Eminent Domain For Mortgages | Time to Bring Back Boarding Houses | De Blasio Weighs in on NYCHA
Emily Low, 78, sits on the bed in her microapartment in Singapore in 2007. Image by Vivek Prakash/Reuters
- To rescue local economies, cities seize underwater mortgages through eminent domain. In almost every part of the country, entire neighborhoods-and in some cases, whole cities-are underwater. They are not victims of natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. They are drowning in debt, victims of Wall Street’s reckless and predatory lending practices. Many economists agree that the best solution is principal reduction, where banks lower the borrower’s mortgage principal. But homeowners who have asked banks to modify their mortgages typically get a cold shoulder or a bureaucratic runaround. Faced with this quagmire, a growing number of cities - with the support of community groups and unions - are taking things into their own hands.
- Next steps in Bloomberg’s obesity fight: up the stairs. Mr. Bloomberg said on Wednesday that he had issued an executive order requiring city agencies to promote the use of stairways and use smart design strategies for all new construction and major renovations. Mr. Bloomberg has also proposed two bills that would increase visibility and access to at least one staircase in all new buildings around the city. This would include putting up signs on the walls, especially near elevators, with one central injunction: take the stairs.
- Bring back flophouses, rooming houses, and microapartments. Most Americans live in houses or apartments that they own or rent. But a century ago, other less expensive choices were just as common: renting space in families’ homes, for example, or living in residential hotels, which once ranged from live-in palace hotels for the business elite to bunkhouses for day laborers. Working-class rooming houses, with small private bedrooms and shared bathrooms down the hall, were particularly numerous, forming the foundation of affordable housing in North American cities. Misguided laws and regulations almost wiped out these other kinds of housing, with disastrous consequences, but now there’s a chance for them to come back, helping those who are young, single, or on the lower rungs of our increasingly unequal society.
- Gotcha, NYCHA! De Blasio says ‘urgent’ fixes ignored, ‘numbers reworked.’ “Public Advocate Bill de Blasio blasted NYCHA Tuesday for neglecting thousands of unresolved repairs, including 14,000 carbon monoxide detector requests that date back years. De Blasio, who’s running for mayor, said the data he obtained from NYCHA under the public records law raise “serious questions” about the authority’s much-touted vow to eliminate a huge backlog of repairs by next year.”
- 125 Years at 1372 Dean. “Built in 1888 for $8,000, 1372 Dean Street sits on a leafy street in Crown Heights North between Brooklyn and Kingston Avenues. Now it is under contract for $1.32 million - $20,000 above asking price - sold to Amber Mazor, the founder of the company Perfect Renovation, which specializes in restoring historic Brooklyn brownstones. The house on Dean Street is more than just an address: it is a time capsule, chronicling the history and social transformation of Brooklyn.”
- MTA asks investors to bet against another Sandy. “In the first move of its kind by any U.S. transit agency, New York’s MTA is is selling a “catastrophe bond” to investors so that it gets paid if there’s a Sandy-style storm over the next 3 years. This is the first time a transit organization has sold a bond linked to flooding, and it’s thought to be the first catastrophe bond tied to storm surge.”
- Real Estate exploits loophole in election effort. Big real estate donors are for the first time widely exploiting a loophole long used in state-level elections, fueling the whopping $5.3 million haul of a new political action committee to elect pro-business City Council candidates.
- CSH launches first national supportive housing fund. The first national loan fund dedicated to supportive housing has been launched with an investment in a 44-unit development for veterans at risk of homelessness in Gary, Ind. The new $45 million Supportive Housing Solutions Fund will provide acquisition, predevelopment, and construction funding for projects which include supportive housing targeted to very low income tenants who are most in need.
- NY AG questions charities on Superstorm relief. New York’s attorney general plans to ask at least 50 charities to be more transparent about what they’re doing with hundreds of millions of dollars raised to help victims of Superstorm Sandy. Speaking to reporters Wednesday in the flood- and fire-ravaged Breezy Point section of Queens, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman questioned whether aid money has been spent urgently enough in the nearly nine months since the storm.
- The unsettling link between sprawl and suicide. A new scientific working paper (spotted by Tim De Chant of Per Square Mile) contends that as population density decreases, the suicide rate among young people increases. This effect becomes particularly pronounced below 300 inhabitants per square kilometer - roughly the density of San Diego County. The research team, led by Chinese ecologist Lei Wang, wonders if social “shock” of moving from a dense city to a sparse countryside might have something to do with this unsettling link.