Posts Tagged ‘Affordable Housing’

Polarity

February 7, 2021

            “We must work on homeless issue” is the title of Newark’s 2ndward council person Jeremy Blake’s response to the 1-8-21 news of the end of low barrier shelter/beginning of another thrift store on East Main St. (guest column Newark Advocate 2-7-21). “I voted along with all of my colleagues on the City Council to spend taxpayer dollars for a consultant to perform work and then provide recommendations on how to end chronic homelessness.” Even though the consultant resigned due to her own finding that the community was not committed to the solution (let alone the problem), Mr. Blake argues that the consultation was but a step in a further process of meetings and conversations. Such a drawn out and extensive “process” never seems to accompany council matters with regard to TIF’s, renovations, redevelopment, development, or even annexation for the sake of development. Indeed, Blake’s approach laser focuses on the homeless aspect without mention of the homefull. Is such a concept possible? Or is it like thinking of night without day, wet without dry, good without bad? Reporting for the NY Times (2-4-21) Stefanos Chen headlines The Down Side to Life in a Supertall Tower: Leaks, Creaks, Breaks. “The nearly 1,400-foot tower at 432 Park Ave., briefly the tallest residential building in the world, was the pinnacle of New York’s luxury condo boom half a decade ago [2016], fueled largely by foreign buyers seeking discretion and big returns. Six years later, residents of the exclusive tower are now at odds with the developers, and each other, making clear that even multimillion-dollar price tags do not guarantee problem-free living.” “The building, a slender tower that critics have likened to a middle finger because of its contentious height, is mostly sold out, with a projected value of $3.1 billion.” “[Sarina] Abramovich and her husband, Mikhail, retired business owners who worked in the oil and gas business, bought a high-floor, 3,500-square-foot apartment at the tower for nearly $17 million in 2016, to have a secondary home near their adult children.” “She’s aware that the plight of billionaires won’t garner much sympathy, but says she is speaking out on principle. “Everything here was camouflage,” she said. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have never bought.”” How many times have we heard that hiring a consultant is the way to solve a problem? Do consultants wear camo? Today’s NY Times provided some PC sympathy. Conor Dougherty headlines Pandemic’s Toll on Housing: Falling Behind, Doubling Up, Eviction moratoriums don’t keep arrears from piling up, and aid to renters may not reach the most vulnerable. (2-6-21) Analysis uncovered these relevant insights: “The nation has a plague of housing instability that was festering long before Covid-19, and the pandemic’s economic toll has only made it worse.” “Even before last year, about 11 million households — one in four U.S. renters — were spending more than half their pretax income on housing, and overcrowding was on the rise. By one estimate, for every 100 very low-income households, only 36 affordable rentals are available.” “Reflecting the broader economy, the pain in the U.S. housing market is most severe at the bottom. Surveys of large landlords whose units tend to be higher quality and more expensive have been remarkably resilient through the pandemic. Surveys of small landlords and low-income tenants show that late fees and debt are piling up.” “But for every million or so households who are evicted in the United States each year, there are many more millions who move out before they miss a payment, who cut back on food and medicine to make rent, who take up informal housing arrangements that exist outside the traditional landlord-tenant relationship. “What happens in housing court will miss most of the people who need help,” said Davin Reed, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. While rents have fallen in many big cities, vacancy rates for the cheapest buildings are essentially flat from last year, according to CoStar Group, a commercial property group. That is: Nothing about Covid-19 has changed the fact that there is a longstanding shortage of affordable housing, so anyone who loses an affordable home will still have a hard time finding a new one.” “It is a world of cash rent and oral agreements that are unstable and easily torn — a big reason that various studies show informal tenants are more likely to become homeless. “People who have places they can be evicted from are better off than those who don’t,” said Marybeth Shinn, a professor at Vanderbilt University who studies homelessness.” But conversations about and “solutions” to the homeless problem are primarily focused on the problem “along the banks of the waterways which travel through the neighborhoods of the second ward that many of our chronic homeless call home.” (Blake) Analysis finds this akin to addressing agricultural weed eradication programs without mentioning how it is we farm in the first place. Newark is not exceptional to anything Dougherty writes about, nor what Chen covers. When speaking of big money west end development no mention is made of those who are couch surfing and doubling, tripling up to find shelter. And in researching a solution to the homeless issue, no word on the quickly acquiesced and subsidized big money developments. Flat earth versus a globe that spins round and comes round, night without day, homeless without homefull, it is obvious where the roots of American polarity spring forth.

