Using ‘tiny homes’ to address housing crisis

Tiny-Home-Under-Construction-640x360Sacramento has become the latest city to consider responding to California’s acute housing crisis with “tiny homes” – small, prefabricated studio homes with bathrooms and built-in hook-ups for electricity and water.

In an era in which $2,000 apartment rentals, $600,000 homes and $300,000-plus “affordable” public housing units are normal in the Golden State, the appeal of housing that can cost as little as $40,000 per unit is obvious to government leaders dealing with growing homelessness and increased fears that expensive housing will make it difficult to attract needed workers or drive them away.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg last month proposed spending $21 million to help pay for the addition of up to 1,000 such homes – from prefab 300-square-foot modular homes to container units that could be set up inside warehouses. Steinberg offered the proposal as the centerpiece of his agenda to respond to his city’s homelessness problem and suggested that public housing vouchers could be used for construction costs.

“It’s all in our grasp,” the mayor said in his annual State of the Downtown address. “Public funding, private funding, tangible goals, public accountability and a community commitment to whatever it takes to make this homeless problem better in Sacramento.”

Sacramento only added 235 housing units in its central city in 2017, according to the Sacramento Bee. The newspaper also recently reported that in one eight-day stretch in January, nearly 35,000 residents got on the waiting list for public housing vouchers, formerly known as Section 8 vouchers.

San Jose, Fresno, Clovis see potential in housing alternative

Some other local governments in California pursuing “tiny homes”:

San Jose – In December, the City Council voted 9-2 for a $2.3 million “tiny home” pilot program in which 40 homes would be built in one location. If the project works out, officials hope to add “tiny home” villages in each of the 10 City Council districts, the San Jose Mercury-News reported.

The cost of the first 40 homes is $73,125 each – a pittance in the metro area which in 2016 became the first in the nation to have homes cost an average of more than $1 million, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Fresno – In 2016, it became one of the first cities in the nation to formally encourage “tiny homes” when a law took effect. “The pint-sized houses on wheels – complete with kitchen, living room and loft – are now considered backyard cottages thanks to changes in the city’s zoning and development code,” the Fresno Bee reported. “That means tiny homes can be used as independent living quarters on the same lot as a single-family house granted it meets some requirements. Previously, the mobile units could only serve as temporary lodging.”

The 270-square-foot model pre-approved by the city is built by a Fresno firm. Prices start at $45,000.

Clovis – In June, in interviews with the Fresno Bee, city officials touted a long-term development plan for the city’s Old Town that sees “tiny homes” of no more than 400 square feet build in residential alleys as the key to its revitalization.

City officials are working with a local builder to develop three models with designs that are pre-approved by the city and are available for free to the public. The city believes the “tiny houses” would cost about $50,000 on average, according to areport from Fresno County’s ABC 30 News.

Perhaps the American city farthest down the road in embracing the small housing approach is Boston. In 2014, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh launched a Housing Innovation Laboratory. City officials have developed a prototype called an Urban Housing Unit, or Uhu,  a 385-square-foot modular apartment. The prototype, which may cost as little as $40,000 to manufacture, is pictured above.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California had 77 of the country’s 100 most expensive ZIP Codes for home sales last year

A year-end report from real estate database PropertyShark has confirmed what every Angeleno already knows: California is a really expensive place to live.

The analysis, which surveyed the priciest ZIP Codes in the country based on median home sales prices, found that California holds 77 of the 100 most expensive spots, including five in the top 10.

New York came in with the second most ZIP Codes at 19. No other state had more than two.

Topping the list of most expensive ZIP Codes was 94027 in Atherton, Calif., a Silicon Valley city full of tech executives, which had a median sale price of $4.95 million, according to the data.

The 10013 ZIP Code of New York, home to the high-priced luxury condos of Tribeca in Manhattan, saw a median price of $4.1 million. In Miami Beach area, the 33109 ZIP Code the median was $4.052 million. …

Click here to read the full story from the L.A. Times

Progressive Cities: Home of the Worst Housing Inequality

America’s most highly regulated housing markets are also reliably the most progressive in their political attitudes. Yet in terms of gaining an opportunity to own a house, the price impacts of the tough regulation mean profound inequality for the most disadvantaged large ethnicities, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Based on the housing affordability categories used in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey for 2016 (Table 1), housing inequality by ethnicity is the worst among the metropolitan areas rated “severely unaffordable.” In these 11 major metropolitan area markets, the most highly regulated, median multiples (median house price divided by median household income) exceed 5.0. For African-Americans, the median priced house is 10.2 times median incomes. This is 3.7 more years of additional income than the overall average in these severely unaffordable markets, where median house prices are 6.5 times median household incomes. It is only marginally better for Hispanics, with the median price house at 8.9 times median household incomes, 2.4 years more than the average in these markets (Figure 1).

The comparisons with the 13 affordable markets (median multiples of 3.0 and less) is even more stark. For African-American households things are much better than in the more progressive and most expensive metropolitan areas. The median house prices is equal to 4.6 years of median income, 5.5 years less than in the severely affordable markets. Moreover, for African-Americans, housing affordability is only marginally worse than the national average in the affordable market.

