January 30, 2018

Community Developments: Opportunity Zones Program Gains Attention, Studies Connect Health and Housing

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  • As previously reported in Community Developments, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created the new Opportunity Zones Program, which is designed to drive long-term capital to rural and low-income urban communities throughout the nation. According to an article in the New York Times, distressed communities – which will be eligible for Opportunity Zone designation – lost 6 percent of their jobs and a similar share of their business establishments between 2011 and 2015. The article suggests that Opportunity Zones have the potential to help neighborhoods and towns that are starved for investment. (The New York Times, January 29) Enterprise has published a policy brief that provides an early overview of the Opportunity Zones Program and a national map that identifies which census tracts are eligible for Opportunity Zones designation. Enterprise will also be hosting a webinar on February 7 that will include an overview of the program and a demonstration of our mapping tools for Opportunity Zones designation.
     
  • An article in Fast Company looks at hospitals across the country that have made investments in supportive housing to address the high-costs of chronic emergency room (ER) visitors. According to the article, research indicates that being homeless has a host of negative impacts on a person’s health, often resulting in frequent visits to the ER. Some hospitals are now providing supportive housing services to homeless patients to improve their health. The article suggests that housing can also save the healthcare system money because providing supportive housing costs significantly less than time in the ER. (Fast Company, January 29)
     
  • A new study from Boston Medical Center's Children's HealthWatch program finds housing instability, including chronically late rent payments, can affect the mental and physical health of family members of all ages. Over a period of five years in five urban medical centers nationwide, researchers led by Dr. Megan Sandel surveyed 22,324 low-income families with questions about chronic forms of housing instability and rated both the caregiver's and child's health. The study found that surveyed caregivers of young children were two times more likely than those in stable housing to be in fair or poor health, and almost three times more likely to report depressive symptoms. (CityLab, January 30)
     
  • A blog post from the Urban Institute examines the use of manufactured housing to address the shortage of supply in the affordable housing market. Manufactured housing is the least expensive type of housing, yet its production has stalled since 2000 and remains low due to restrictive zoning, unavailable financing and lower price appreciation. However, researchers expect production to increase this year with the implementation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's Undeserved Market Plans, the fulfillment of their Duty to Serve Obligation and HUD's renewed focus on revitalizing the sector with a review of its manufacturing housing regulatory rules. (Urban Institute, January 29)
     
  • As previously reported in Community Developments, the Senate voted earlier this month to end a three-day government shutdown and advance a stopgap spending bill that funds the government through February 8. It is unclear if lawmakers will be able to reach an agreement for a long-term funding bill before the deadline next Thursday. Issues complicating the negotiations include raising the budget caps, immigration reform and the Democrats’ demand that any increase in defense spending be accompanied by dollar-for-dollar increases in non-defense discretionary funding. (Politico, January 29)

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