Location, Location, Location

May 19, 2019

On 5-16-19 The Freedom School of Licking County screened “Inside Akron’s Tent City” at the GMP hall in Newark. The film was about the tent city on private property in Akron available as a shelter opportunity for those without any. The showing was partially as a response to the unacceptable actions by the Jeff Hall administration in bulldozing the tent shelters of those without any alternatives this past winter. After the showing there was a lengthy discussion regarding various aspects of what can or could be done, what is being done, and what has been done elsewhere. Newark is not alone in having a population in need, of shelter, nutritional food, transportation, medical care and education. It is also not alone in refusing to address the need in any comprehensive or systematic manner. Ever since the first President George Bush advocated for his “thousand points of light” as a solution to community needs, Newark has embraced that solution. And the need only grows. One area of muddlement found in our culture today is that any discussion addressing these needs involves one and the same subjects. This mix up becomes divisive, branding a certain population as “always and every way in need.” A recent obituary described the deceased as a “proud and strong willed self made man.” The insinuation is that he was “self reliant” in meeting his needs. As the movie pointed out, it is damn hard and continuous work surviving Ohio’s climate without resources. True, the same person who is without shelter may be without any transportation options, which in turn challenges accessing food, medical care, or education. Analysis shows that food pantries are not located near grocery stores or restaurants. This is no coincidence. Food pantries rely on such establishments for donations of unmarketable yet still consumable goods. The business in turn wants credit for its contribution but not a direct link, knowing its customers would not pay for what they believed could be acquired otherwise. Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient is all but mandatory. So we find headlines like “Bikers bring 30,000 meals to feed migrants at facility in New Mexico” (USA Today 5-19-19) but never any announcing “Newark Landlord Makes 20 Units Available For Those Without A Place To Live.” Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient is practically impossible when it comes to addressing the need to shelter those without one. Knowing the other person is in class to be educated because they also need to learn is normal. Knowing someone else in the waiting room is in need of medical attention the same as you is not controversial. But having the next door neighbor living in an apartment just like yours without paying rent while you do can become quite dicey. Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient with regard to shelter has de facto been relegated to government. Analysis finds this to be ironic since the founding fathers went out of their way to prioritize those who have property from those who do not (see how and why the senate differs from the house of representatives as well as the electoral college). Meeting the need for shelter differs fundamentally and generically from that of other needs. It cannot be met through entering a room, receiving assistance, and leaving. It requires locating the individual recipient of care amongst those not in need or with other needs (see the hoops group homes, half way houses, etc. must jump through). And we all know that real estate is Location, Location, Location. Mayor Jeff Hall’s solution to those in need of shelter in Newark is to locate them OUTSIDE Newark. This is in keeping with the constitution’s founding fathers and the thousand points of light. A city’s official policies to real estate ownership and its citizens is fundamental to addressing the need for shelter for those without one. No one said it would be easy. “Landlords to challenge Seattle’s fair housing law” (Charlotte West, NBC, 5-19-19) makes that clear. Seattle opted for a “ban the box” ordinance for its returning citizens when seeking accommodations as one way to deal with shelter in a city where affordable housing is a challenge. “”There are laws and policies that are in place that prevent us from being successful people,” [ordinance advocate Michelle] McClendon said.” “But Seattle’s fair housing ordinance goes one step beyond “ban the box.” It doesn’t allow landlords to consider criminal histories at all. However, landlords who share single-family residences with their tenants or who rent out an accessory dwelling unit (aka “mother-in-law apartment”) are exempt. Property owners may continue to check the sex offender registry in some circumstances.” “Ethan Blevins, staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, represents the Rental Housing Association of Washington and other landlords in the lawsuit against the ordinance. He said that his clients recognize that people of color are disproportionately impacted by criminal records. “That sort of discriminatory impact begins much earlier with racist or discriminatory law enforcement practices,” he said. “The landlords shouldn’t be the ones who are saddled with the burden of dealing with a problem that was actually created by law enforcement practices that need to be reformed.” Blevins added that landlords oppose the ordinance because they want to be able to thoroughly vet tenants by using all of the information publicly available to them.” Analysis finds the need for shelter to be unique amongst the many public concern needs addressed by communities. It ultimately always hinges on how we govern ourselves. The basis of that governance (Constitutions and charters) de facto prioritizes property rights. And we all know real estate is Location, Location, Location.

What A Concept!

