News for October, 2012
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
Hurricane Sandy’s massive impact on the east coast is a reminder that global warming is a defining issue of our generation and we need effective action. Addressing climate change and creating sustainable energy security are the biggest opportunities for new jobs and industries, a dynamic economy, lasting peace and a better quality of life for our children. Yet, the 2012 Presidential campaign has largely ignored these pressing issues. The 2012 Presidential Climate Action Plan lays out a set of strategies for the next president to use executive authority to help the country address global climate change even in the face of legislative inaction. Read more »
Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
CNT is making the case to national leaders for the public/private financing of green infrastructure retrofits.
Having established one of the largest multi-family residential energy retrofit programs in the nation, CNT is now piloting the nation’s first wet weather ‘Wetrofit™’ service. Funded, in part, by State Farm and the Surdna Foundation, Wetrofit is modeled on CNT’s experience in energy retrofit services. The unique approach, based on public/private partnerships, aims to deliver coordinated, tailor-made solutions to municipalities looking to retrofit neighborhoods and properties with green infrastructure. Read more »
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Back in August, the Federal Government withdrew its approval for Prairie Parkway, a highway that would have connected I-88 and I-80 at the cost of valuable farmland, clean rivers, and community welfare in Kane, Kendall and Grundy Counties. Despite community opposition, the project remained a part of Illinois’ long term transportation plans due to a $207 million earmark that former Congressman Dennis Hastert secured shortly before leaving office.
The proposed Prairie Parkway would have cut through mostly farmland in Chicago's far west suburban region. (photo credit: Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)
In 2002, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) created a 36-mile long and 400 feet wide protected corridor for the parkway that sliced through family farms and in some cases left homes within feet of the road. This created a great deal of opposition from members of the community. An advisory referendum, in which residents could vote for or against the construction of the parkway, was placed on the ballot in six townships. Five out of the six townships voted against it. The Environmental Law and Policy Council, on behalf of “Citizens Against the Sprawlway” and Friends of the Fox River, used this information to build their defense against the Prairie Parkway.
A lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration claiming that these agencies and IDOT did not adequately consider other transportation options and therefore violated the National Environmental Policy Act. On August 23, 2012 a settlement was reached in a Federal District Court.
Groups like "Citizens Against the Sprawlway" and "Friends of the Fox River" opposed the Prairie Parkway because it sliced through family farms and in some cases left homes within feet of the road, among other environmental concerns. (Image from www.sprawlway.org)
The settlement rescinded the September 2008 record of decision and removed the Prairie Parkway from Illinois’ long-range transportation plans. Residents can now rest assured that neither the vulnerable farmland nor the Fox River will be harmed for the construction of a road with little community benefit. The $207 million originally earmarked for the parkway will now help rather than harm the communities by being used for local road improvements.
Because IDOT had already spent $70 million of the $207 million earmarked for the parkway, the remaining $137 million will be used on the 47 Plus alternative. This alternative project includes the widening of a 12-mile stretch of IL 47 and making improvements to US 34.
Preventing the Prairie Parkway from being constructed sets a great precedent for Illinois’ transportation future. It shows that projects offering very little benefit at a high environmental cost do not belong in Illinois; and money for those projects could be better used on road improvements or better yet, public transportation. Just think, for that same $207 million, we could have the Metra Heritage Corridor improvements in southwest Cook and Will counties.
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
CNT Water Program Director, Harriet Festing, recently presented the new ‘Smart Water for Smart Region’ initiative to an audience of utilities managers and businesses at the American Water Works Association-Pennsylvania Section’s Great Lakes Summit. Her presentation, underpinned by fresh survey research carried out by CNT, indicated that water infrastructure problems across the Great Lakes states are widespread and a threat to cities. In the first surveys of their kind—one on urban flooding and one on water loss control—the research revealed the magnitude of the problems facing water industry professionals, and identified opportunities to work across the industry in the Great Lakes states to alleviate these significant problems.
Smart Water for Smart Regions was launched in Chicago on September 19th at an event hosted by State Farm to over 100 guests. The initiative offers a blueprint for the responsible utilization of water in the Great Lakes states. The goal is to help cities deliver water services to homes and businesses more efficiently, while protecting the region’s water resources. The initiative is being sponsored by State Farm, the Joyce Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation. Read more »
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
CHICAGO (October 23, 2012)—The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works nationally to promote more sustainable urban communities, has received grant funding from the Surdna Foundation to pilot wet weather retrofit (“Wetrofit”) services that reduce urban flood damage to homes and businesses. Modeled on the ‘one-stop-shop’ concept developed for building energy retrofits, the service will help cities tackle stormwater challenges at a neighborhood scale.
