CNT in the News

In the Elusive Search for Affordable Housing, Clues Emerge

Governing.com | April 28, 2017

Perhaps the most intriguing new idea about affordable housing is to think of the issue more broadly. That’s the approach touted by Scott Bernstein, who heads the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago. “We have a national discussion about income,” Bernstein says, pointing to the proliferation of “living wage” ordinances and the debate around them. “We don’t have a national discussion about the cost of living.”

In Bernstein’s view, true affordability involves much more than the price of shelter. It includes, most important, transportation. In most cities, the affordable housing strategy most homeowners and renters use is basically “drive until you qualify.” Housing prices drop as distance from the city increases. As a result, homeowners and renters keep moving further out until they find a place where they afford to live. Unfortunately, they nearly always underestimate the cost of transportation. “Very low-income people can easily spend 80 percent of their incomes on the combined cost of housing and transportation,” Bernstein says. “Even moderate-income people who are stuck with no mass transit can end up spending as much on transportation as on housing.”

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Combating the Suburbanization of Poverty

The Sightline Insitute | April 28, 2017

The Pacific Northwest is an expensive place to be poor,” says Scott Bernstein, who has spent much of the last three years studying trends and solutions to poverty in North America.

And in many ways the region’s suburbs are even more costly for people of lesser means, notes Bernstein, founder of the Center for Neighborhood Technology and lead author of the organization’s Urban Opportunity Agenda. In many suburbs, transit is sparse or non-existent, so car ownership is all but mandatory to reach the scattered jobs. And cars are costly. “People end up holding onto older cars and paying for repairs, or paying more to get a newer car,” Bernstein says. “Portland and Seattle are leaders in expanding transit, but most of that is in the core and some inner suburbs.” Services like home weatherization programs and job training, present in central cities, are often missing in suburban locales.

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Cook County, IL Municipalities Targeting Underused Land Identified by CNT

Chicago Tribune | April 18, 2017

Franklin Park and Northlake are among seven near west suburban communities using grant funding from Cook County to redevelop "brownfield" locations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented Cook County with a $600,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant in 2014, according to a news release. Those funds are being distributed among seven Cook County municipalities: Franklin Park, Bellwood, Forest Park, Melrose Park, Maywood, Northlake, and Schiller Park. The grant covers cost of the study and planning phases of a site's remediation. The seven Cook County municipalities benefiting from the grant at least 87 vacant, abandoned, or underused sites have been identified by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in these seven communities, according to a release. 

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There's No Scarcity of Parking Spaces--What's Lacking is Sharing

MarketWatch | March 29, 2017

Real estate developers and the municipal codes they’re operating under can’t seem to nail the parking-space formula — putting the right number in the right places — at multifamily housing and commercial projects in cities and suburbs.

And because there’s been flawed policy in place for decades, at least according to some urban-planning groups, there’s actually an ample inventory of parking in most high-density, or otherwise highly traveled, areas. Those spaces just need smarter use.

That solution may lie in part with parking matchmaker apps that, by closing the gap between supply and demand, generate supplemental income for listers, convenience and cost-effectiveness for drivers, and improved neighborhood liveability. The apps aren’t new, nor are they exclusive to the U.S. (U.K.-based Just Park operates there and elsewhere), but their acceptance is broadening, with help from big thinkers on planning.

“One-size-fits-all parking standards from transportation engineers and municipal ordinances apply the same guidelines whether the development sits two blocks from transit or covers the needs of two to three cars in a far-flung suburb,” said Linda Young, a managing director focused on urban analytics at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The Chicago-based nonprofit has studied the parking patterns of the Chicago; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco metro areas in particular.

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Is Less Parking in the Suburbs Possible?

The Boston Globe | March 27, 2017

Arlington wants more apartments. Just not the parking spaces that typically come with them. This bustling Boston suburb recently amended its building rules to encourage the construction of 321 new apartments townwide by 2020. But it also allowed apartment developers to build fewer parking spaces under special permits for certain parts of town, including the commercial center along Massachusetts Avenue and Broadway. The move came at the recommendation of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which recently completed a study that found, on average, one-quarter of parking spaces at apartment buildings in five Boston suburbs, including Arlington, were empty overnight.

“We found that parking supply is more strongly associated with demand; if you build it, they will come,” Hart said. “It’s a self-selecting population. If I’m someone who needs my car every day, I’m going to choose to live somewhere where I can park my car. Parking requirements, as they shape future development, is really in the hands of communities.”

That theory was tested in Chicago with a 99-unit apartment building in the Wicker Park neighborhood that doesn’t have a single parking space for residents. The building is across a Chicago Transit Authority rail stop and a dedicated bike path, and features a bike storage room, and an electronic tracker in the lobby showing when the next train is coming. Residents are mostly Millennials who are more accustomed to a car-free lifestyle, said Jacky Grimshaw, vice president for government affairs for Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit whose study about excess parking in Chicago apartment buildings inspired the MAPC study.

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Does South Florida Lead Nation In Gap Between Wages and Housing?

Politifact Florida, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times & Miami Herald | March 24, 2017

South Florida’s housing market spans the gamut of tony gated oceanfront mansions for millionaires and some downtrodden neighborhoods. That’s not unusual for a major urban area. But is it worse in South Florida than elsewhere in the nation? Habitat for Humanity painted a stark picture about the cost of housing in South Florida in a press release announcing that President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, retired Dr. Ben Carson, will visit the site of a future affordable housing development in Broward County on March 24. The release included information from the Center for Neighborhood Technology and The Center for Housing Policy’s Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation. The report found that housing and transportation costs rose faster than income nationally, although the disparity was greater in some metro areas than others. And South Florida topped that list.

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