LA County Supervisors Approve $15 Million for Affordable Housing

The preservation and creation of affordable housing has been a longstanding goal of both Los Angeles County and many of its 88 cities, but the demise of redevelopment agencies delivered a blow to low-income residents struggling in one of the nation’s most difficult housing markets.

On March 5, 2013, acting on a joint motion by Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Board of Supervisors unanimously reaffirmed the county’s commitment to providing permanent housing for low-income residents.  The Supervisors transferred $15 million to the Community Development Corporation for affordable housing in Los Angeles County.  

Positive First Steps for Affordable Housing in Culver City

Culver City Affordable Housing RoundtableAssemblymember Holly Mitchell joined Mayor Andy Weissman and a well-rounded panel of housing developers (Los Angeles Housing Partnership and Habitat for Humanity), investors (Bank of America and Union Bank), and other leading advocates at the Culver City Council Chambers at last week’s Affordable Housing Roundtable. The first such event hosted in Culver City generated a lively discussion with local residents and community leaders contributing great questions and possible solutions to financial and legislative roadblocks. Read more

Collaborating in the San Joaquin Valley

Hearty congratulations are in order for the San Joaquin Valley Housing Collaborative for the successful inaugural San Joaquin Valley Affordable Housing Summit 2012 held May 22nd in Fresno. The Summit program covered a wide range of issues, especially the depth of the foreclosures and accompanying loss of home values in the Central Valley, but also showed some causes for optimism, as the trends for employments, home values, and opportunities for investment are showing some upticks that can be sustained. Read more

Use the Force … against NIMBYs

In a twist, George Lucas has pledged to develop affordable housing in Marin County in response to NIMBY opposition to his commercial development plans – probably not what the local homeowners expected to hear. In an April 10th letter to the Marin Independent Journal  Skywalker Properties stated that instead of continuing to battle NIMBYs over building film production facilities on their Grady Ranch property (see map here), Lucasfilm would instead look to sell the property to an affordable housing developer because “low income housing … is scarce in Marin.”

Rendering of now-canceled Grady Ranch

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Mixed-Income Housing…Will it Finally Be Favored?

Two of Century’s largest clients, Meta Housing and AMCAL Multi-Housing, are featured in an article about mixed-income housing in the March/April 2012 issue of Urban Land. The author, Patricia Kirk, highlights several public-private ventures in Portland (OR), Austin, and especially Southern California, where public agencies financial assistance made vibrant communities with a range of income levels possible.

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Meta Housing received financial help from the city of Tustin for Coventry Senior Apartments

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Check Cashing Stores Are Designed Better

Noted bloggers Megan McArdle (The Atlantic) and Felix Salmon (Reuters) recently had a bit of back and forth about payday lenders and credit unions, and as a (former) credit union customer, I was intrigued by the arguments both were making about how credit unions should be making more of the short-term small loans that payday lenders make, but at much less usurious rates. AND that more people should become credit union members. AND that the missing element is education (if only people KNEW how payday lenders and check cashers were treating them, the would ALL flock to banks and credit unions). But who really doesn’t understand that payday lenders charge astronomical interest rates? and that the one benefit of a payday lender over a loan shark is that your thumbs won’t get broken? Is it really an education gap?

Or is it that banks are an unwelcoming place to people who are unfamiliar with them? The 99% Invisible blog and podcast did a  show on the design of payday lending and check cashing stores back in March 2011, and it is worth a listen. As a “retail” operation for a broad client base, banks fail on many fronts. What the bank is offering is not always apparent (other than current CD rates, and maybe not even that); there are almost never prices posted for their services; and you need to have some numbers (a PIN, some balances, something) to get any service. A check cashing store is absolutely transparent about what you can get there and what it will cost. Isn’t that worth something to a customer?

NIMBYs – Do They Have It Too Easy?

Getting back to work

Let’s dust off Economics 101 and review “barriers to entry,” a key factor in assessing competition and dynamics in a market. Recent posts at The Atlantic Cities (here and here),  and David Smith’s Affordable Housing Institute blog (regarding a fight in peaceful Woodstock, part 1, part 2 and part 3), with a slightly contrasting view from Megan McArdle discuss the “low cost of admission” that NIMBYs have to the development process. From Ryan Avent:

People tend to have a proprietary feeling about their neighborhoods, particularly when they have large sums of money on the line thanks to their investment in their home. This feeling leaves urban property rights in a gray area. Residents are remarkably willing to dictate to private property owners what can and can’t be done with their land. They’re willing to approve restrictive zoning rules and lobby against permitting in ways that dramatically reduce potential land value, without ever dreaming of compensating owners and would-be developers.

Finally, an honest sign

Developers have to cultivate local political and civic relationships, find equity investors, locate sites appropriate for developing, obtain entitlement approvals, and secure a whole passel of capital before they can turn one shovel of dirt. Affordable housing developers often have three or four (or ten) extra steps, cobbling together political support (which always has a cost) for zoning changes and securing a complete financing package. All of this takes months or years, for every project. NIMBYs, on the other hand, they just need to go to Kinko’s, run off a few hundred flyers, and organize a few vocal folks to attend a couple planning commission or city council meeting to derail a project.

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What “Density” Really Means

David Edmondson of The Greater Marin blog comments on the regular protestations from suburban communities’ (in this case, in Marin County) protestations to the recommendation of regional housing needs (in this case, by ABAG), mainly around the issue of density, where “some of the more partisan opponents to affordable housing use these density requirements to paint a picture of a Marin County overrun by poverty and crime, with apartment projects stretching into the skies.” This is a typical NIMBY complaint, that affordable housing will be out of local character because of high density. Mr. Edmondson uses a couple of simple examples to illustrate what density really means. Read more

Century Helps CCEO Go Green in Lennox

CCEO SEED House Opening July 21, 2011Century Housing was elated to help celebrate the July 21st grand opeing ceremony of the SEED House, an innovative location and facility for green construction training and public outreach for green-focused education, operated by Century Center for Economic Opportunity. A legacy of Century Housing and the Century Freeway, CCEO operates several construction job training programs in conjunction with the South Bay Workforce Investment Board. Karen Bennett-Green, VP of Loan Administration, represented Century, which was recognized for our contribution to the event. Also pictured are (from left) Andy Delgado, Executive Director of CCEO; Karen Bennett-Green; Jan Vogel and Robert Mejia, SBWIB; and Maria Cerdas, on behlaf of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.