May 15, 2017

Community Developments: Coastal Flooding in Low-Income Neighborhoods Increases

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

  • According to research published last week, one out of 10 homes in Atlantic City, N.J. are at elevations that put them at risk of flooding each year. As sea levels rise, low-income neighborhoods in coastal cities, which are often built on low-lying land, are seeing increased flooding, rising insurance rates, and more damage to their homes, cars and infrastructure. Of the 90 cities analyzed, Atlantic City is among those facing the greatest risks. High tides in Atlantic City reach more than a foot higher than they did a century ago and sea level rise is accelerating. (PBS Newshour, May 12)
  • Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore has publicly backed advocates’ calls for a $40 million investment in affordable housing and deconstruction projects. The Baltimore Housing Roundtable group’s "20/20 Campaign" is calling on the city to dedicate $20 million in public bonds annually to an affordable housing trust fund authorized last year, and $20 million in public bonds annually to take down vacant homes and fund projects that create green space. In addition to the $40 million in annual bonds, the housing group urge the city to establish a land bank to speed up the conversion of vacant properties to affordable housing. (The Baltimore Sun, May 13)
  • According to data from Moody’s Analytics and First American Financial Corporation, U.S. homeownership tenure rose to about 8.5 years last year, up from 3.5 years in 2008, marking the longest tenure since their data began in 2000. The analysis suggests that rising mortgage interest rates are discouraging homeowners from moving to bigger and pricier homes, which contributes to a lock-in effect – where homeowners are reluctant to move and pay a new mortgage at a higher rate. In addition, a lock-in effect can limit the inventory of starter homes, harming first-time home buyers. (The New York Times, May 14)
  • An analysis by the Urban Institute suggests that the housing crisis that started in 2008 can be largely explained by mortgage refinance activity, as defaults were more common and the losses were higher on refinance mortgages, especially cash-out refinances, than on purchase mortgages. Between 2006 and 2007, 84 percent of the mortgage refinance activities were cash-out refinances, and 16 percent of refinance mortgages were delinquent for more than 180 days, compared to 10 percent of purchase loans. This research contradicts the common assumption that government policies aimed at increasing first-time homeownership caused the 2008 foreclosure crisis. (Urban Institute, May 11)
  • A new book by Derek Hyra from American University examines micro-level segregation in gentrifying neighborhoods. While gentrification has brought people together of different races and incomes into the same area, such diversity does not necessarily benefit the long-time residents. According to Hyra, racial and economic segregation remains in civic institutions like churches, recreation centers and restaurants. (CityLab, May 15)

  • New research led by economist Leah Boustan at Princeton University examines the economic motivations of white homeowners moving from the cities to the suburbs during the 1960s and 1970s. While racial discrimination against black households moving to cities in the North and West played a significant role in white flight, writes Boustan in an op-ed, affluent white households were also drawn to the suburbs for the higher home values. The suburbs were more economically homogenous and residents felt they were getting a better return on their investment, according to Boustan. (The New York Times, May 15) However, as previously reported in Community Developments, Richard Rothstein’s new book “The Color of Law” shows that higher suburban property values were in part the result of often explicitly discriminatory housing, lending, and infrastructure policies.


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