhood, never mind a smart city. Toronto is only dipping a toe into the water, and allowing its Google-related partner, Sidewalk Labs, to put brains into a single waterfront...

Affordable Housing Path Forward: Don’t Assume Shelter & Investment Are Compatible

six examples of rubik's cubes
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Affordable Housing discussions in modern capitalist nations begin with a faith-based assumption: that the human need for shelter can be compatible with the capitalist right to invest in a commodities — land and housing — and profit from them. One analogy: we believe a Rubik's...

Housing Vs. Environment: Early Skirmishes Signal All-Out Battle To Come

two men, bird house and wetland in Oregon
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Consider the American housing sector, together with its political and activist support, which is concerned with building both market rate and affordable housing. Needless to say, it prefers to focus on a Green New DealA big-budget program to battle climate change proposed by some...

Finding The Path To End Indigenous Homelessness

How can we support people who are homeless to leave the streets and move to permanent housing? The link below leads to a Canadian research study that tackled this question. It's a big study (over 1,000 participants) so the results are quite robust. A key...

Many Youth Who Leave Foster Care Become Homeless. What To Do?

Young people approaching the age of majority are in a time of transition: finishing high school, starting post-secondary education, or employment, leaving home. Young people aging out of foster care face an additional transition, when their supports expire. The financial support that provided food, clothing...

‘Housing First’ Programs To End Homelessness Are Challenged By Boom Economies

bird's eye view of Edmonton with river in foreground and apartment buildings on the skyline
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Rapid housing and client choice are two of the hallmarks of Housing First programs. For an introduction to Housing First, try: What Is Housing First? Why Is It So Popular? Yet there are variations in how they are achieved from program to program.For instance,...

New York Jobs/Homes Stats Vindicate Telenovela Villain/Amazon Slayer AOC

crimped garden hose
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A fair and more balanced rendition of the headline of this article should really be "New York Jobs/Homes Stats Vindicate Telenovela Villain/Amazon Slayer AOCIf you are American and do not know who Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is, you need to crawl back under your rock. Citizens...

Public Investment In Australian Affordable Housing Pays Off

high rise apartment building with narrower tower above wider base
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It's an old story which still holds. You have to spend money to make money. A consortium of non-profit, government and industry groups found this out after they commissioned study recently completed by the City Futures Research Centre at the University of New South Wales,...

How Denver Downtown Gentrification Freezes Out Essential Workers

articulated bus in downtown intersection
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"Hospital treatment bookings wait for no person," I reasoned before beginning cancer radiation therapy in downtown Toronto. I planned to travel to my appointments by subway (No sane person drives to downtown Toronto in rush hour). To ensure I would never be late, I left...

Tradition Beats Techno-Solutions In California Fight To Build Affordable Housing

accessory dwelling unit atop a two car garage
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Big families were once a big tradition in the now-developed world. There was good reason for Mom and Pop to have them. Who but their surviving children would look after them, should they be fortunate enough to live to a ripe old age? Family self-support...

Affordable Housing That Physically Embraces History: Could It Work

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Ongoing celebration of a city often turns on the preservation of old, smallish buildings that served a unique role in the community's history. When entire buildings cannot be saved, facades of historic structures can be preserved by integrating them into a modern building. Many...

Housing Crisis Solution? Govt Subsidies Do Nothing Except Sooth Politician Slumber

clip art image of mobile home with porch
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To elaborate the headline of this post somewhat, the article linked below calls into question virtually the entire foundation of the U.S. government's contributions to municipal affordable housing subsidy programs. It accuses the welcome that councils give to such incoming funding as a way...

Public Housing Tenants, Private Landlords, HUD: A Circular Firing Squad Shooting Blanks?

Sample of brick wall with officials
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Before World War II, America never had the political will to allow low-income employed persons to live in public housing. Unfortunately, by immediately turfing newly employed wage-earners out, the federal government destroyed its planned long term-financing scheme for public housing, which relied on a stream...

Unaffordable Housing Dooms Parents And Children To Domestic Violence, Or . . .