February 24, 2019

In the past year plus, Amazon had courted a vast number of American locations for establishment of its HQ2. When the dust had settled, it announced two HQ2’s – one in the greater DC area, and one in NYC, the borough of Queens to be specific. This came as more than a double whammy to those urban centers who earnestly offered to give all (and more) to have the mega giant’s home (away from home) office in their neighborhood. Popular discontent with the prospect of thousands of more employees, commuters, urban upheaval and displacement due to real estate values rising, gentrification, etc. while infrastructure costs, schools, and medical care, emergency services would receive no commercial Amazon support, created a popular uprising. Amazon withdrew its 2 HQ2 vision (and had to settle for just one). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her followers were credited (or blamed) for the erasure of the dream (or scheme). Many critiqued the outcome on the usual suspects attributed to “growth” in Licking County by Newark’s GOP mayor, the GOP county commissioners and (the GOP) Grow Licking County – “Jobs!” would bring wealth into the hood and revitalize the neglected economy. In Queens, it isn’t exactly vacant farm fields that would get transformed but the populace recognized early on that their rents would go up, along with their taxes and commute times (even for groceries). Real estate values going up is great for those who own it to make a financial killing (investment), terrible for those who depend on it to stay alive (for their livelihood or as a place to live). Analysis can only find that the folks in Queens could discern the difference. On the other side of the Atlantic an analogous situation exists with the slow motion train wreck called “Brexit.” London has been the traditional financial equivalent of Wall Street (indeed, many Newark consumers have their loan and credit card interest rates tied to the LIBOR rate which finds its home in, you guessed it, London). The various global banks and commercial entities which had their HQ1 (or 2) in London are now exiting. “Which City Is Winning the Race to Be Europe’s Next Finance Hub? None” by Sophia Akram appeared in Ozy (2-24-19). Seems no single European city will take in the financial refugees. Cities like Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam, etc. have suitors and potential mates but each only a few. No city wants them all. The usual suspects (covered by the AOC confrontation in Queens) are listed: “These growing pains — overpopulated cities, purpose-built towns and spillover into neighboring areas as well as soaring rents and property prices — aren’t surprising, says O’Malley [Eoin O’Malley, associate professor of politics at Dublin City University]. And how governments deal with them could determine whether these cities can truly cash in on the opportunity presented by Brexit, he adds. “Whenever you’re bringing in relatively high-paid jobs, it’s probably displacing the people living in those areas to the outskirts of the city,” says O’Malley. “There’s a lot of pressure on the government to build more social housing, and that’s probably the big issue in Irish politics at the moment.”” Gasp! Government build more housing? What a concept! Try selling THAT to Tim Bubb, Nate Strum or Jeff Hall. “And it will take time for the cities bidding to replace London to be able to fully absorb the incoming demand from foreign firms and professionals. O’Malley says Dublin, for instance, currently lacks adequate affordable housing, transport infrastructure and non-Catholic schooling.” “[Paris] is preparing for what O’Malley warned would become the gentrification that pushes residents from the city to its suburbs. The city, meanwhile, is expanding the Paris metro system to cover a “Greater Paris” metropolitan area.” Double gasp! Metro system expansion? What a concept! Grow Licking County prefers good ole self reliance, thank you (“Nate Strum, economic director of Grow Licking County and the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, said a new effort will focus on unemployed in neighboring counties with higher unemployment.” Mallett, Advocate: Employers thinking outside box on job recruitment, retention, training 2-22-19). The good folks in Queens heeded the USPS motto; “If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” But the real concept camouflaged in all this (but staring us right in the face) is the dispersion of wealth. Since Occupy back in 2010/11, the public consciousness has grown with regards to wealth distribution and income inequality in the U S and abroad. Most are cognizant and articulate with the 1%, 99%  concept. Locating all the wealth within one sector seems to have been actually undermined by the likes of AOC and the Queens resistance to Amazon’s HQ2. And Brexit, no matter how it turns out, has likewise created a rupture in the concentration of wealth within a limited geographic location. It is a crack, indeed a relatively minor one, but Analysis does find that it makes factual the redistribution and dispersion of wealth, affecting more than just an exceptional few. Triple gasp! Wealth redistribution? What a concept!

Failed Community Administration

February 19, 2019

The past week saw a barrage of local news appear in The Newark Advocate. Though apparently disparate in content, the aggregate spoke volumes about the Newark community. Analysis was intrigued by what the stories contributed to the overall larger narrative. There were a couple of stories about the growing population of homeless within Newark (by definition marginal to Newark’s self identity as community). There were likewise a couple of stories of projected capital improvements within the geography of Newark (by most accounts structures and institutions are what define community in Newark). In the final lines of ‘What needs to be done with homelessness in Licking County?’ (2-17-19) Kent Mallett quotes Newark’s mayor: “”No individual group, entity or person will have all the answers, but collectively, we’ll work together. The power of community is pretty strong right now.”” Previous to the mayor speaking Mallett wrote “The mayor said any sustainable answer has to include the public, private and non-profit segments of the community.” Analysis shows the mayor is cognizant of Newark as a community and his place within that community. He IS the mayor who is being interviewed and as THE community leader he is integral to not only what needs to be done but what IS done. ‘New senior housing, wellness center coming to Denison’ by Craig McDonald (2-16-19) is technically NOT Newark though the large footprint of The Art Space on Church St. definitely puts the DU in downtown Newark. DU likewise self identifies as a community with a mission of producing leaders for tomorrow (may or may not include mayors). From McDonald’s article it becomes obvious that there is not enough housing and group activity spaces on campus, and the community must generate more, and will. Likewise, the healthcare of the community is being inadequately provided and that too must be improved, and will. ‘Newark’s St. Francis de Sales announces $3 million expansion’ by Dave Weidig (2-17-19) projects an expansion of the downtown church to meet its urgent need, and the sundry reasons, plans and financing involved. DU takes a lot of pride in their generations of leaders, so small wonder that they actively address the immediate physical needs of their community. Pride is somewhat ambivalent within the context of the Catholic Church. Though an understatement, “”It will be a good street presence,” said Shannon Karrenbauer, St. Francis Business Manager.” suffices as an adequate surrogate. And Newark Mayor Jeff Hall? “While other cities are talking about what they can’t do, Newark is talking about what it is doing, Mayor Jeff Hall said. “You kind of have to get out and see what’s going on around and there aren’t a whole lot of cities in Ohio that got a lot going on,” Hall said.” (Newark may see downtown, north end developments, Kent Mallett, 1-5-18). Analysis finds this collection of reporting in the middle of February inadvertently reveals the disjunct of “community” when it comes to the administration of Newark. All three groups take pride in their community. On the basis of this pride the administrators of the leaders group as well as the religious organization address their present real concerns with projected solutions in the here and now. The administration of the Newark community? The mayor mouths the 100% correct analysis of what it takes to accomplish the goal of addressing the need (“The mayor said any sustainable answer has to include the public, private and non-profit segments of the community.”) but has failed to do any of the above. Akin to DU and the Catholic Church, Newark is not some isolated hardscrabble backwater struggling to identify itself, let alone flourish.  Along with being the government seat of a prosperous and thriving county, it is the headquarters of a bank with $7.8 billion in assets. Its membership rolls, along with its alumni and active promoters far outstrip anything that the local church or university can access. Yet the present Newark administration has not succeeded in generating any affordable housing, public transportation or public community centers. It isn’t that there is a lack of public, private and non-profit segments within Newark. Rather, Analysis reveals that the current Jeff Hall administration has totally failed the Newark community even though they know what it takes to do otherwise.

