September 14, 2018

New Fund Aims to Address the Homelessness Challenge and the Shortage of Preschools in Low-income Communities

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Community Developments

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  • Yesterday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos announced the creation of the “Bezos Day One Fund,” a commitment of $2 billion to fund nonprofits that assist families experiencing homelessness and create a network of preschools in low-income communities. This commitment brings needed attention and resources to the challenges facing lower-income families in accessing affordable housing and early learning centers. Enterprise commends the Bezos family for recognizing the importance of boosting lower-income families' access to quality housing and education. We have launched the Home & Hope Initiative in King County to connect affordable housing to early learning facilities, and our Pacific Northwest marker have released “Home & Hope: Creating Early Learning and Affordable Housing Together,” a report that provides a guide for users developing this type of mixed-used development. Learn more about the fund and our efforts that address homelessness and the shortage of early learning facilities in an Enterprise blog post
  • Three months ago, the Washington State Legislature approved a bill that allows local municipalities across the state to discount surplus publicly owned parcels for affordable housing development. In a blog post, Enterprise’s Pacific Northwest State & Local Policy Fellow Ana Bonilla points out that municipalities across the state are already eager to use the new authority granted by this bill, noting that the cities of Seattle and Spokane and King County are among a few of the many local jurisdictions that are considering how this new tool can help address their local affordable housing issues. Enterprise has convened the first Surplus Lands Implementation work group to identify ways in which the statute can be strengthened and clarified to encourage more cities to adopt this new authority, as the passage of this legislation presents a tremendous opportunity to mitigate the increasing costs of producing affordable housing. Last year, Enterprise released a report on "Public Benefit from Publicly Owned Parcels: Effective Practices in Affordable Housing Development" along with  its accompanying "Public Benefit from Publicly Owned Parcels: Advancing Implementation in the Puget Sound Region" case study.
  • The National Low Income Housing Coalition has recently released an analysis that shows that Hurricane Florence threatens nearly 280,000 very low-income renter households in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The analysis, which uses data from data from the National Housing Preservation Database, the National Weather Service and ATSDR Social Vulnerability 2016 Index, explains that “the stock of affordable rental homes in these counties [threatened by Florence] is already insufficient and will worsen, with damage likely to occur to some of the 240,000 currently affordable rental homes for low-income renters.” It also points out that only 82,000 rentals in these counties are subsidized for low-income renters, and those units are also at risk of storm damage. (NLIHC, September 12) 
  • In an interactive op-ed in The New York Times, Stephen M. Strader, an assistant professor in Villanova University’s geography and environment department, highlights that since 1940, development within 50 miles of the Carolina coastline has increased an estimated 2,180 percent, or by 1.3 million homes. Strader points out that nearly half of this development has taken place since Hurricane Hugo hit the coastline in 1990, and many of these homes were added in high-risk areas like floodplains. (The New York Times, September 14) Direct Relief has published interactive maps that show the range of social vulnerability -- the likelihood that a population will be disproportionately in need of support in an emergency -- in Florence’s projected path, focusing on four key factors: socioeconomics, race and ethnicity, housing and transportation, and household composition. 
  • An op-ed by The New York Times editorial board urges lawmakers to allocate more resources to efforts that help lower-income families move to high-opportunity neighborhoods. The op-ed explains that the passage of the Housing Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act, which has been approved in the House and is still under consideration in the Senate, would provide $50 million to help families holding housing vouchers move to lower-poverty areas and expand their access to opportunity. It also points out that a 2015 Harvard study shows that young people whose families used vouchers in a federally designed experiment in the 1990s to move from deeply impoverished neighborhoods to communities with more opportunities grew up to have better education and higher incomes. This study finds that taxpayers as a whole benefit when lower-income families with children move to high-opportunity areas, with tax revenues that flow from rising incomes possibly offsetting the cost of housing vouchers. (The New York Times, September 12) 
  • Yesterday Make Room kicked off “The Doors of Make Room,” an art exhibition that features 11 painted doors representing 11 million households living one paycheck away from losing their home, at an event in Washington D.C. This event featured HUD Deputy Secretary Pamela Patenaude, U.S. Representative and Housing Taskforce Co-Chair Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Matthew Desmond, and Deputy Director of the District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development Allison Ladd. 

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