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Urban Prospect: Betting the House on Welfare Reform
One million New York City residents, including over 500,000 children, rely on public assistance as their primary source of income. Under the state’s two basic welfare programs $2.4 billion in direct income support payments were made in 1996, of which over $1 billion was spent by recipients to secure housing. Nevertheless, their housing status is tenuous; approximately 250,000 welfare recipients are homeless or living doubled-up with others, and another 100,000 are protected from eviction by emergency rental payments or court-ordered rent supplements.
Last summer President Clinton signed a new federal welfare law (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, …Read more
Urban Prospect: No Tax Relief for Housing in Sight
Cutbacks in Section 8 rent subsidies, new welfare restrictions, and other government austerity measures threaten to erode the income base of low-income housing. At the same time, momentum for tax relief for that housing appears to have dissipated.
When the Giuliani Administration announced its new approach to tax-delinquent housing in October 1995, it stimulated hope in the housing industry that a wider set of policy issues affecting low-income housing would be addressed. In the past year, however, senior staff turnover at key city agencies, including the departments of Housing Preservation and Development, Finance, and Environmental Protection have slowed progress, while …Read more
Urban Prospect: Credits Crunch
With direct government subsidies for affordable housing evaporating, the importance of tax-based programs has correspondingly grown. Predictably, developers of affordable housing have recently found access to financing through those programs tightening.
The two mainstays of the tax-incentive approach to housing production, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and tax-exempt bond financing, are both subject to caps intended to limit the losses to the federal treasury. Just a few years ago limitations on those techniques were not serious constraints on housing production in New York City. Local developers could acquire LIHTCs from an underutilized national pool, while the city’s massive …Read more
Urban Prospect: Pataki Betting on a Green November
A plan to sell $1.75 billion in bonds for environmental programs in New York State is now in the hands of the voters. In July, Governor Pataki signed the Clean Water/Clean Air Act of 1996, which would authorize the bond sale to fund capital investments in air and and water quality projects throughout the state. The bond issue must now be approved by the voters on November 5, in a referendum that will likely also decide how the state’s environmental programs, and how George Pataki’s image as an environmental Governor, will fare over the coming years.
To read more about …Read more
Urban Prospect: Yankees, Stay Home?
The prospect of constructing a new, West Side stadium for the Yankees has stirred a storm of controversy in the press and in planning circles. A public undertaking of that scope would have major implications for the future development of the Bronx and Manhattan that would require careful scrutiny of complex economic, social, and environmental considerations. Distinct from those planning concerns, however, is the question of how much public subsidy would be required and whether the city would be financially able and politically willing to pay.
Most of the press coverage thus far has focused on the gross costs of …Read more
Dwindling public-sector support for affordable housing during the past several years has strained the creativity of housing finance professionals. But none of the government cutbacks thus far have had repercussions as serious as Congress’ elimination of “incremental” Section 8 Existing Housing certificates and vouchers.
Last summer Congress rescinded over $2.6 billion in funding for new Section 8 vouchers and certificates that had already been appropriated, and the continuing resolutions that provide HUD its fiscal 1996 spending authority contain no new funding for the program. As the pipeline of Section 8 subsidies dries up, the housing community is only now beginning …Read more
Urban Prospect: Pataki Welfare Plan Rattles Housing
The Pataki Administration’s proposal to reform welfare could mean big problems for affordable housing in New York. Legislation sponsored by the Governor, which would lower benefit levels and impose strict time limits on recipients, could threaten the financial stability of hundreds of thousands of publicly-supported and private-sector housing units. Meanwhile, provisions changing the system for delivering cash grants could eliminate programs protecting both tenants and owners.
Click here (pdf) to read more about the Pataki Administration’s major welfare revamp.…Read more
Urban Prospect: City Unveils New In Rem Program
This past spring the Giuliani Administration acknowledged publicly what many housing observers had already concluded – that the city had stopped “vesting” properties that are delinquent on their taxes. That acknowledgment committed the Administration to revamping the city’s approach to property tax enforcement and, in effect, toward housing that is in danger of abandonment. Following months of internal debate, on October 31 the Administration unveiled its strategy for redirecting the city’s tax enforcement and housing abandonment policies.
Through the reinstitution of tax lien sales the Administration proposes to rely on private-sector mechanisms to enforce tax collections. In what represents a …Read more
Urban Prospect: Congress Puts Housing on the Block
The contours of a Republican housing policy and HUD budget have begun to take shape with recent actions by the Congress.
Both houses have passed budget bills for HUD, the Department of Veterans Affairs and independent agencies; a compromise bill will now be worked out by a conference commitee. Once the conference bill is passed by Congress, it will be one of thirteen spending bills sent to the President for signing. The present deadline for the budget legislation to be completed and signed is November 14, when the government’s temporary spending authority expires.
President Clinton has threatened to veto the …Read more
Urban Prospect: Lead Problem Stymies Legislators
Uncertainty regarding lead paint liability has been a dark cloud hanging over the housing industry for several years. While the City Council and state legislature ponder the difficult issues involved, the legal and financial consequences for the city and for low-income housing are mounting inexorably.
Interior house surfaces covered with lead-based paints have long been recognized as a principal source of lead poisoning in young children, with potentially devastating and irreversible neurological effects. Children are most likely to suffer acute lead poisoning when they eat flaked paint chips or chew on window ledges or other painted surfaces, but recent research …Read more
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