 

Limited Horizon (Not A Cell Phone Provider)

November 18, 2018

Driving south on 33 in Hocking County, a bit before Athens County (the gateway to West Virginia), a traveler will pass without noticing a turnoff marked “Haydenville.” Woebegone it is not though it belongs with the family of “towns that time forgot.” Lining the main road through town (as well as the side streets) are what were originally identical houses, varying only in that certain stretches are of a markedly different model. The houses are all of ceramic block. There is even a church made of block as well as the post office. Haydenville was a company town for the laborers of the primary employer, the ceramic block factory. With the demise of ceramic products in the wake of plastic, the former manufacturing site has been replaced by a pallet factory. Both rely on an assumed abundance of area resource – first clay and coal, now timber. The housing is all that remains of what fueled the past. The area reveals a preponderance of ceramic block structures – barns, commercial buildings and residential housing. As one travels north their numbers diminish. Few are found around Newark though Hanover maintains an active brick works. Vestiges of a company town are not as overwhelmingly evident there unless one looks beneath the surface. At one time Granville was a mixed bag sort of company town. There was no one company but the laborers of the various enterprises resided there, in town. 50 years ago it began its current evolution of gentrification, outside investment, becoming a bedroom community for commuters to jobs located elsewhere. Conversely, most laborers for Granville’s employers commute from without. One of Granville’s largest employers (if not the largest), as well as land owner, is Denison University. In its autopoietic commitment of community leadership, Denison University is exploring partnering with a commercial developer to provide housing for its laborers, er, employees. What goes around, comes around. Company town ecology is difficult and complex. The benefits of affordable housing are offset by the inevitable company store aesthetic/ethic, mentality and doing. It may not be a choice of what form the pay takes or where the pay is spent, but it certainly influences the choice of employment, duration, wages and working conditions. The defunct liberal approach, long since upgraded to neo liberal, was that affordable housing is a ward of the state (federal, state, municipal). The chances for a snow ball in hell are better than affordable housing being the responsibility of the state in Licking County. The recent midterm elections verified that overwhelmingly. Ever open to compromise, the neo liberal approach embraces public private partnerships. Once again we’re back to betting on snowballs as in Licking County, and Ohio overall, those are reserved for subsidizing profit making enterprises. Which only leaves what Denison is exploring – private partnerships. But where else could today’s vast sums of cash for housing investment come from? Which begs the company town question. What if Walmart ventures into creating affordable housing for its employees? After all, they are Ohio’s largest employer. Or Amazon?  Or Licking Memorial Hospital? Analysis finds the realpolitik of affordable housing today follows the money. The recent episode with Newark’s Gardens On Sixth transitional affordable housing indicates some of the oppressive preconditions involved with private partnership funding of affordable housing. Haydenville celebrates (if you want to call it that) the effectiveness of big money’s involvement in providing a reliable labor force. It is difficult to deny the presence of affordable housing, water and sanitation for those who got up every morning to labor for the landlord. Of course, a company town is usually accompanied by a company store, a company utility plant, and maybe even a company golf course. The limited horizon always remains unchanging. Business thrives on reliability, eschews uncertainty.

