Category Archive: Fair Housing

  1. Four Actions to Remedy Housing Segregation

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    “The Color of Law” Author Richard Rothstein with LeSar Development Consultants staff at “Charting the Course: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act”

    In The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of how our Government Segregated America, author Richard Rothstein tackles the misconception that private prejudice coupled with private lending practices led to racial segregation in America. Instead, he contends that government policies—including lack of enforcement of the Fair Housing Act—promoted the patterns of segregation that still exist today. At the San Diego Regional Alliance for Fair Housing Conference, which took place in early April, Rothstein recommended four action steps to reverse housing segregation in the United States:

    (1) Promoting the purchase of market rate homes by local government for sale at lower prices to populations affected by housing segregation

    (2) Withholding mortgage interest deductions from communities that refuse to desegregate;

    (3) Reforming low-income housing tax credits to promote development outside of low-income communities; and,

    (4) Enhancing Section 8 vouchers to allow renters to live outside of low-income communities.

    Promoting Local Government Purchase and Sale of Homes

    To increase residential integration, Rothstein suggests local governments could buy homes in predominantly white neighborhoods and offer them at a subsidized price to households affected by housing segregation.

    Withholding Mortgage Interest Deductions from Segregated Communities

    Although the tax reform bill that passed last year downsized the mortgage interest deduction, it is still regressive, benefitting wealthier households more than others. The deduction subsidizes homeownership, redistributing wealth to richer households, and encourages the construction of larger, more expensive housing. Additionally, the government spends four times more on subsidies for mortgages than supporting renters or people who live in affordable housing.[1] Rothstein suggested that communities that refuse to desegregate and continue to block low-income projects in their neighborhoods should have their mortgage income deductions withheld until residential integration in their community is implemented.

    Reforming LIHTC to Develop Projects Outside of Low-Income Communities

    Rothstein argues that federal subsidies such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC), which subsidizes the development of affordable housing, and Section 8 vouchers promote racial segregation in communities. A review of federal data by the New York Times found that in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, low-income housing projects that use federal tax credits are disproportionality built in high poverty and high minority neighborhoods.[2]

    Enhancing Section 8 Vouchers

    Many of the 2.2 million households that receive Section 8 vouchers remain in low-income neighborhoods and are unable to rent in more affluent areas. Rothstein proposes reforming these federal programs to remedy segregation, by improving the Housing Choice Voucher Program to allow low-income renters to live in middle income neighborhoods.

    Whatever resolutions are proposed to address housing inequality, Rothstein argues that combatting deeply entrenched segregation will require a better public understanding that it is a result of decades of policymaking by local, state and federal governments. Only by accepting that segregation is a government-sponsored system can we create equally effective government policies to reverse it.

    Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California. For information about linkage fees and other housing policy issues, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    [1] https://www.citylab.com/equity/2015/04/the-us-spends-far-more-on-homeowner-subsidies-than-it-does-on-affordable-housing/390666/

    [2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/02/us/federal-housing-assistance-urban-racial-divides.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1

  2. Fair Housing Conference Examines Laws, History of Segregation

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    “The Color of Law” Author Richard Rothstein with LeSar Development Consultants staff at “Charting the Course: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act”

    San Diego housing advocates gathered on April 6 at “Charting the Course: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act,” which featured a keynote by Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Rothstein emphasized how a history of explicit government policies created a system designed to segregate residents by race—known as de jure segregation—that has shaped our neighborhoods and communities. He also argued that understanding the history of housing segregation is essential to dismantling both unlawful practices and the myth that housing segregation occurred accidentally or through private activity. The conference also featured sessions on the history of living patterns in San Diego and the role of technology, public policy, construction, and preservation in creating more inclusive communities.