Recent survey research by CNT suggests that urban municipalities and stormwater utilities face significant challenges in relation to flooding. The survey respondents serve 330 municipalities in the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) with a population of approximately 19.7 million people. All received flooding complaints, with 80 percent characterizing the annual number of complaints as medium or large. Stormwater is flooding into people’s backyards, streets, and parking lots; into the interior of buildings through sewer backups; and through the walls of homes and buildings. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they are interested in working with CNT to develop best practice solutions.
“Flooding is expensive and causes misery to home owners and businesses,” said Kathy Tholin, CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “With increasingly severe weather and overloaded sewer systems, the frequency and cost of flood damage will continue to rise. Effective solutions exist—such as repairing private lateral sewage pipes, installing water permeable paving, and building rain gardens—but communities and property owners need advice and help. This funding will help us help communities.”
“Much of the infrastructure on which this country depends for its economic growth and prosperity is decades old and nearing the end of its life; and government funding available for renewing, replacing, or reinventing these systems is severely constrained. Philanthropy cannot fill the gaps left by the sharp declines in public spending, but we can help with creative solutions,” said Michelle Knapik, Director of Sustainable Environments Program at the Surdna Foundation.
“Early indicators point to a next generation infrastructure that is more decentralized, enables people and communities to be engaged in infrastructure designs and decisions, and that has the potential to support regional economies. More learning is needed—CNT’s water retrofit program is truly ‘next generation’ and we are delighted to be supporting it.”
The project is part of Smart Water for Smart Regions, a two-year initiative that was launched in September 2012 and brings new research, inventive solutions, and regional advocacy focused on water supply and stormwater in the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin). Other sponsors of the initiative include the Joyce Foundation and State Farm.
Nicole Gotthelf, Center for Neighborhood Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-269-4029.
Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on transportation, energy, water, community development, and climate. Visit www.cnt.org for more information.
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
CNT held its first Urban Sustainability Hackathon from Thursday October 4th to Sunday October 7th. On Thursday night, Hackathon participants joined with Chicago’s civic, business, and IT communities at Reinventing Chicago, CNT’s Public Conversation about Technology and Place. Energized by the discussion on Thursday night, teams formed up at Illinois Technology Association’s TechNexus office on Friday evening.
Over the weekend, the six teams worked on different projects. On Saturday, Chuck Templeton, founder of OpenTable and Impact Engine, shared his valuable insights and gave feedback to the teams. Jason Kunesh, an expert on usability design, also met with each team. On Sunday, the teams presented to the panel of judges: Jamie Jones, Kellogg School of Management; Daniel X. O’Neil, Smart Chicago Collaborative; Orlando Saez, CityScan; and Ira Weis, Hyde Park Venture Partners. Read more »
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Average moderate-income household in 25 largest U.S. metro areas spends nearly 60 percent of income on housing and transportation
WASHINGTON—The combined costs of housing and transportation in the nation’s largest 25 metro areas have swelled by 44 percent since 2000 while incomes have failed to keep pace, according to a new report from the Center for Housing Policy—the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference—and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The report, Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, details the challenges that American households face as the combined costs of housing and transportation consume an ever-larger share of household incomes.
Source: Housing + Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index applied to 2000 Census data and 2006-2010 American Community Survey data (Center for Neighborhood Technology and Center for Housing Policy).
The report includes a special focus on moderate-income households, defined as those earning between 50 and 100 percent of the median household income in their area. In the 25 largest metro areas, the report finds that moderate-income households spend an average of 59 percent of their income on housing and transportation. The report finds cost burdens to be highest in the Miami area, where moderate-income households spend 72 percent of their income on housing and transportation. The next highest burdens are in the Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., area (69 percent), the Tampa area (66 percent), and the Los Angeles area (65 percent)
“If we really want to understand whether housing is affordable, we need to consider housing and transportation costs together,” explains Center for Housing Policy Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell. “Along with utilities, which we include within housing costs, these are the true ‘costs of place,’ and our report shows they have grown much faster than incomes since 2000.”