Be Active In 2018

January 6, 2018

Analysis woke to find sub zero temps and a wind chill alert for central Ohio, AND a Washington Post headline reading: Hawaii has record-low unemployment and it’s not a frozen hellscape. Why are people leaving? (Andrew Van Dam, 1-5-18) Huh? What is wrong with this picture? “Preliminary data back up the notion that Hawaii residents are continuing to vote with their feet. Moving company Atlas Van Lines found that, among its customers in 2017 (through Dec. 15), there were three moves out of Hawaii for every two moves in. The state is clearly a very nice place to visit. But it’s getting harder and harder to stay.” Dope slapping the side of the monitor for an attitude adjustment didn’t seem to help either. “Hawaii has the lowest unemployment rate of any state in recorded history, a good economic outlook, and — most attractive at this time of year — little chance of polar vortex or ‘bomb cyclones’. Yet in 2017 its population fell for just the third time since statehood in 1959. It only dropped a tenth of a percent, but that’s a worse showing than all but four states (Wyoming, West Virginia, Illinois and Alaska), according to a recent Census Bureau release. Which brings us to the core conundrum: people are leaving Hawaii even though the labor market is stronger than on the mainland, and even though it’s the high 70s in Honolulu this week. What could possibly be driving them away?” Do tell. “The preliminary seasonally adjusted [unemployment] reading for November was 2.0 percent — the lowest of any state since the Labor Department started keeping track in 1976, and less than half of the 4.1 percent national rate reported in November.” “A recent report from Bonham’s organization  [“Carl Bonham, economics professor and director of the University of Hawaii’s economic research organization”] projected continued growth for 2018, based on another record year of tourist arrivals, steady activity in the construction sector, and growth in health and tourism jobs. So why is anyone leaving? One answer trumps all others: home prices. Hawaii has the most expensive housing in the nation, according to the home value index from housing website Zillow. Rent costs trail only D.C. and (in some months) California. Overall, Hawaii had the highest cost of living of any state in 2017 (D.C. was higher), the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness found, and housing was the main driver. It’s always been expensive to live in Hawaii, but it’s getting worse. There’s just not enough housing on the islands, and Hawaii now has one of the worst rates of homelessness in the country.” The morning’s Newark Advocate headlined their parent company’s USA Today: Report: Columbus among top 10 trending destinations in the world (Chris Pugh, 1-6-18). “The study, released this week by travel booking website Airbnb, lists the Ohio capital as the sixth most trending destination in the world based on bookings for the first part of 2018.” ““In the United States, Midwestern cities like Indianapolis and Columbus are seeing some of the strongest growth, driven by booming downtown districts humming with new restaurants, nightlife, and local arts,” the report reads.” Analysis recalls in the past Newark Mayor Jeff Hall making statements like wanting downtown Newark to be a “destination.” Butt weight, maybe that’s coming into fruition. The previous days Advocate headlined: Newark may see downtown, north end developments (Kent Mallett, 1-5-18). “Momentum from a flurry of recent Newark improvements should continue in the new year, according to commercial developer Steve Layman. Development should begin on the vacant city block bordered by South Third, South Fourth, Market and West Main streets. Front Room Furnishings will occupy the former Connell’s Furniture space on North 21st Street. And, the former Kroger property on Deo Drive could be developed this year. Other downtown and north end sites also have potential. “Newark is constrained a little bit because of available land, suitable and available for development,” Layman said. “But, I think there will be infill development — apartments, condominiums and medical offices. “The economy is good, there are jobs aplenty, and the cost of living is moderate. There’s good value here.”” More shine being peddled from the Hall of Newark: “While other cities are talking about what they can’t do, Newark is talking about what it is doing, Mayor Jeff Hall said. “You kind of have to get out and see what’s going on around and there aren’t a whole lot of cities in Ohio that got a lot going on,” Hall said.” Newark may not be an island. What is happening in Hawaii is relevant to Newark. Analysis has also recently noted that Columbus was ranked second in the nation in terms of economic inequality. The last Analysis checked, tourism is considered a service industry (along with “restaurant, nightlife, and local arts”). Service jobs make up the bulk of Layman’s “jobs aplenty.”  Where are these folks to live? And how are they to get to work from there? Nowhere in Mallett’s journalism was any mention made of affordable housing, the homeless or the inability to get to work within a greater Newark metro area of well over 50,000 lacking fixed route/schedule public transportation. Layman and company simply assume that if their real estate values increase (development), unemployment is low, and the cost of living is moderate for the upper third of wage earners, then all problems are solved (the “rising tide” article of conservative faith). The actuality of Hawaii begs to differ and throws a kink into this faith based gospel of eliding very real social problems. After all, pushing the problem somewhere else is no solution when there’s no ocean between. Eventually they bump into each other. Selling “Shine” is what our tabloid president does. Admitting the problem and addressing the reality of affordable housing and public transportation needs is a very doable first step.

Due to weather event the meeting below has been rescheduled for February 3, 2018, 10-12. See you there.