  3. HUD Suspends Fair Housing Rule

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    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

    On January 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it had suspended the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) final rule, an Obama-era effort aimed at addressing racial discrimination in housing. HUD also extended the deadline for local governments to submit an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) from 2018 until after October 31, 2020, and in many cases until 2025. HUD also discontinued reviewing AFHs, claiming that program participants needed additional time and technical assistance to adjust to the new AFFH process.[1]

    The AFFH final rule, released in July 2015, embodied a long-awaited effort to give teeth to the federal Civil Rights-era Fair Housing Act, which requires local governments to take active steps to end racial segregation.[2] AFFH requires local governments to use the Assessment of Fair Housing Tool for Local Governments, which was approved by the Office of Management and Budget, to assist them in meeting their statutory obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.[3] According to the HUD notice, local governments will not be required to submit an AFH using the tool, but must comply with existing obligations to affirmatively further fair housing. Local governments with an AFH already accepted by HUD must continue to execute their stated goals. Local governments with completed AFHs not accepted by HUD are encouraged to use those drafts to conduct the required Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.[4]

    Although the HUD notice does not revise AFFH or change the AFH requirement, fair housing advocates fear that the rule’s suspension signals that the Trump Administration is moving toward halting AFFH implementation, negatively affecting local jurisdictions’ proactive steps to tackle racial segregation in communities nationwide.[5]

    Reza Mortaheb, Research Analyst, employs his experience as an architect and urban planner to cover federal housing policy and research on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). To learn more about these issues, contact him at reza@lesardevelopment.com.

    [1] Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 4 / Friday, January 5, 2018. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-01-05/pdf/2018-00106.pdf. P.684

    [2] The United States Department of Justice, “Fair Housing Act,” https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-2. Date of Access: January 23, 2018.

    [3] The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, “HUD Rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” https://www.huduser.gov/portal/affht_pt.html#final-rule. Date of Access: January 23, 2018.

    [4] Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 4 / Friday, January 5, 2018. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-01-05/pdf/2018-00106.pdf. P.684

    [5] CityLab, “The Trump Administration Just Derailed a Key Obama Rule on Housing Segregation,” By Kriston Caps, January, 4, 2018. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/the-trump-administration-derailed-a-key-obama-rule-on-housing-segregation/549746/. Date of Access: January 23, 2018.

  4. Legislators’ Push for Affordable Housing Package Dominates News Cycle

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    Efforts to address California’s housing shortage took center stage in Sacramento last week as Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders struck a deal on three key measures—Senate Bills 2, 3, and 35. The measures have been the subject of intense debate as leaders statewide seek to stimulate development and improve housing affordability.

    Senate Bill 3, authored by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) was amended August 28th to increase the bond to $4 billion and renamed. The amended bill would authorize $3 billion in bonds for the construction of new low-income housing, and add $1 billion to extend the Cal-Vet Farm and Home Loan Program, which provides homeownership subsidies to veterans. The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB2), authored by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), was also amended to provide for more local government control of the funds generated from real estate document fees. The third measure, Senate Bill 35 authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would streamline local planning reviews for new construction. Both SB2 and SB3 require a two-thirds approval by the Legislature.

    The news and opinion pieces highlighted below offer a robust picture of the debate taking place statewide:

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, at jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

  5. Cross-border Housing Development

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    Group Picture in TijuanaTijuana is experiencing a resurgence. Long recognized as a bustling border town, Tijuana has recently been grabbing headlines up and down the California coast as an arts hub, a thriving gastro-tourism destination, and a place where San Diegans can find affordable housing. LeSar Development Consultants has been following these trends closely, and last week traveled to Tijuana to meet with local developers and architects to discuss how the city of Tijuana is changing and their vision for its future.

    Estación Federal

    The LDC team first met with Miguel Marshall, CEO of Centro Ventures, just across the border from the San Ysidro port of entry in a neighborhood known as Colonia Empleados Federales. Centro Ventures led the redevelopment of a former gas station called Estación Federal into a live/work space that has become home to regional artists and entrepreneurs. Marshall and a local community leader, Mario Aragón, described how the land was granted to federal employees in the 1940s, when the addition of canals to tame the flooding of the Tijuana River and the presence of a pedestrian bridge border crossing created a boom in both the local economy and the housing industry.

    After the pedestrian crossing was closed down and moved, the neighborhood experienced a downturn that is still visible today in the empty storefronts and abandoned developments. Just over a year ago, a new pedestrian bridge border crossing, known as “El Chaparral” in Mexico and “Virginia Avenue Bridge” in the US, was installed. The new crossing and the redevelopment of Estacion Federal have brought revitalization to the area.

    20170721_102157When Marshall and his investment partners decided to redevelop the property, they immediately looked to make the space an art and culture hub. The concept of redevelopment of mixed use properties is somewhat new in Mexico, so Marshall and his team raised the initial funds for the purchase based on their business plan and then received several rounds of financing for construction before accumulating sufficient credit to obtain a mortgage through a small, regional bank.