Things are even better for Hispanics, who would find the median house price 3.8 times median incomes, 5.1 years less than in the severely affordable markets. This is better than the national average housing affordability.

Among the four markets rated “seriously unaffordable,” (median multiple from 4.1 to 5.0) the inequality is slightly less, with African-Americans finding median house prices equal to 2.2 years of additional income compared to average. The disadvantage for Hispanics is 1.5 years.

In contrast, inequality is significantly reduced in the less costly “moderately unaffordable” markets (median multiple of 3.1 to 4.0) and the “affordable” markets (median multiple of 3.0 and less).

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The discussion below describes the 10 largest and smallest housing affordability gaps for African-American and Hispanic households relative to the average household, within the particular metropolitan markets. The gaps within ethnicities compared to the affordable markets would be even more. The four charts all have the same scale (a top housing affordability gap of 10 years) for easy comparison.

Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: African American

African-Americans have the largest housing affordability inequality gap. And these gaps are most evident in some of the nation’s most progressive cities. The largest gap is in San Francisco, where the median income African-American household faces median house prices that are 9.3 years of income more than the average. In nearby San Jose ranks the second worst, where the gap is 6.2 years. Overall, the San Francisco Bay Area suffers by far the area of least housing affordability for African-Americans compared to the average household.

Portland, long the darling of the international urban planning community, ranks third worst, where the median income African-American household to purchase the median priced house. Milwaukee and Minneapolis – St. Paul ranked fourth and fifth worst followed by Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago (Figure 2).

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Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanics

Two of the three worst positions are occupied by the two metropolitan areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The worst housing affordability gap for Hispanics is in San Jose, a more than one-quarter Hispanic metropolitan area where the median income Hispanic household would require 5.0 years of additional income to pay for the median priced house compared to the average. Boston ranks second worst at 3.9. San Francisco third worst at 3.3 years. Providence and New York rank fourth and fifth worst. The second five worst housing inequality for Hispanics is in San Diego, Hartford, Rochester, Philadelphia and Raleigh (Figure 3).

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The San Francisco Bay Area: “Inequality City”

Perhaps no part of the country is more renowned for its progressive politics and politicians than the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, in housing equality, the Bay Area is anything but progressive. If the African-American and Hispanic housing inequality measures are averaged, disadvantaged minorities face house prices that average approximately 6.25 years more years of median income in San Francisco and 5.60 more years of median income in San Jose.

Moreover, no one should imagine that recent state law authorizing a $4 billion “affordable housing” bond election will have any significant impact. According to the Sacramento Bee, voter approval would lead to 70,000 new housing units annually, when the need for low and very low income households is 1.5 million. The bond issue would do virtually nothing for the many middle-income households who are struggling to pay the insanely high housing costs California’s regulatory nightmare has developed.

Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: African-American

Tucson has the smallest housing affordability gap for African-Americans. In Tucson, the median income African-American household would pay approximately 0.4 years (four months) more in income for the median priced house than the average household. In San Antonio, Atlanta and Tampa – St. Petersburg, the housing affordability gaps are under 1.0. Houston, Riverside – San Bernardino, Virginia Beach – Norfolk, Memphis, Dallas – Fort Worth and Birmingham round out the second five. It may be surprising that eight of the metropolitan areas with the smallest housing affordability gaps for African-Americans are in the South and perhaps most surprisingly of all that one of the best, at number 10, is Birmingham. (Figure 4).

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Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanic

Among Hispanic households, the smallest housing affordability gap is in Pittsburgh, where the median priced house would require less than 10 days more in median income for a Hispanic household compared the overall average. In Jacksonville the housing affordability gap for Hispanics would be less than two months. In Baltimore, Birmingham, St. Louis and Cincinnati, the median house price is the equivalent of less than six months of median income for an Hispanic household. Detroit, Memphis, Virginia Beach – Norfolk and Cleveland round out the ten smallest housing affordability gaps for Hispanics (Figure 5).

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Housing Affordability is the Best for Asians

Recent American Community Survey data indicated that Asians have median household incomes a quarter above those of White Non-– Hispanics. This advantage is also illustrated in the housing affordability data. Asians have better housing affordability than White Non-– Hispanics in 37 of the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population).

The Importance of Housing Opportunity

Housing opportunity is important. African-Americans and Hispanics already face challenges given their generally lower incomes. However, by no serious political philosophy, progressive or otherwise, should any ethnicity find themselves even further disadvantaged by political barriers, such as have been created by over-zealous land and housing regulators.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

isiting professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

$84,000 a year now qualifies as low income in Orange County

As reported by the Orange County Register:

A family of four with an annual income of $84,450 or less now qualifies as low income in Orange County.

A single person living alone qualifies as low income if he or she earns $58,450 or less a year.

Orange County has the fifth-highest income threshold in the nation, according to new income limits released last month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Government and private agencies use HUD’s income calculations to determine eligibility for a wide variety of assistance programs, ranging from rent subsidy vouchers and public housing to mortgage assistance. While low-income families qualify for some programs, others are limited to households earning far less, with limits as low as $31,300 for a family of four.

Record-high rents and home prices are driving up Southern California income limits. Orange County apartment rents, for example, increased 20 percent over the past seven years, while the median sale price of an Orange County house has jumped 40 percent. …

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