Jan 13 Transportation Meeting

Licking County Has No Housing Problem

August 27, 2017

A seemingly mundane article headlined the 8-27-17 Sunday Advocate. County auditor may reject additional borrowing, cites state report by veteran Advocate journalist Kent Mallet reports on the fiscal condition of Licking County and its municipalities. Of note is “The state auditor’s financial health review of the 2016 performance of Ohio cities and counties shows Licking County government with 15 positive outlooks, one cautionary and one critical. The critical category is debt service expenditures to total revenue.” with the usual no problemo rebuttal “The commissioner [Tim Bubb] said he takes seriously the review from the state auditor, but maintains the county is in good financial shape. “It’s something we need to look at, but we’ve borrowed cautiously and have debt service capacity to repay it,” Bubb said. “If repayment was questionable, we probably wouldn’t have done the borrowing.”” Is it a problem? When is a problem a “problem”? Appearing the same day but requiring enormous commitment to read was an in depth Pro Publica/New York magazine publication entitled Is Anybody Home at HUD? By Alec MacGillis (8-27-17). The article describes a mini me version of the White House administration in terms of one of its cabinet positions – HUD. Along with the usual intrigues of nepotism and secrecy (press coverage suppression/manipulation) is a harrowing trail of fiscal activity. Analysis finds the article itself would justify its own post but must note only some of what is relevant: “HUD has long been something of an overlooked stepchild within the federal government. Founded in 1965 in a burst of Great Society resolve to confront the “urban crisis,” it has seen its manpower slide by more than half since the Reagan Revolution. (The HUD headquarters is now so eerily underpopulated that it can’t even support a cafeteria; it sits vacant on the first floor.) But HUD still serves a function that millions of low-income Americans depend on — it funds 3,300 public-housing authorities with 1.2 million units and also the Section 8 rental-voucher program, which serves more than 2 million families; it has subsidized tens of millions of mortgages via the Federal Housing Administration; and, through various block grants, it funds an array of community uplift initiatives.” Some giving rather ambiguous clarity as to the thinking, direction and leadership of its head, Ben Carson, would be: “On March 6 [2017], Carson arrived for his first day of work at headquarters. In introductory remarks to assembled employees, after he’d gotten the mic back from his wife, he surprised many by asking them to raise their hands and “take the niceness pledge.” He also went on a riff about immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, capped by this: “That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder, for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”” ““You know, governments that look out for property rights also tend to look out for other rights. You know, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of all the things that make America America. So it is absolutely foundational to our success … On Sunday, I was talking to a large group of children about what’s happening with rights in our country. These are kids who had all won a Carson Scholar [an award of $1,000 that Carson has sponsored since 1994], which you have to have at least a 3.75 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and show that you care about other people, and I said you’re going to be the leaders of our nation and will help to determine which pathway we go down, a pathway where we actually care about those around us and we use our intellect to improve the quality of life for everyone, or the pathway where we say, “I don’t want to hear you if you don’t believe what I believe, I want to shut you down, you don’t have any rights.” This is a serious business right now where we are, that juncture in our country that will determine what happens to all of us as time goes on. But the whole housing concern is something that concerns us all.” [5-2-17 speech to the American Land Title Association]” with the more recent clarification “(Just last week, Carson said, in the wake of racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, that the controversy over Trump’s support of white supremacists there was “blown out of proportion” and echoed the president’s “both sides” language when referring to “hatred and bigotry.”)”. Oh, the fiscal element in all this – “After word emerged in early March that the White House was considering cutting as much as $6 billion from the department, Carson had sent a rare email to HUD employees assuring them that this was just a preliminary figure. But as it turned out, Carson, as a relative political outsider lacking strong connections to the administration, was out of the loop: The final proposal crafted by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney called for cutting closer to $7 billion, 15 percent of its total budget. Participants in the Section 8 voucher program would need to pay at least 17 percent more of their income toward rent, and there’d likely be a couple hundred thousand fewer vouchers nationwide (and 13,000 fewer in New York City). Capital funding for public housing would be slashed by a whopping 68 percent — this, after years of cuts that, in New York alone, had left public-housing projects with rampant mold, broken elevators and faulty boilers.” The previous day (8-26-17), reporting for AP, Jeff Martin and Robert Ray headlined Homeless wary as Atlanta closes its last-resort shelter. Of note: “For decades, as many as 1,000 people with nowhere else to turn could come off the street at Peachtree and Pine, no questions asked. But years of litigation wore down the shelter’s operators. After epic battles against the city, tuberculosis, bed bugs and other hazards, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless settled out of court and sold its enormous industrial building to Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown business group.” “Atlanta, however, is closing Peachtree-Pine without having first developed the capacity to replace it, said Anita Beaty, who retired six months ago as executive director of the task force. “It’s a terrible mistake,” Beaty said. “The forces in Atlanta who don’t want homeless people visible — and certainly not on Peachtree Street — are extremely powerful.” The shelter occupies some the most valuable real estate in the South, a few blocks from the 55-story Bank of America Plaza, the city’s tallest skyscraper. Its occupants mingle with business executives and theater patrons on a stretch of Peachtree that includes the iconic Fox Theatre and the Georgian Terrace Hotel, where Clark Gable and other Hollywood stars stayed for the Atlanta premiere of “Gone With The Wind.” “All they want to do is build high-price housing that most people are not going to be able to afford, and that’s not just down here — that’s everywhere in the country,” said Anthony Murphy, 68, who has lived at Peachtree-Pine since 2011.” And the concluding “Having “low-barrier” shelter beds available to people who have been told they can’t stay elsewhere is a matter of life and death, said Carl Hartrampf, who has run the task force since Beaty left. “I believe they’re going to find out they need more than they think.”” Analysis indicates likewise.

