April 13, 2017

Community Developments: Blight + Health, Financial Insecurity, Seattle Upzone Bill

A daily roundup of news impacting housing and communities. Not receiving the Community Developments daily email yet? Sign up here. 

  • A report by the Urban Institute looks at how urban blight functions as a social determinant of health. The report examines the effect of blight, including substandard housing, abandoned buildings and vacant lots, on the health of individuals and neighborhoods, and how blight translates into direct health harms, such as elevated levels of lead in the blood, respiratory ailments and exposure to cancer-causing toxins. In addition, the report features interventions designed to address the negative impacts of blight, such as expanding the use of health impact assessments, tracking health outcomes and infusing public health into housing policies, codes and practices. (CityLab, April 12)
  • A new book by economists Jonathan Murdoch and Rachel Schneider followed 235 low- and moderate-income households for a full year to understand why so many Americans are feeling financially insecure. Murdoch and Schneider found that the loss of manufacturing work in recent decades, particularly in the Midwest, left many families without access to jobs with steady paychecks, benefits and pensions. These families are still working, but their incomes are volatile, making it nearly impossible to save money or focus on long-term plans, like higher education and retirement. “Without basic economic stability,” writes Murdoch and Schneider, “their choices are often difficult, and they’re forced to make them frequently. Short-term imperatives undermine long-term goals.” According to the authors, governments and businesses should be doing more to serve working families. (PBS Newshour, April 12)
  • This week, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a bill to upzone most of the downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods, a change that included requiring developers to include rent-restricted affordable units in their developments or pay a fee into the city housing fund. In exchange for bonus height and floor area, the upzone bill, which is part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, requires residential developers to set aside up to 5.1 percent of their total units as rent-restricted affordable units or pay up to $13 per square foot in fees. (NextCity, April 13)
  • Yesterday, the White House instructed all federal agencies to submit a plan by June 30 to shrink their civilian workforces. The government-wide hiring freeze that went into effect on January 23 has been lifted, but Office Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that agency leaders must start “taking immediate actions” to save money and reduce their staffs. While the White House dictates federal hiring practices, Congress still has a significant say in how much money is provided to federal agencies. (The Washington Post, April 11)

Upcoming Webinar

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the National Housing Conference (NHC) will host a webinar, featuring Doug Ryan of CFED, Lot Diaz of the National Council of La Raza and Cy Richardson of the National Urban League, on the intersection of affordable housing and economic security. Speakers will share the work their organizations are doing to use affordable housing as a platform to support economic security and opportunity for low-income households. Register here for the webinar.

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