March/April 2001

Short Takes

Is Inclusionary Housing a Nightmare?

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Drawing charges of classism and racism from dissenting board members, the Lake County, IL County Board rejected an amendment requiring developers to build one moderately priced dwelling for every 10 housing units. A similar arrangement has been in place in Montgomery County, MD for over 25 years. Opponents said the plan was “government meddling” that would create a bureaucratic nightmare. (Chicago Tribune, 2/6/01)

Lofty Win in San Francisco Advocates for affordable housing in San Francisco cheered as their board of supervisors overwhelmingly approved a six-month ban on the construction of live-work lofts. Widespread loft conversion, along with over-eager dot-com development, has been blamed for pushing artists, low-income families and small businesses out of San Francisco. During the ban, supervisors will work with community activists to draft alternative plans for development, including affordable housing for low-income and middle class residents. Suggestions have included increased density along transit routes. (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/13/01)

Will San Jose Miss the Boat? In an effort to control sprawl and increase transit ridership, San Jose has reserved more than 100 acres of land along the city’s light-rail lines for thousands of new apartments and condominiums. However, the plan is under scrutiny from ACORN for not addressing the problem of affordability. “The real issue,” says ACORN Board Member Lilia Valencia, “is the crisis at hand now with unprecedented evictions and no affordable housing.” ACORN is asking the city to reserve 15 to 20 percent of the units for extremely low-income families. (San Jose Mercury News, 2/21/01)

TANF Funds Still Misused or Unspent More than $8 billion allocated to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) remained unspent as of September 30, 2000, according to a report released by the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support (NCJIS). The report, Poverty Amidst Plenty 2001: Unspent TANF Funds and Persistent Poverty, indicates that some states are even using TANF funds to cover shortfalls in their general budgets. “[F]orty-six states and the District of Columbia are still holding huge sums in unspent TANF funds that could be paying for new or expanded programs to help poor families raise their children, find decent jobs and begin earning a livable wage,” said Deepak Bhargava, director of NCJIS.

You Can Work Here - But Leave at Sundown New Jersey municipalities are substantially over-zoned for non-residential development, according to analysis by the Regional Planning Partnership. The study found too few homes at too high a cost for most New Jersey workers. New Jersey municipalities rely heavily on property taxes, making commercial development more attractive than residential development, which requires more costly services and schools. As a result, many communities are openly opposed to new residential development even as they welcome large new employers and business expansion. (NJ Future Facts and Current Issues, 2/26/01)

Homelessness Rising in DC Outreach agencies, shelters and soup kitchens in Washington, DC are reporting a growing number of adults in need of services, contradicting official estimates from the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, a nonprofit launched in 1994 that has spent over $20 million of federal and District funds on homeless services. A HUD report to be released this spring ranks DC first among 13 surveyed jurisdictions for percentage of the population that was homeless at some point in 1999. Experts say the percentage is even higher than reported, because the study counted only shelters. (Washington Post, 2/16/01)

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FTC Suing Citigroup and Associates The Federal Trade Commission is suing Associates First Capital and its owner, Citigroup, charging them with routinely deceiving and lying to customers, often in low-income and minority communities, tricking them into exorbitant loan refinancings with prepayment penalties and expensive and often unnecessary credit insurance. The commission wants to prohibit Associates from such practices, and is also seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to affected consumers. Citigroup says it has changed lending practices at Associates, “referring up” customers who have good credit, limiting broker and lender fees to 8 percent of a loan, limiting prepayment penalties to three years and promising not to refinance no-interest or low-interest loans from certain low-income housing groups. (The New York Times, 3/7/01)

Is a Lease So Much to Ask? Texas leads all states in mobile home purchases, but Texan mobile homeowners who rent their land lack the legal protections that exist in other states, according to a report released today by Consumers Union. For example, they lack the right to a one-year written, renewable lease, and can be given a 30-day notice to leave at any time, without cause. Moving a mobile home can cost between $1500 and $3000. Janee Briesemeister or Rafael Ayuso, Consumers Union, 512-477-4431 x117 or x114.

Faith-Based Office a Mixed Blessing The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, a coalition of three faith-based Minneapolis organizations, has called George W. Bush’s new Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives a mixed blessing. The coalition says it’s good that the work churches have done to help the poor has been recognized, but cautions that church aid can’t supplant the government. “[T]he assumption that if somehow the government steps back and gives more money to religious organizations … that would take care of the need…is an illusion,'' said Becky Myrick, coalition spokesperson. (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/10/01)

Copyright 2001

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