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Renters Hope for Freeze | Windfall from Property Tax Change | Fighting Climate Change with Housing

Housing Starts | March 11th 2014

(credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

  1. Renters hope for promised freeze as de Blasio prepares to fill guidelines board. For years, tenants have complained that the city board that sets rents for about one million New York apartments has favored landlords. Now those tenants are counting on the new mayor to make good on a campaign promise: the board’s first rent freeze. As mayor, Bill de Blasioappoints the nine members of the Rent Guidelines Board, which decides each year how much regulated rents will increase. [The New York Times – 03/09/14]
  2. NYC property tax change seen yielding $4 billion windfall. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision of raising income taxes to pay for pre-kindergarten and after-school programs would generate $530 million a year. By revamping property taxes—and taking on some of New York’s richest residents—he could get eight times as much. De Blasio, a self-described progressive Democrat, was elected on a promise to reduceincome inequality in a city where the richest 1 percent took home almost 40 percent of all earnings in 2012. New York’s property-tax structure does little to reduce that divide and may even widen it. [Bloomberg – 03/09/14]
  3. Want to fight climate change? Add lots more housing in New York City. While a city like New York seems especially vulnerable to dangers of flooding and other climate change threats, the flip side is that moving population into higher density urban areas, can play a critical role in stemming that danger as well. As David Owens argued in his book Green Metropolis, ‘Most Americans, including most New Yorkers, think of New York City as an ecological nightmare, ...but in comparison with the rest of America it’s a model of environmental responsibility.’ Each person in New York generates just 30 percent of the national average of carbon emissions. Put another way, if the whole nation generated the per-capita greenhouse emissions of New Yorkers, our national production of carbon emissions would drop 70 percent—far below the most radical goals of most advocates around climate change. [The Huffington Post – 03/10/14]
  4. UES building caught in landmarks fight allowed to deteriorate, tenants say. The tenants of two landmarked apartment buildings along York Avenue are living in limbo - and without hot water. In October 2010, the owner of the buildings, Stahl Real Estate,filed a hardship applicationwith the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, stating that the buildings could not return a reasonable profit and requesting permission to demolish them and redevelop the site. [DNAinfo – 03/10/14]
  5. Affordable housing advocates call for mandatory inclusionary zoning in NYC.  Residents and community groups converged on the steps on City Hall March 5 to call for mandatory inclusionary zoning (MIZ) laws that would require new medium-to large-sized residential developments to include affordable housing units. ‘This is a wide array of communities from across the city all calling for a guarantee of affordable housing in future residential developments,’ said Barika Williams, policy director for the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Inc. (ANHD). [The Epoch Times – 03/09/14]
  6. It takes $290,000 in cash to rent an apartment in Seoul. No other country in the world rents housing the way South Korea does. Under the country’s unique Jeonse-or Chonsei-system, tenants lend significant chunks of money to landlords in lieu of rent. (Jeonse is usually translated as ‘key money.’) It works like this. In exchange for access to the property for specified term-usually two years-tenants make a lump sum deposit to the landlord, based on a percentage of what it would cost to buy the property. The transaction is essentially a loan, with the tenant as the lender, the landlord as the borrower, and the house as the collateral. [The Atlantic Cities – 03/10/14]
  7. New-home building is shifting to apartments. Residential construction-a pillar of the economy and employment-is starting to ramp up again overall, but in previous years the growth was driven by single-family homes. Last year, according to census data, construction was started on a little less than one million new residential units, and about one in three of those was a rental in a multifamily building, the highest share since data began in the mid-1970s. Single-family homes accounted for about two-thirds of housing starts last year, down from their peak of 87% in 1993 and about 80% in the years leading up to the recession, the census data showed. [The Wall Street Journal – 03/09/14]
  8. L.A. at home. In an event that Los Angeles architect Michael Lehrer describes as “urban tourism,” the American Institute of Architects’ Los Angeles chapter will host a tour of recently completed affordable homes in South L.A. on March 23. Taking a break from its usual itinerary of million-dollar homes, the AIA’s latest self-guided tour will highlight five single-family homes designed by Lehrer Architects for Restore Neighborhood LA Inc.  and the city of Los Angeles. The detached homes have been built from the ground up on a tight budget on properties that have been either abandoned or foreclosed upon. The homes are for sale in the $300,000 price range and are scattered between West 52nd Street and East 99th Street. [The Los Angeles Times – 03/05/14]
  9. Growing an urban neighborhood, one store at a time. Across the country, communities stranded in food and retail deserts are asking how they can enjoy the bounty afforded to other urban centers. One Washington, D.C., community thinks it might have an answer. Just a 10-minute drive south of the U.S. Capitol, across the Anacostia River, sits Congress Heights. The Southeast D.C. neighborhood is less than 2 miles long and home to more than 8,000 people, many in single-family houses. But if you’re looking for a sit-down meal, options are scarce. Up Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, just outside the neighborhood’s boundaries, Georgena’s has long been the block’s only bar and restaurant. It’s a former strip club that now serves a gracious soul food menu. Beyond that, your options are the liquor mart, IHOP and a couple of carryout places. [NPR – 03/06/14]
  10. Gov. Cuomo’s office is targeting tenants who use the STAR exemption and live in rent-regulated housing. The Cuomo administration is going after double-dippers who benefit from rent regulations while at the same time claiming a school property tax exemption on another property they own, the Daily News has learned. By law, someone can only live in a rent-regulated apartment if it is their primary residence. Likewise, homeowners can only apply for the School Tax Relief, or STAR exemption, if the house is their primary residence. The state Department of Taxation and Finance ran the names of those who re-applied last year for a STAR exemption against those listed in rent-regulated housing and found 156 duplicates. [New York Daily News – 03/10/14]
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