    Estación Federal currently has a variety of apartments ranging in price from $500 to $1,000 – many of which are rented by Americans working in the US. It also has six work spaces, and several commercial spaces.

    Escuela Libre de Arqitectura

    Three years ago, Tijuana also became home to a new architecture school, Escuela Libre de Arquitectura, which is rooted in the urbanist philosophy of founder and local architect and planner Jorge Gracia.

    During a tour of the school, Gracia and his colleague, Orhan Ayyüce, talked about the importance of the people and narratives behind architectural development. Their “constellations” program teaches students about how place-making creates community hubs within neighborhoods. Gracia talked about how the narratives of kidnapping and the war on drugs had destroyed the city. As a working architect and planner, he also saw an opportunity to revitalize the city by creating a new generation of architects who understood how history and culture shape the environment.

    ELA Recycling ProjectAt Escuela Libre de Arquitectura, students receive a hard hat on their first day to symbolize the importance of practical architecture and its relationships to urban planning, construction, and daily life. Students not only learn about design theory and trends, they also learn about mixed use development, how to work with clients, and sales. They also take part in three internships throughout their course of study, including both local and international internships that help them to understand the connection between architecture and place.

    Following a tour of the school and Gracia’s studio, one of the students, Sarah, showed the LDC team her latest group project — a burned out building the group is reclaiming as a space for an upcoming architecture conference. The space will showcase reuse and recycling. The students were working with a few volunteers that day to sort the debris from the fire into neat piles that would be used as the raw materials for the redesigned space. As Gracia said, the students are learning how to build a better city.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    LeSar-Artemis-4x5Artemis Spyridonidis is covering housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

  6. San Diego Considering Pilot Program to Reduce ADU Fees

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    ArtemisSenior Associate Artemis Spyridonidis addressed the San Diego City Council on July 24th, before it approved amendments to the Land Development Code and the Local Coastal Program to modify the City’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations.

    Her comments focused on the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee’s recommendation that the City Council approve a two-year pilot program during which ADU fees would be reduced to a flat fee of $2,000 – down from the current fees of approximately $28,300. Although it wasn’t part of the resolution that day, the City Council may still have an opportunity to approve this program, and it’s our hope that the pilot program will be created, as it could create a great boost in ADU production.

    LDC studied San Diego’s ADU fees and compared them to the fees of several other major cities. We found that there is a direct correlation between fees and the number of units built; the lower the fees, the more units built.

    For example, Portland, Oregon, charges approximately $1,300 in fees and approximately 350 ADUs have been built there each year since 2015. Santa Cruz charges around $12,800 in fees and approximately 50 units have been built each year since 2015. Finally, in San Diego, fees are approximately $28,300, and the city estimates that only 10 ADUs are built here each year. A two-year pilot program establishing a flat fee of $2,000 is a much needed policy change to encourage ADU development.

    As naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), ADUs can help fight the displacement that typically occurs when neighborhoods gentrify and rents and housing prices climb, as they have in recent years in San Diego. This type of urban infill is also environmentally friendly, reducing commute times and urban sprawl. By allowing people to stay in their own communities, among their own neighbors, families, and friends, ADU development will help maintain networks that create wellbeing for all San Diegans.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    LeSar-Artemis-4x5Artemis Spyridonidis is covering housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

  7. LDC Working with Chair of San Diego City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness

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    Kris 2In July, LDC Senior Associate Kris Kuntz began supporting the chair of the San Diego City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness, Chris Ward, as a subject matter expert. He is working closely with Councilmember Ward to identify and implement solutions to the city’s significant homeless population. Meeting on July 24th, the committee took the following actions:

    a. Approved a memo with concepts to immediately address unsheltered homelessness.
    b. Moving to come back at the next meeting with details on the concepts, including costs.
    c. Approved their yearly work plan that includes exploring the option of declaring a homeless state of emergency and considering a 2018 ballot measure directed at homelessness.

    krisFor more information about new strategies, program reforms and systems change to address homelessness, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at kris@lesardevelopment.com.

  8. Harvard Report Calls for Expanded Range of Housing Options

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    Harvard_2017_Housing_ReportNational home prices reached pre-recession peaks last year despite home prices exceeding previous highs in only 41 of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, according to a recent report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. High-income neighborhoods saw significantly greater gains than low-income neighborhoods, resulting in regional growth patterns that show price appreciation along the East and West Coasts and declines in the Midwest and South.