A recent Australian study explains how the lack of affordable housing condemns abused parents and children to domestic violence or . . . Or? Or homelessness. Which would you choose? Put yourself in a home at the mercy of a stronger, more violent spouse who blames the...

Tiny Home Lovers: Passion In Spite Of The Trashin’

manufactured homes covered in white plastic end on view
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Tiny house love? Let's leave aside the pixie cosplay in barnboard-sided flower box-festooned crooked-chimney peasant huts on roller skates. Of course people love them as they creep shyly into view with a turn of the page in a favourite children's book. But come to life,...

New California Candidate For State Song: Home, Home On The Streets . . .

judge's gavel
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What happens when a country binds itself with an aspirational constitution and many of the founding fathers are land and housing speculators? One might expect that basic individual freedoms and protections enshrined in that constitution would not include a right for individuals to have reasonable...

Hey Mistah Barista! You May Be Able To Afford the World’s Most Expensive Cities!

sign for barista coffee shop
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We're taking a little excursion into the housing affordability stratosphere today. Not because we wish to wallow in the land of unaffordable living. We're bringing a little comfort to those who may be forced by circumstance (my parents live there, my girlfriend lives there,...

Landlord By Name, Scorpion By Nature?

yard with five men, three boys and three police officerss
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The parable of the scorpion and the frog — amended (or possibly amuddled) "Please carry me across the river on your back Mr. Tenant," said the Landlord. "Oh no! You will sting me to death halfway across, then hitch another ride on another tenant!" But the...

Why The Affordable Housing Crisis Has No ‘Piece of Cake’ Solutions

3-d wiire puzzle with heart hooked to a u-shape with a top enclosure
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The National Review article that follows points to a very useful, if somewhat despair-inducing laundry list of planning considerations that may come to bear on a particular municipal housing objective, such as affordability, safety, or liveability. Actually, the term 'laundry list' demeans the thought-provoking...

Canada Squeezes Human Right To Housing Into Omnibus Budget Bill

external view of Canadian Museum for Human Rights
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Canada would seem to share an enthusiasm with its more populous neighbour to the south: cramming all kinds of goodies and baddies into omnibus bills. You might think that acknowledging the basic human right to housing would deserve a bill of its own. No matter....

Floating Cities Aren’t The Answer To Climate Change

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CITYLAB is a brilliant website that explores innovation and change, which may contribute to the success of tomorrow's cities. It is no stranger to the word 'could' and often applies it to farsighted ideas that range from sweeping to mundane: •   Place-Based Immigrant Visas Could...

Faint New Hope For Fighting A New York Rental Racket

statue of Don Quixote and his horse in Alcazar, Spain
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Chalk one up for Don Quixote — the little guy! A 'tilting at windmills' type lawsuit has recently won an unlikely victory in New York City. Don Quixote's opponent: the windmill? A rapacious New York landlord who exploited a loophole that is hollowing out the...

When The Rubber Hits The Road: Seniors Eye Affordable Housing That Isn’t

cornerstone for senior's housing complex in Toronto
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Today, we're serving up a still warm-brace of stories that expose the rape of a word that threatens senior citizens world-wide. That word is 'affordable.' The deliberate and callous disembowelment of the word 'affordable' is not so much a conspiracy, but a convenience, benefitting...

Aussie Public Housing History: One Architect’s Championing Of More For Less

three storey apartment building with trees in background
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An Australian article linked below appears at first glance to be a 'sweep nostalgia away' anti-heritage, anti-sentiment dismissal of older architecture threatened with redevelopment. However, it instead turns out be be nuanced discussion about a pioneer of no-frills affordable housing. Many have advocated over the years...

Gentrification Without Gentry. Can It Happen?

protest banner with phrase gentrification is colonization
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Consistent, excellent writing doesn't come cheap, which is why many major news organizations have paywalls. Alas, in our pursuit of thought-provoking articles about affordable housing, we inevitably bump into superior writing in papers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Such is...
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