- “Buildings Get High Marks From Feds, Not from Tenants,” is the headline of a great article published this week at City Limits. The Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidizes millions and millions of units of affordable housing, and aims to inspect these units once annually. During these inspections, buildings get a score of 1-100. This article from City Limits delves into the problems with HUD inspections, and points out that many buildings that have received high scores – in the 90s – may not actually be HPD code-compliant and are filled with unhappy tenants who verify that conditions are terrible. We believe that HUD, like HPD, could go a long way towards improving current living conditions and long term viability of housing by prioritizing inspections of underlying conditions and getting behind the wall in places where reoccurring problems exist. One way to facilitate this, as a tenant quoted in the City Limits article suggests, is to let building residents guide inspection tours, rather than landlords or general managers — who lead HUD inspectors to the nicest apartments that have been most recently patched up.
- It is increasingly apparent that we need to do more to provide affordable rental housing and ensure that renters have the same rights and access to services as homeowners do. The Center on Budget Priorities has already proposed renters tax credit. As we stumble out of a recession, rental housing construction has been one of the first industries to bounce back, according to this NY Times article published this week. If this is a sign of a shifting housing market, towards a market in which it is more desirable to rent, we like that. It is clear, now, that homeownership can not be the only driver of the housing market and the predominate way that “affordable” mortgages cannot be the way we provide affordable housing. But new housing stock must be accessible and affordable and include the equal protections that affordable homeownership programs provide.
- What is the Fiscal Cliff and what does it mean for me? It’s a very good question, and Colorlines has a very good answer. This info-graphic lays out the problem and the two parties suggested solutions. Earlier this week, ColorLines published this piece arguing that “the fiscal cliff is nominally about balancing spreadsheets and the arcana of economic formulas, but it’s actually about race.” It’s about racial economic inequality, and that’s we should definitely be paying attention.
- Moving on to more non-sexy issues like the Fiscal Cliff, The Atlantic Cities pointed out this week how our current tax code is failing cities, which depend on property taxes to fund local budgets. Property taxes have fallen with the housing crisis, and city services are increasingly enjoyed by commuters, who pay no property tax. So, if you’re living in New Jersey, next time you drive through the Holland Tunnel consider that $13 toll part of your civic responsibility to New York and maybe you’ll feel a little better. Probably not.
- Finally, a brief update on New York City politics. It’s almost 2013, and the mayoral race is continuing to develop. Scott Stringer has dropped out of the race and is instead turned towards a comptroller run. Speaker Quinn has endorsed him, as has 32BJ/SEIU. The current comptroller, John Liu, continues to eye the mayoral office, as does Bill DeBlasio. Joe Lhota is considering a run with the Republican party (for which his wife is a big-guns fundraiser.)
Stay tuned for more news from The Surreal Estate next week!