May 9, 2018

Community Developments: Unwinding the Current Systems to Create Well-designed, Affordable Homes

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  • In an op-ed, Katie Swenson, vice president of design and sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners, notes that the housing field needs innovative designs and open minds to address the national shortage of affordable homes, explaining that good design and lower construction costs are not at odds and that the industry should be able to do both. Swenson highlights innovative solutions to creating well-designed, affordable homes that were discussed at a panel that she moderated at the recent Reframing Housing Development event hosted by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. These solutions include: building a high-quality, rural home for just $20,000 in hard costs – a number derived from what a low-income family could afford in monthly payments on a 30-year mortgage; redirecting investments to “core appeal”— the high-use areas like kitchens and bathrooms that can improve quality of life; and using modular construction with only three unit layout options, which led to faster buildout and allowed the developer to rent units six months earlier. Swenson emphasizes that designers can help unwind the current systems and create a balance between good design and affordability. (CityLimits, May 9)
     
  • A blog post by Novogradac & Company looks at the White House’s proposed recessions package, which would void $15.4 billion in appropriated funds. The blog notes that much of the proposed rescinded funding provided in prior spending bills, but some of the appropriations were approved in the 2018 omnibus spending bill passed in March. The post points out that the proposal would affect a number of housing and community development programs, explaining that it would rescind: nearly $41 million of prior years’ budget authority for HUD’s Public Housing Capital Fund; $40 million of the prior years’ budget authority for the Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance program; $151 million that the Capital Magnet Fund received for its 2018 round; and $23 million of the prior years’ budget authority for Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) Bank Enterprise Award program. By law, Congress has 45 calendar days to act on the proposals, in which the funding in programs with proposed rescissions would be impounded, and federal agencies would not be able to commit, obligate or spend it. Furthermore, if the relevant committees have not acted within 25 days, a member of either the House or Senate who supports the rescissions measure may seek to discharge the package from committee with the support of at least one-fifth of their chamber. (Novogradac & Company, May 8) 
     
  • A blog post by the Brookings Institution looks at the national gaps in access to quality infrastructure that create stark inequities felt most acutely by nation’s most economically vulnerable populations. The blog points out that these access gaps can be seen when comparing water and electricity infrastructure systems, noting that while surveys find that electricity is technically available to every household and utilities consistently deliver reliable service, the American Housing Survey shows that about one percent of all homes lack plumbing facilities – equal to over a million households across the country -- and the rates are even higher among black, American Indian or Alaska Native and multi-race households. The post also notes that access gaps are far more pronounced for broadband infrastructure, explaining that 7 percent of all households live in neighborhoods without access to broadband speeds and these gaps are especially pronounced in rural areas. (Brookings Institution, May 8) 

In Case You Missed It

  • As part of our ongoing commitment to support the development and preservation of affordable housing and sustainable communities, earlier this month Enterprise released two Section 4 Capacity Building grant funding opportunities. Applications for our 2018 funding round will follow a two-step application process: Enterprise will accept letters of intent (LOI) May 1 – 29 (submission deadline: May 29, 11:59 p.m. EDT). Successful applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal for funding in the week of July 9, and the deadline for submitting full proposal is August 6, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Awards are expected to be announced by September 17. Tomorrow, Enterprise will host a webinar to review and answer questions on the Rural & Native American LOI requirements.
     
  • Enterprise is accepting applications for two small grant opportunities for affordable housing developers and organizations interested in furthering sustainable practices in their current projects. Pre-development Grants of $5,000 each are available to 10 affordable housing development organizations committed, through one current project, to improving pre-development and engagement practices with residents and stakeholders. Excellence in Active Design Grants are $15,000 each and available for five affordable housing development organizations who are employing creative design strategies to encourage physical activity within one of their projects. The submission deadline for the two funding opportunities is  Friday, May 18.

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