    The impacts of historically low construction on housing supply have disproportionately affected the entry-level housing market and tightened the rental market where prices have far outpaced inflation. While household growth rates have picked up largely due to gains among the millennial generation and immigrants, rates are expected to slow again as the baby-boom generation declines.

    To meet the demand for affordable housing, the report calls for national policies to address the diversity of housing markets nationwide, and for state and local governments to take the lead on developing policies and securing resources to meet the unique needs of their communities. Read more…

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  9. New AHSC Grant Guidelines Approved, ELP Advisors Again Provides Technical Assistance

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    AHSC Sustainable CommunitiesCalifornia is gearing up for Round 3 of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grant program, and ELP Advisors will once again play a key role in providing technical assistance to select applicants.

    On July 17th, the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) approved new guidelines for the next round of AHSC grantmaking. Earlier this month, the council announced that LDC’s affiliate, Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, has once again been chosen to provide technical assistance to qualifying AHSC applicants. We are excited to continue our successful partnership with SGC and to team with Enterprise in providing comprehensive assistance to applicants across California.

    The new AHSC guidelines make some important changes since the last round, many in response to feedback from applicants. We are hopeful that these changes will make the application process less cumbersome, more effective and allow a wider range of communities to be competitive for funding. Here’s a rundown of the major changes:

    Bye bye, concept app: Repeat AHSC applicants will be happy to learn that concept applications are no longer required. They have been replaced with a checklist and an optional consultation with SGC staff. This change should greatly streamline the application process and give applicants a good idea of their competitiveness prior to investing time and money into a detailed application. A host of other, smaller changes are also aimed at streamlining and simplifying the process.

    New housing and anti-displacement requirements: The guidelines strengthen and, in some cases, add new requirements aimed at ensuring AHSC funds flow to communities that are complying with state housing law and protecting vulnerable communities from displacement.

    Changes to include more rural projects: Thanks to changes to the net density requirements, projects across a wider spectrum of rural communities will now be eligible for AHSC.

    Indian Tribes now eligible: Federally-recognized Indian Tribes are now eligible to apply for AHSC grants.

    New threshold criteria: Several scoring elements that were optional last year have become mandatory, known in AHSC lingo as “threshold” requirements. These include certain housing affordability and urban greening elements.

    You can review the new guidelines here.

    With the guidelines adopted and the technical assistance team in place, Round 3 of AHSC grantmaking will get underway this fall. The notice of funding availability (NOFA) will be released in October, applications will be due in January, and awards will be announced in May.

    Even before the NOFA is released, the council will begin the process of selecting applicants to receive free technical assistance from ELP Advisors and Enterprise. No details yet, but we expect there to be an announcement in August. We’ll keep you posted.

    For more information about AHSC grants and technical assistance opportunities, please contact Autumn Bernstein, Principal, at autumn@elpadvisors.com.

    LeSar-Autumn-5x7Autumn Bernstein, Principal, Estolano LeSar Perez (ELP) Advisors, is an expert in urban planning, transportation, housing, and environmental policy. She has 15 years of experience as a policy advocate, strategic advisor, non-profit executive and facilitator in communities across California. Autumn is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in El Cerrito.

  10. Register Now for the 2017 California Economic Summit

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    CES logoRegister for the 2017 California Economic Summit taking place in San Diego on November 2-3, and save $100 on registration through August 31 using LeSar Development Consultants’ special code: LESAR17.

    Join the state’s largest existing coalition of public- and private-sector leaders, coming together for the sixth annual Summit to advance three ambitious goals:

    • Create a unifying triple-bottom-line vision for increasing economic security and upward mobility
    • Expand the strength and diversity of the Summit network to increase its influence on state and local policy decisions
    • Mature the Summit as a formal civic partner with government to advance triple-bottom-line policies

    The Summit highlights progress on The 2017 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, which offers detailed action plans to improve the workforce pipeline, increase the supply of housing near jobs and transit, and expand regional water management of the state’s vital water supplies.

    register_now

    Jennifer LeSar, CEO of LeSar Development Consultants and Chair of the Summit Host Committee, was among the local leaders who collaborated to bring the Summit to the San Diego region.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.