 

Make Licking County Rural Again

November 13, 2016

Analysis would like to cover the recent Newark Think Tank meeting held at the new Denison University Art Space at 23 W. Church on 11-12-16. The Think Tank continues to offer provocative and informative speakers at its monthly meetings. This time it was a combination of the Licking County Housing Coalition and Knox Area Transit (Public Transportation in Knox County). The focus of the Housing Coalition’s presentation was on the housing service being offered to veterans in Licking, Knox and Coshocton County. An incredible effort is being made to provide immediate service to any disabled vet or for any not dishonorable discharge vet no matter their background or history. This would include, but not be limited by, small dollar crisis support, immediate shelter, as well as longer duration shelter in the form of room and/or apartment location. Some insights not readily perceived were mentioned such as no new affordable housing is (or has been) created in the area, that apartment rents begin around $700 a month with rooms running at about $300 and that vets, like everyone else, have pets, history and other attachments that can make finding a residence trying. As one reason for the rate of rents increasing, the speaker identifies Licking County as an extension of the greater Columbus metropolitan area. Many fixed income residents find their monthly income to be only slightly higher than the rent. How do you pay for food, medicine, utilities and transportation? The latter was covered by the speaker from Knox Area Transit who described their ever growing public transportation services and what went into making it so. The service is county wide and supports a Mt. Vernon shuttle service (4 lines covering the entire city) that is curb to curb as well as a single line, stop to stop Mt. Vernon-commercial district-Gambier loop shuttle service. These cost a dollar a ride and operate during the day (week) and Saturday (as well as evening for the loop). Transfers are free within the system. The KAT also has the original, on demand transportation that Licking County Transit utilizes, charged on a per ride basis, door to door (schedule ahead). Analysis finds it important to note that most of Licking County’s elected officials like to identify Licking County as a “rural” county when discussing services or rather denial of services to its residents while Knox County really is primarily rural. Not only is it a county with a smaller population, but the city of Mt. Vernon is approximately 1/3 the size of Newark. Very startling to note is that none of the Knox County municipalities served by the KAT abut each other. Gambier or Danville are not just over the city line of Mt. Vernon as Granville or Heath are to Newark. In fact, the corridors of Buckeye Lake, Hebron, Heath and Newark, as well as Etna, Pataskala, New Albany and Johnstown are, for all intents and purposes, seamless except in name. It would have been an embarrassment for the Licking County Transit if it had also been asked to make a presentation (an employee in attendance as much as admitted so). Newark is a bedroom community for residents working “elsewhere”, with no “within the city limits” industrial/commercial development. The last census count reported by the Advocate gave non-owner occupant residential housing at 47%. Analysis finds perpetuating the great rural past as an alibi for the County’s negligence in providing metropolitan level services in affordable housing and public transportation to be tawdry, misinforming, and just plain wrong.

