Housing Starts: Obama on Inequality | Profiting Housing Homeless | Can deBlasio Stop Gentrification?

December 5th 2013

  1. Obama urges steps to resolve income inequality.  President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday to focus his final three years in office on income inequality in the U.S., calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage and defending the government’s role in boosting economic mobility. [Wall Street Journal – 12/05/13]
  2. Tenants in foreclosed buildings slam private equity firm for neglecting them. Tenants of two rundown South Bronx apartment buildings - who say they have grown fed up after years of dealing with leaks, rotting walls, bedbugs and mice - are going to court to wrest control of their homes from a private equity firm. [DNAInfo – 12/05/13]
  3. The Co-op City county club. Designed to stem the flow of white flight from the Bronx, Co-op City was imagined as a safe haven from the city outside. Later, as the seventies and eighties turned much of the Bronx into a bastion of poverty and addiction, it became a refuge for Hispanics and blacks fleeing the “burning” streets. Today it’s multicultural. To buy a share residents need good credit and a clean record, making this a private island for the working and middle class-an oasis boxed in by I-95, the Hutchinson River Parkway and the river. [Narratively – 12/03/13]
  4. Top U.S. banks faulted on correcting foreclosure abuses.  Top U.S. banks, including Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc failed to fully comply with a government settlement to correct mortgage servicing abuses, a monitor of the settlement said on Wednesday. [Reuters – 12/04/13]
  5. The empire strikes back: how Wall Street has turned housing into a dangerous get-rich-quick scheme—again.  Over the last year and a half, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire, snapping up Queen Anne Victorians in Atlanta, brick-faced bungalows in Chicago, Spanish revivals in Phoenix. In total, these deep-pocketed investors have bought more than 200,000 cheap, mostly foreclosed houses in cities hardest hit by the economic meltdown. [Tom Dispatch – 11/26/13]
  6. Forecasting the growth of cities. It’s no shocker that the world is rapidly urbanizing. The World Health Organization estimates that 70 percent of the global population will live in cities and towns by 2050, up from just 50 percent today. Predicting exactly where and when those urban migrations will occur, however, has proven difficult in the past, because they’re guided by millions of personal decisions based on factors such as employment opportunities, cost of living, security and politics [Next City – 12/05/13]
  7. Can Bill deBlasio stop gentrification? Can anyone? So far, there isn’t a city on earth that has developed an effective response to the gentrification juggernaut. New ideas, or rejiggered versions of old ones, are desperately needed because today’s market-based solutions aren’t succeeding. ‘All we’re trying to do is tweak a system that isn’t working, rather than envisioning something different,’ says Stacey Sutton, an assistant professor at Columbia who wrote her thesis on the gentrification of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene. [The Nation – 12/04/13]
  8. Why run a slum if you can make more money housing the homeless? Homelessness is a perpetual crisis in New York. Since a judge’s decision created a legal right to shelter in 1981, the city has consistently struggled to find appropriate shelter for its poorest citizens. During Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, the homeless population metastasized, reaching a record level of 52,000 in September. There are many possible explanations, including policy decisions, such as the elimination of rental-subsidy programs. But the most compelling one is familiar to all: It’s harder than ever to find an affordable lease in New York. Market-rate rents have risen sharply, even as incomes have shrunk and the number of rent-regulated apartments has declined. (And stabilized units can cost as much as $2,500.) This vise-like dynamic has squeezed one out of every 150 New Yorkers onto the streets. [New York Magazine – 12/01/13]
  9. Experts write new chapter in tale of two property taxes. By design, NYC’s property taxes favor homeowners over renters. As a result, New York City imposes one of the highest tax burdens on apartment buildings, and one of the lowest burdens on one- to three-family homes, of any large city in the country. [Real Estate Weekly – 12/04/13]
  10. Minimum wage was once enough to keep a family of 3 out of poverty. Amid protests across the country over retail and service jobs that pay little better than the minimum wage, it’s easy to forget that this income benchmark once meant something slightly different. In the past, a minimum-wage job was actually one that could keep a single parent out of poverty [The Atlantic Cities – 12/04/13]
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