May 1, 2017

Community Developments: Spending Agreement, Economic Growth, Segregation

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

  • On Sunday night, Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through September, averting a government shutdown. The agreement follows weeks of tense negotiations between Democratic and Republican leaders, particularly over funding for a border wall and subsidy payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act. The White House agreed to continue making payments to insurers and Democrats agreed to $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security, but that money cannot be spent on a wall. Congress is expected to vote on the roughly $1 trillion package early this week. (The Washington Post, April 30) The fiscal year (FY) 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill appropriates $38.82 billion for HUD, a $512.5 million increase over FY 2016 enacted levels. The bill includes modest funding increases for Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance, and it provides level funding for the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs. Learn more about funding levels for housing and community development programs in Enterprise’s blog post.
  • The U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017, marking the slowest pace in three years, according to government data issued on Friday. Most economists had predicted lackluster growth, but the report fell below expectations. (The Washington Post Wonkblog, April 28)
  • New maps by the University of Cincinnati that combine satellite data by NASA with Census data from 1990 to 2010 show racial diversity and segregation of the U.S. in great detail. While the U.S. is a racially diverse country, its residential patterns remain very segregated. The maps show the wax and wane of cultures in the U.S. over the past 20 years, and the researchers highlight several metropolitan areas that show changes in racial residential patterns, including Chicago, Detroit, Jersey City and San Francisco. (Geographical Magazine, April 28)
  • Recent research examines how Americans think about inequality and economic mobility. An essay published in The Wall Street Journal argues that Americans are more concerned about fairness than about equal outcomes. When researchers separate concerns about equality and fairness, they find that people reject unfairly equal distributions in favor of distributions that are fair but unequal. According to the authors, paying more attention to this distinction can help to sharpen the political discourse and focus policy solutions on unequal opportunities that create inequality. (The Wall Street Journal, April 28) The New York Times Upshot highlights research showing that Americans tend to remember the obstacles they had to overcome rather than the advantages they were given. As a result, people can forget that certain advantages play a role in their successes. According to the authors, policy discussions around poverty and inequality could be more productive if solutions centered on creating similar advantages for low-income children. (The New York Times Upshot, April 28)
  • A new report by the New York City Comptroller’s office, which analyzes neighborhood-level business growth between 2000 and 2015, shows strong business growth in gentrifying and lower-income neighborhoods. According to the report, the city’s top 15 gentrifying neighborhoods saw a 45 percent increase in the number of businesses. While business investment in these neighborhoods has its positive effects, the report finds that the highest job growth has been in the low-wage sector, such as accommodation and food services, where the average yearly wage is $21,500. In addition, New York City saw a 31.4 percent drop in black-owned businesses between 2007 and 2012, compared to the national average of 2.4 percent increase. (CityLab, April 28)

  • An article in The New York Times highlights the stories of students who experience “lunch shaming” because their parents owe money for school lunches. A 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that half of all school districts use some form of shaming to compel parents to pay lunch bills, including providing a cold sandwich instead of a hot meal or denying meals entirely. The Department of Agriculture does not prohibit practices that stigmatize children with meal debt; however, it offers a list of preferred alternatives, such as developing payment plans and allowing children with unpaid balances to eat the regular hot meal. (The New York Times, April 30)

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