The report finds that housing and transportation costs have increased 44 percent over this period while household incomes have risen only 25 percent. As a result, Americans are now substantially less able to afford their costs of place, undermining their ability to meet other critical household expenses, such as food, clothing, health insurance and child care.
Cost burdens have increased despite reductions in home sale prices caused by the major housing downturn that began in 2006. “Increased demand for rental housing combined with insufficient new production has raised rents,” continued Lubell, “while households with blemished credit and existing homeowners with underwater mortgages have been unable to take advantage of lower home prices. Add in the higher transportation costs associated with higher gas prices, stagnant or slowly growing wages and the loss of income associated with layoffs and it’s easy to see how Americans have lost ground.”
“Both housing and transportation costs need to be made more affordable,” notes Center for Neighborhood Technology President and Co-Founder Scott Bernstein. “Letting the public know that the full cost of a location includes both housing and transportation is a first step; targeting resources that lower the cost of transportation, such as improved public transportation, to areas where it will help America’s working families, is also essential.”
The report notes that there are many policies that local and state governments can adopt to help reduce housing costs in places where transportation costs are low or where public investments will make transportation more affordable in the future. Policy options include taking measures to preserve existing affordable housing, reforming restrictive regulations to lower the cost of creating new housing in such areas, and instituting requirements or incentives to include affordable housing as part of new development.
“Given the substantial increases that we expect in coming years in the demand for housing within walking distance of public transit,” explains Bernstein, “it will be essential to act proactively to ensure that affordable housing is preserved and included within new development in these areas.”
Read the full report ››
- Housing and transportation costs have gone up faster than incomes for American households. Since 2000, combined housing and transportation costs have risen 44 percent in the 25 largest U.S. metros, while household incomes have risen only 25 percent. That means that for every dollar household incomes have gone up, housing and transportation costs have risen about $1.75, cutting into wealth, savings and even budgets for essentials.
- Moderate-income households spend a disproportionate share of income for housing and transportation. For households earning 50 to 100 percent of the median income of their metropolitan area, nearly three-fifths (59 percent) of income goes to housing and transportation costs. For these households, the growing “costs of place” are particularly burdensome, leaving little for necessary expenses such as food, education and health care.
- Places where the combined housing and transportation cost burden is greatest are not always the places with the highest absolute costs. In some metro areas, such as Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco, high costs are matched by relatively high incomes, helping moderate-income households better afford their housing and transportation costs. But other regions, such as Riverside-San Bernardino (CA), Los Angeles and San Diego, have high housing and transportation costs despite moderate to low median incomes, with average combined cost burdens for moderate-income households ranging from 63 to 69 percent of household income.
- Moderate-income households in the Miami metro area have the highest combined cost burdens, spending an average of 72 percent of income on housing and transportation. A second Florida metro area— Tampa— also has very high cost burdens, with moderate-income households spending an average of 66 percent of income on housing and transportation. To a large extent, the high cost burdens in both of these metro areas are driven by low incomes.
- Housing costs alone do not paint a complete picture of the total “cost of place.” The inclusion of transportation costs shifts the relative affordability of many metro areas. For example, housing costs in the Houston region are comparatively affordable for moderate-income households, ranking eighth out of the 25 regions examined, but adding in transportation costs drops Houston into 17th place in overall affordability. In contrast, metro areas such as San Francisco, Boston, and New York are some of the least affordable regions for moderate-income households when housing alone is considered, but are among the most affordable when housing and transportation costs are considered together.
- For moderate-income households, homeowners carry heavier cost burdens than renters. For the typical moderate-income renter in the 25 metro areas studied, housing and transportation costs consume an average of 55 percent of income. Moderate-income homeowners carrying a mortgage, however, face average costs of nearly 72 percent of income.
- Despite lower burdens than homeowners, moderate-income renters are still barely making ends meet in many metro areas. In the LA metro area, where average housing + transportation costs consume 61 percent of income for moderate-income renters, a typical renter household would not have enough left over at the end of the month to pay the minimum costs of food, health care, and other basic necessities. This would suggest these households are either cutting corners on essentials, or accruing debt.
- Cost burdens for moderate-income households vary substantially within metro areas. Even in metro areas where average cost burdens are relatively affordable, there are many neighborhoods that are out of reach for moderate-income households. In the Philadelphia region, for example, moderate-income households are faced with average housing and transportation costs exceeding 90 percent of income in some neighborhoods.