Voter ID

September 14, 2016

“Evictions still on rise in Licking County despite recovery” headlines reporting by Jennifer Smola for The Columbus Dispatch (9-13-16). Smola writes that “The number of eviction cases filed in Licking County Municipal Court has steadily increased each year since 2010. Last year, the county logged 1,078 cases, an increase of 8.6 percent from a decade earlier, in 2006, before the Great Recession. The county is on track for a similar number this year, with 712 cases. The eviction hearings occur once every two weeks, and a court date late last month had 82 eviction cases — the most this year.” Later she reports the irony that “Regionally, mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure rates are down, according to a report last month from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. But despite those improvements, roughly 50 to 70 percent of low-income renters struggle with housing costs, the report said.” Bear in mind, dear reader, that Analysis has repeatedly covered the success story narrated by Tim Bubb and Grow Licking County. See his 2015 year in review (“A look back and ahead for Licking County” Newark Advocate 1-10-16). Indeed, overall unemployment places Licking County under 5%, within the state’s rate. And nationally the recovery is begrudgingly working, making the rich richer and the poor statistically not growing. So what gives with the growing evictions given the jobs are there along with “consumer confidence”? Smola considers “Despite low unemployment rates and reports of economic growth, the picture of recovery isn’t always as rosy as it’s portrayed to be, [local Newark activist David] Greene said. Wages remain low, and many jobs that are available locally are only part time, temporary or seasonal, he said.” Analysis reveals this to be an incomplete (and unsatisfying) explanation. A Wall Street Journal graphic from 6-21-16 (“Not Just the 1%: The Upper Middle Class Is Larger and Richer Than Ever” Josh Zumbrun) lists the various percentages of “class” population in the US. The poor (under $30,000 per year) at roughly 20%, the lower middle class (30-50,000) 17%, the middle class (50-100,000) comprises 32% and the upper middle class (100,000-350,000) at 29%. The rich (over 350,000) displace 2%. The 20% poverty rate has remained essentially flat lined for the last 50 years, yet evictions in Newark are growing. In a PBS Newshour article entitled “There’s less middle in the middle class as income inequality grows, Pew analysis finds” (5-12-16) Kai Ryssdal (Host & Senior Editor, PBS Marketplace) says “If you stop seven people — 10 people on the street, probably seven of them would say I am the middle class.” This is borne out by the WSJ “class” distinctions of “upper” middle class, middle class, and “lower” middle class instead of upper, middle and lower. Rich, middle class, and poor is how the politicians in this election year have divvied up the masses. More on this later. Ryssdal confirms Greene, but more completely: “Wages have been stagnant in this economy for decades now, right, which means incomes and household wealth are stagnant, which means there is more income inequality. And when you have income inequality, you have more going to the low end, you have more going to the high end, and those drivers of prosperity in America [the middle] are getting, as you said in the beginning, hollowed out.” The Pew findings, along with the WSJ article, find that although the poor and the rich have maintained the same percentage of population, the middle class (the middle) has shifted with roughly 2/3’s getting richer (increasing the percentage of the “upper” middle class) and 1/3 getting poorer (increasing the “lower” middle class). Not noted within the Fed report is that rents have been following the middle class, with landlords erring on the side of upward mobility in setting rents. More people today cannot afford rent though there aren’t statistically more “poor”. Politicians (Dem as well as GOP) have remained fixated on the rich, poor, middle distinction. With the poor remaining in stasis, no emphasis is placed on measures to create affordable housing. It is easier to speak of “jobs” as the solution. The 2/3 of the middle class that benefitted from the recovery would likewise explain the “base” that has materialized and supported the presidential candidacy of Donnie Trump. These folks have the most to lose with any political maneuvering that would integrate the “lower” middle class with the poor (creating an overall 37% of the population within a lower class status, in need of public support programs). It is this appeal to the fear of losing the gains accrued within the Obama recovery that drives the Trump candidacy. After all, the reality of loss is certainly manifest within the evictions suffered by those who did not benefit from the Obama recovery, the 37% in the lower class. Losses in the middle and “upper” middle class would not be found here, but rather in the Fed’s mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure rates. No wonder voter ID is such a huge issue. “If you stop seven people — 10 people on the street, probably seven of them would say I am the middle class.” But how many would identify as “upper’, middle or “lower” class?

Weird News

October 1, 2015

Not to be found with the Advocate but perused by analytical accident, the Cereal Killer riots! “The $5 Cereal That Provoked a London Mob” by Heather Horn (9-30-15) for The Atlantic: “News of the mobbing on Saturday night [9-26-15] of the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch, in London’s East End…” Eventually, “The Facebook description for the demonstration (or “street party,” as its organizers called it) puts it plainly: “We don’t want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don’t want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns—we want community.”” Horn spends the rest of the extensive article investigating the reason for such a strange occurrence. After all, if you can open a business providing $5 bowls of Captain Crunch, what harm is there in that? Then again, as Horn rightly remembers, demonstrations occurred in San Francisco over Google’s commuter bus service causing housing prices to rise and folks had to leave their hearts by the golden gate because of that. The phenomenon in East London has been replicated and is the usual suspect. City loses residents/businesses, etc. vacant storefronts, apartments attract low income but educated, upwardly mobile inhabitants who thrive on the ‘edgy”, authentic atmosphere; eventually spawning specialty businesses like coffee shops, nightclubs, galleries and “ethnic” restaurants. Real estate values go up as equally educated but higher earning desire in on the now, not-so-edgy city living (gentrified). Happens all over – NYC’s Soho, then Brooklyn, soon to be Queens. In our neck of the central Ohio woods it could be the Short North, Italian Village and currently the near west side/Franklinton in Columbus. Horn presents an alternate take to that of housing. She quotes Paul Cheshire, an emeritus professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics – “the demonstrators, or at least the organizers, appeared to have a specific political-cultural agenda.” Nancy Holman, an associate professor of urban planning at the London School of Economics is quoted “Certainly I see at the university lots of people who graduate from the [master-of-science program] with a good job and prospects, living in a house with several other people living with them, and they’re doing that into their thirties. Really, what we’re seeing isn’t so much about gentrification but about feeling priced out—people who are in their twenties and thirties feeling that there’s not a lot of hope in their being a part of life in the capital despite the fact that they work and contribute.” Small chance of such insurrection taking place in Newark where development is not organic but by design. But then again, if a Cereal Killer were to be found across from the Jail Of Terror…?