Facebook Dips Into Affordable Housing

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
In This Issue: Secret History of AMI ● When Deep-Income Targeting Doesn’t Hit the Mark ● The “Greeding Out” of Affordable Housing ● Also: You Said It! ● In Case You Missed It ● Jobs ● More
Miriam Axel-Lute, Shelterforce
Last summer, I got a call from a reporter from Fast Company. He said there were rumors that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wanted to take on the question of affordable housing in Silicon Valley. The reporter was looking for a primer on affordable housing and ideas of what sorts of things Zuckerberg might do.

In the article that ran, he included some of my suggestions, including having Facebook wade into the fight to reform the mortgage interest deduction, but he seemed much more taken with the idea of encouraging Facebook to design apps that would work out the problem of encouraging more density and housing construction without creating massive displacement.

I will definitely agree that that’s a problem that needs to be worked, and if Facebook wants to throw some brain power at it, I think that would be a good thing. And I suppose given that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was supposed to solve social problems with a “start-up mentality,” it isn’t surprising that this is what struck Fast Company as appropriate. However, a “start up” mentality has limits. Some problems are fundamentally more about market failures, lack of resources, and lack of political will, rather than lack of a clever, high-tech point of view. That’s why one of our pie-in-the-sky suggestions was . . .
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Tom Collishaw, Self-Help Enterprises
Deep-income targeting, where the focus is on housing those with the lowest incomes, can mean dramatically different things to affordable rental housing developers in different states, and even for those building in different market areas within the same state.

For my nonprofit, Self-Help Enterprises, focusing too heavily on extremely low-income households—those that generally earn 30 percent of the median income or below—challenges our ability to create new financially viable affordable housing communities. And yet there are well-meaning funding programs out there that keep pushing us to do just that.

The issue is purely one of . . .
Jarrett Murphy, City Limits
It is a 100-mile, two-hour drive from the southern tip of Staten Island to the northeastern corner of Putnam County—a journey that covers a vast swath of Downstate New York and takes you to a town called Patterson that is home to 12,000 people and a ski area called Thunder Ridge.

Thunder Ridge might feel a long way from Jerome Avenue in the Bronx or East New York in Brooklyn. But that area is part of the weird math that helps determine how affordable the apartments in the city’s affordable housing plan really are. That’s because Putnam County, along with Westchester and Rockland counties, is part of the territory for which New York City’s area median income, or AMI, is calculated.

By some measures, the AMI that New York City uses is 20 percent higher than actual median incomes in the city. That’s not surprising when you consider that the median income in the Bronx in 2014 was just under $32,300, while in Putnam it was $96,000. How did this weird math come to be?
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Ted Wysocki, Institute of Cultural Affairs
Here in my city of Chicago, the last weeks of July offered three strikes against communities by the hand of development without moral centers. Strike one was a fastball thrown in the community where I work, Uptown—still Chicago’s most economically and racially diverse community. One of my favorite columnists, Mark Brown, captured the play-by-play in his Chicago Sun-Times article:

“One hundred and 47 men reside at the Wilson Men’s Hotel—for decades one of the lowest cost housing options for Chicago’s down-and-out…. On Tuesday, the Uptown building was sold to a developer who plans to remove the tenants and remodel the decrepit flophouse to appeal to a more upscale clientele… remodeling the property into 75 to 82 studio apartments, with 20 percent of them set aside as affordable—for individuals with annual incomes of up to about $33,000. That’s just 16 spots in a place that currently shelters 10 times that many on a cold winter’s night.”

Chicago’s Single Room Occupancy buildings are now easily remodeled into trendy units for single people, who because of . . .
You Said It!

Author statement from Facebook:
Last week I made a status asking white folks to give specific examples of their institutional wealth. By far, the number one example of white generational wealth was home ownership and/or lifelong stable housing—with several people saying they'd NEVER ONCE had to move during childhood. This is a foreign experience to many Black and non-Black POC, who are often at the whim of landlords, property owners, and housing developers. Housing costs—rent payments in particular—use up the majority of our resources, and are a means of sustaining white supremacy and subjugating families of color for generations. It's with that in mind that I share my latest piece: “Just As I Suspected, Paying Rent Is Racist.” Please share and enjoy. —DiDi Delgado

Reader comments:
The lack of affordable housing in our wealthy nation is outrageous. Still, even very low income households must pay an affordable rent. Even good housing owners need the money to pay for heat and hot water. The answer is to . . . —Carol Lamberg, more

I understand that paying rent is painful and unfair. On the other hand, a property owner has bills to pay and managing property is work and people need to be paid for their work. We need an organized system for affordable housing that is . . . —Anne Mannix, more

I could be wrong, but according to most of what I have read and heard, the places with the most pro-tenant housing laws tend to be places like New York and San Francisco. And yet those places have the highest rent . . . —ML, more

On The 30 Percent Rent-to-Income Ratio Doesn’t Add Up in NYC

Richard, I loved your detailed analysis for the hypothetical home health aide with three children who earns $22,370. However, you forget that at her income level, she also receives an Earned Income Tax Credit of $5,250. In addition, she receives about $7,788 per year in SNAP assistance to buy food. Medicaid also pays for all of her family’s health care expenses. Because of these benefits, her actual or at least effective income is far higher than $22,370. This is well over double her nominal when you consider the market value of Medicaid, but only 60 percent higher in the unlikely case that she and her children never use health care. I don’t mention this to be an ogre, but to illustrate the complexity of using the “residual-income approach” and the . . . —Jerry Rioux, more


Community development is all about connectivity, and Gordon reminds us that we can’t ignore what is going on with deporting our fellow citizens, the gutting of the Affordable Care Act, disavowing climate change environmental justice, reigniting the war on drugs, etc. These horrendous policies really impact our work. It is the people not the buildings that ultimately matter . . . —Robert Zdenek, more
In Case You Missed It
Jobs
Senior Housing Developer
The person in this role is engaged in activities which lead to the successful completion of affordable housing development contracts and projects, improve client capacity, and meet local community development objectives. The Senior Housing Developer plans, coordinates and manages, leading project teams, supervising . . . Read Full Listing
Housing Developer
The person in this role completes real estate development functions, including taking the lead on affordable housing and community facilities developments. The position requires experience in many aspects of housing development, as well as capacity for good time management, and to be self-motivated and use independent . . . Read Full Listing
Housing Development Director
The person filling this new position at Opportunity Council will have the opportunity to organize the new Housing Development Department to maximize a large number of emerging development and preservation opportunities. During this growth phase, it is envisioned the HDD will supervise staff as well as consultants to augment . . . Read Full Listing
Executive Assistant to the President
Telesis seeks a dedicated and responsible Executive Assistant to join our Washington, D.C. office. This individual will provide administrative and support services and will have exposure to learning about community development, housing policy, and urban planning while working closely . . . Read Full Listing
Senior Developer
Telesis seeks a Senior Developer with the skills, energy, and experience to lead its work on all aspects of development, housing, and mixed-use projects. The position requires a leader who takes initiative, thinks strategically, favors a collaborative approach to problem solving, and has a sense of humor . . . Read Full Listing
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