Losing Ground provides estimates of the combined costs of housing and transportation in the nation’s 25 largest metro areas. For data on housing costs and income, the report relies on the 2006-2010 American Community Survey (ACS), with comparisons to the 2000 census to show change across time. The transportation cost data for this report are derived from the Housing + Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), updated to reflect 2006-2010 ACS data. The model’s assumptions, calculations, and methods have been reviewed through several iterations by practitioners at the Metropolitan Council in Minneapolis-St. Paul, fellows with the Brookings Institution, and academics from institutions including the University of Minnesota, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Temple University. This cost index has been applied to nearly 900 metropolitan and micropolitan areas in the United States, and is unique in that it measures joint transportation and housing affordability at a neighborhood level (see http://htaindex.cnt.org/).
Housing costs for renters include rent and utilities. For homeowners housing costs include mortgage payments, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, and, where applicable, payments for home equity loans, condominium fees, or mobile home costs. Transportation costs encompass all the trips that households make as part of their daily routine, including commuting, errands, and other travel. For car owners this includes the full costs of auto ownership, such as car payments, insurance, maintenance, and gas. For transit riders it includes the price of transit.
About the Center for Neighborhood Technology
Since 1978, Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) has been a leader in promoting urban sustainability—the more effective use of existing resources and community assets to improve the health of natural systems and the wealth of people, today and in the future. CNT is a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions. CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, water, and climate change.
About the Center for Housing Policy
The Center for Housing Policy is the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference (NHC) and specializes in developing solutions through research. In partnership with NHC and its members, the Center works to broaden understanding of the nation’s housing challenges and to examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs.
About the National Housing Conference
As the United Voice for Housing, the nonprofit National Housing Conference (NHC) has been dedicated to helping ensure safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America since 1931.
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
|Cover image from Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation
Conventional wisdom holds that metro areas like New York, San Francisco, Boston and D.C. are the most expensive places to live for average families. After all, these traditionally upmarket cities have some of the highest housing costs in the nation. But conventional wisdom is the name given to a popular idea about to be debunked; housing costs are just one part of this story. A new report from the Center for Housing Policy and CNT draws attention to the other, often hidden, factors that contribute to a growing cost of place for American households. Read more »
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
Detailed findings for 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas includes data on cost variations within metro areas, impacts of growing costs of place on household budgets and policies that can help
WASHINGTON—On Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, the Center for Housing Policy—the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference—and the Center for Neighborhood Technology will discuss the findings of a new report, Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, that details the challenges that American households face as the combined costs of housing and transportation consume an ever-larger share of household incomes. In addition, case studies detail the immense variation in cost burdens within metro areas and the impacts of growing cost burdens on the household budgets of typical families.
Speakers for the telebriefing are:
- Scott Bernstein, President, Center for Neighborhood Technology
- Peter M. Haas, Ph.D., Chief Research Scientist, Center for Neighborhood Technology
- Jeffrey Lubell, Executive Director, Center for Housing Policy
- Chris Estes, President and CEO, National Housing Conference
The telebriefing will be from 11 am – 12 pm EST. Sign up for the telebriefing here.
To read an embargoed copy of the report now, contact:
Blake Warenik, Communications Manager
National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy
(202) 466-2121 x240
Nicole Gotthelf, Director of Development and Communications
Center for Neighborhood Technology
Also available—detailed analysis of housing and transportation cost burdens in the following metro areas:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Washington, D.C.
The 25 largest U.S. metro areas covered in the report:
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Riverside-San Bernardino, CA
- Sacramento, CA
- San Diego
- San Francisco-Oakland
- St. Louis
- Tampa-St. Petersburg
- Washington, D.C.
Friday, October 12th, 2012
CNT's "Reinventing Chicago" event at Red Frog Events brought in a full crowd to hear about the nexus of technology and place.
CNT’s ”Reinventing Chicago” event last Thursday brought together compelling visionaries on urban issues and technology with an eager crowd in a fun, engaging space. Speakers, CNT president and co-founder Scott Bernstein, urban planner and architect Andrés Duany, and Chief Technology Officer for Chicago John Tolva, gave an hour-long talk and conversation about how technology can address some problems of urban sustainability.
John Tolva kicked off the conversation by outlining what he’s set out to accomplish since taking the reins as CTO, namely his focus on what he’s termed the “digital public way”— the common sight of networked devices fixed in place on the street. He argued that these devices make the city run more smoothly and lives easier, and that continuing to overlay the internet across the city will result in greater efficiency. Read more »