Does Transit Build Stronger Communities?

The results of a new poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that even in a notoriously sprawling metro (and perhaps more so), transit riders have a stronger connection to their neighborhoods and the larger region. A poll conducted by SRBI of residents in 10 Georgia counties has found that 51 percent of those who’d ridden Atlanta’s transit service (MARTA) at least once in the past six months said they had a strong connection to the Atlanta region, versus 23 percent of nonriders. “In addition, 72 percent of riders had a strong connection to their neighborhood versus 64 percent of nonriders. A total of 64 percent of transit riders felt a strong connection to the county where they reside, as opposed to 55 percent of nonriders,” report Craig Schneider and Steve Visser. “The poll results raise provocative questions as to the value of the transit service beyond getting tens of thousands of people to work each day. Do people have a deeper connection to community because they ride transit? Or do they ride transit because they already have that deeper connection?”

- Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Affordable Housing Report to pause starting February 1

AHR will go on hiatus as of this Friday.  You may have noticed the news on January 18 that D+B is part of the team selected to develop Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn. We’re very excited about the opportunity, but it means that, at least for the short term, we’ll need to pause on publishing the newsletter.  We’ll try to restart as the development project moves forward.

Thanks for reading!

San Francisco: Mayor Floats Idea Of Public-Private Housing Authority During State Of The City Address

San Francisco is thriving thanks to booming tech and tourism industries but still has room for improvement, Mayor Ed Lee said during his first “State of the City” address today.  Lee said while business is booming, the city’s lack of housing options has caused rental prices to skyrocket. Lee said 42,000 new units have been approved for construction in the city over the next several years, while a housing trust fund approved by voters in November will create a $1.5 billion stream of funding over the next 30 years for low-income housing and first-time homebuyer assistance. He also proposed overhauling San Francisco’s beleaguered Housing Authority with input from federal officials on how to improve public housing in the city, including possibly replacing the agency with a new model built on public-private partnerships.

- SF Appeal

Mayor Gray: $417 million D.C. surplus will stay in bank

Mayor Vincent C. Gray will keep a $417 million budget surplus in the District government’s savings account, building the city’s reserves to $1.5 billion — the highest level since 2005 and the second highest total since the city gained limited independence from Congress. In total, the District revenues came in 2 percent higher than anticipated. Despite the windfall, mayoral officials said they do not anticipate proposing any new spending until Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi issues new revenue projections in February for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The surplus will remain untouched, Gray administration officials said: ”None of it is up for grabs,” one senior official said. Should new revenues be revised upward, the Gray administration anticipates making ”major critical investments” in affordable housing, public safety and the raises for the District workforce.

- Washington Post

NJ: Bill to Improve Access to Affordable Housing for NJ Veterans Signed Into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Upendra J. Chivukula (D-Middlesex/Somerset) and Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson) that would make affordable housing more accessible to New Jersey veterans was signed into law on Monday.  The new law (S-829/A-1744) allows municipalities to enter into agreements with developers to provide affordable housing occupancy preferences of up to 50 percent of the affordable units in a particular project for low to moderate income veterans who served in time of war or other emergency. Current New Jersey law does not extend affordable housing preferences to low to moderate income veterans. Under the bill, any agreement to provide affordable housing preferences for veterans will not affect a municipality’s ability to get credit for the unit from COAH. As of December 2011, nearly one in seven homeless adults are veterans, according to the Center for American Progress.

- Politicker NJ

St. Charles Illinois changes affordable housing rules

St. Charles officials recently altered the affordable housing requirement for developers to account for the fluctuating market. The city’s inclusionary housing ordinance dictates how many units in a development must be affordable if a developer wants to build homes in the city. State law says 10 percent of a city’s housing stock must be considered affordable. City Planner Matthew O’Rourke said the state uses a formula to determine what is affordable each year. For St. Charles, a home listed at $199,500 or less for a family of four is considered affordable, he said. The city now has a “buffer,” and aims to keep affordable housing at 13.75 percent or above, O’Rourke said, to make sure levels don’t go too close to the state standard.

- Chicago Tribune

Does Atlanta Have Too Many Foreclosures Being Converted To Rentals?

With big Wall Street funded investment companies snapping up tens of millions of dollars worth of foreclosures in metro Atlanta, you’d think that tenants were fighting “tooth and nail” get into single family rental properties. Indeed, the main stream media has been reporting for quite a while now that there is a growing demand for rental properties as a result of the high number of foreclosures. But given that mortgages are still, for the most part, cheaper than rents in Atlanta, does it really follow that everyone who could not afford their mortgage will plan to rent a house instead?

- Realty Biz News

NJ High Court To Rule on State’s Reconfiguration of Affordable Housing Council

The New Jersey Supreme Court today heard arguments on whether the Christie administration can reorganize an independent agency into being less independent.  The dispute involves the Council on Affordable Housing, created to comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act as being “in but not of” the Department of Community Affairs.

- CBS Philly

Bruce Ratner to step down as Forest City CEO

The developer of the vast Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner, is preparing to step down as chief executive of Forest City Ratner, the New York City subsidiary of his family’s Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises. Taking his place will be MaryAnne Gilmartin, who became executive vice president in 2007. The switch will elevate her to Mr. Ratner’s clear No. 2, as he continues on in his role as chairman. It was not entirely clear why Mr. Ratner was stepping down or when exactly he would be ceding his CEO responsibilities at the company, but according to one source, his departure will be “sooner rather than later, likely the next few months.”

- Crain’s New York Business

Huntsville Housing Authority eyes $10M renovation of downtown’s aging Todd Towers

The Huntsville Housing Authority is considering a $10 million renovation of its Nixon-era Todd Towers apartment building downtown. Members of the housing authority’s volunteer Board of Directors and local architect Frank Nola spent more than an hour at the last Board meeting discussing how to fix a long-standing moisture problem at Todd Towers while also giving the six-story building a fresh appearance. Continuing the renovations inside Todd Towers would up the cost to about $10 million, but board members and housing authority Executive Director Michael Lundy appeared interested in that option.

- AL.com