January 17, 2013
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HUD unveils public-private program to improve public housing
The Department of Housing and Urban Development's new Rental Assistance Demonstration will provide financial support, including tax credits and help with private financing, to preserve subsidized and public housing. The money is expected to benefit the construction industry and aid in reducing a $26 billion backlog of capital needs that public housing authorities face.  Housing Wire (1/10), Savannah Morning News (Ga.) (free registration) (1/11), The Paramus Post (N.J.) (1/10)
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Trends in Housing
Year-end housing inventory was at lowest level in 5 years
The U.S. housing inventory reached its lowest level in five years at the end of 2012 and was down 17.3% from a year earlier, according to data from Realtor.com. The low supply helps explain the recent increase in home prices.  The Wall Street Journal/Developments blog (1/16)
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Rising values reduce number of underwater homeowners
As the housing market recovers and prices rebound, millions of homeowners are recovering equity after having been underwater on their mortgages for several years. The number of U.S. borrowers underwater fell last year to about 7 million, from a recessionary peak of 12 million. That figure could drop to 4 million by the end of next year, according to JPMorgan Chase.  Bloomberg Businessweek (1/15)
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Policy Roundup
FTA program urges affordable housing near transit stations
The Federal Transit Administration has changed the rules for its New Starts program, which provides funding for new and expanded public transit lines, to encourage applicants to make more affordable housing available near transit stations. Proximity to transit hubs often drives up housing prices, nullifying some of the social and public health benefits of public transit by pricing out people with lower incomes.  U.S. News & World Report/The Home Front blog (1/9)
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Location, Location, Location
Md. governor wants to increase affordable-housing financing
In his budget plan, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has proposed adding $25 million to a program that helps developers finance affordable housing. The program, called the Rental Works Housing initiative, began last year with $17.5 million. It offers developers low-cost, long-term loans to finance construction or rehabilitation of homes for working families, senior citizens and people with disabilities.  The Baltimore Sun (1/11)
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Mass. governor proposes consolidation in public housing
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed an overhaul of the state's public housing agencies that would consolidate about 240 organizations into six regional entities. Some state lawmakers have questioned the proposal, saying replacing local agencies with large bureaucracies might not be the best tack. Reports of abuses in several housing agencies prompted Patrick's proposal.  WBUR-FM (Boston) (1/11), WBZ-TV (Boston) (1/10)
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Health and Housing
Partnership connects affordable housing and health centers
A public-private effort called Healthy Futures will provide $100 million in financing for federally qualified community centers to be built near affordable housing. The centers will provide access to primary-care health services. Supporters say the initiative was inspired by the Affordable Care Act, which expands health insurance through Medicaid coverage -- but expanded coverage alone won't help everyone get to a doctor. "Just providing insurance is not enough," said Jennifer Tolbert of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.  The Wall Street Journal (1/13)
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Environment and Housing
More apartments offer bike-friendly options
As more commuters embrace cycling to work, apartment communities are improving their facilities to accommodate bikes. Some apartments have begun offering access to bike storage, eliminating the need to lug a cycle up and down stairs. Others have set up bike repair shops within their complexes. Portland, Ore., and Seattle are among the cities where the trend is catching on.  The Washington Post/The Associated Press (1/15)
 
The Economy and Housing
Homeowners without mortgages can help local economies, analysts say
Almost one-third of homeowners in the U.S. own their homes free and clear, according to a study by Zillow. Analysts say that is generally in line with historical norms, although the percentage is expected to grow as baby boomers enter retirement. People who own their homes outright have flexibility and more disposable income, factors that can help the local economies in areas where many of those homeowners live, analysts say.  Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (1/10)
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Housing Matters Spotlight
Boosting energy transparency to preserve affordable housing
Over the past decade, the nearly 40 million Americans living in multifamily buildings have seen their energy costs rise by 20%. A new report from Macarthur Foundation grantee Institute for Market Transformation analyzes energy transparency in the multifamily housing sector and finds that the nation's multifamily housing stock holds potential for major energy-efficiency gains, which would improve housing affordability by keeping renters' utility bills down. IMT states that greater transparency and tracking of energy use can drive these gains, and recommends that cities work with local utilities to ensure that building owners can access energy data and that energy-performance information be integrated into real estate listings.
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About How Housing Matters
The How Housing Matters research initiative seeks to explore whether, and if so how, having a decent, stable, affordable home leads to strong families and vibrant communities. Research is showing that stable, quality housing has value beyond the provision of shelter; it improves school performance, diminishes health problems for children and adults, and decreases psychological stress. By illuminating the ways in which housing matters and highlighting innovative practices in the field, we hope to encourage collaboration among leaders and policymakers in housing, education, health, and economic development to help families lead healthy, successful lives. How Housing Matters is an initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Learn more about The MacArthur Foundation ->How Housing Matters | The MacArthur Foundation
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