Weekly Links

Housing Crisis? What Housing Crisis?


Roanoke is Betting Big on Beer

From GoverningLots of cities, including Atlanta, have seen beer-related investment soar over the past several years with new breweries, craft beer shops, and beer-conscious restaurants acting as catalysts for neighborhood revitalization. Roanoke, though, is taking it to a new level by incorporating beer into their official economic sustainability platform. In Athens, the Creature Comforts brewery infused life into a sleepier and less-traveled portion of the downtown area.

Roanoke, VA. Image Credit: Joe Ravi


All the Transit Money Can Buy

From The AJC. MARTA recently released its plan for using the money generated by the new transit sales tax. Many Beltline enthusiasts are less-than-pleased with the result, as the plan calls for much of the funds to be used on other projects. Ryan Gravel, the architect of the Beltline, as long stated that light-rail is a critical component of the project since it was designed to move people around the city quickly. In order for the Beltline to realize its intended purpose, transit must accompany the walking/biking path. The city and region, though, need transit in other areas as well as on the Beltline.

In order for transit to really be effective, we need to increase density in the areas that will soon be served by light rail and bus rapid transit. The Clifton Road light rail project that has long excited northeast Atlanta needs to be accompanied by greater density. That perhaps could be the greatest struggle as many who generally support transit often don’t support the density around their homes that must come with the transit.

Atlanta Streetcar. Image Credit: SustainAtlanta


California to Require Solar Panels on All New Homes

From VoxThe California Energy Commission voted to require all residential buildings up to three stories to have solar panels starting in 2020. Vox provided a nice article on the pros and cons of this policy. While rooftop solar panels are one of the most expensive ways of reaching emission targets, they may force utility companies to make the changes they’ve needed to make for decades.


Panel installation on Edwards Air Force Base. Image Credit: US Air Force.


Housing Crisis? What Housing Crisis?

From The ConversationProfessor Alex Schwartz takes a look at the proposed reforms to how the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps low-income Americans pay for housing. The proposed changes would be startling in any context, but they are particularly starting given the housing crisis occurring in most major cities. The real estate industry and policy makers have long considered housing to be affordable when it doesn’t surpass 30 percent of one’s income. That number is used for both rent and obtaining a mortgage. Accordingly, the federal government has used that number as the assistance threshold: housing recipients are generally required to pay up to 30 percent of their income on housing. Given the substantially debt almost every graduate of a public school has in America, 30 percent may be too high even for relatively well-off people let alone those living in poverty.

The policy reforms would increase rents for subsidized Americans from 30 percent to 35 percent. Those who earn less than $2,000 a year and pay the minimum $50 in rent would see their rent increase to $150 a month – an entire year’s income for those earning $1800. Elderly and disabled people would still have their rents capped at 30 percent of their incomes, but their incomes would no longer be adjusted for medical and childcare costs so the effective cost of housing would be much higher.

Remember, this comes at a time when we are in a major housing crisis. More than half of renters spend more than the 30 percent of their income on rent while a quarter spend more than 50 percent. Among very low-income renters, 83 percent spend more than the half of their income on rent. In only 12 counties across the country could someone earning the minimum wage actually afford a market value apartment based on the 30 percent affordability threshold.

New higher-end apartments in Atlanta. Image Credit: SustainAtlanta


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