Detroit Announces $48 Million for Affordable Housing
The City of Detroit announced this week that it had raised $48 million to launch the Detroit Housing for the Future Fund, a public-private partnership that’s meant to help achieve the city’s goal of preserving 10,000 affordable housing units and building 2,000 new ones, according to a report in The Detroit News. The Fund has so far raised $15 million from JPMorgan Chase, with an additional $15 million in low-income loan commitments from Flagstar Bank, Citizens Bank and First Independence Bank. The Kresge Foundation is providing a $10 million loan guarantee. The fund is meant to “help close the financing gap for developers to build new or preserve existing affordable housing units in the city,” according to the report. The new fund is part of a larger Affordable Housing Leverage Fund that has a goal of directing $250 million in federal, state, local, corporate, and philanthropic funds to affordable housing, the report says. Both funds are managed by LISC, according to the story. (Editor’s note: The Kresge Foundation provides funding to Next City.)
“In too many cities in this country the residents who have stayed get forced out,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a press conference, according to the report. “Either they literally have their low-income housing taken away from them or the rents go up so high that people have to move out of the neighborhood they may have lived in for years … We don’t think anybody should have to be pushed out in order to bring new residents in.”
Duggan noted that Detroit’s population has shrunk from a peak of 1.8 million people to 700,000, according to the report. Because of that population loss, the city has struggled for decades with how to deal with its vacant homes and lots. At the same press conference, Duggan also asked voters to support Proposal N, a November ballot initiative that would float a $250 million bond to demolish 8,000 dangerous vacant homes and secure 8,000 more structurally sound ones, according to the report.
Architects Redesign Affordable-Housing Projects Around Covid Concerns
Architects have begun to adjust the designs of some affordable-housing projects in the U.S. in response to health concerns about COVID-19 and potential future respiratory pandemics, the Architectural Record reports. The design changes are meant to give residents greater access to outdoor space, reduce the spread of aerosolized coronavirus indoors, and stop the spread of germs. One project in New York is incorporating a communal rooftop garden with movable furniture so people can gather at a safe distance, according to the report. Another project in Richmond, Virginia, includes individual balconies for each resident and greater “air exchange” with the outdoors to help reduce aerosolized spread, the report says. One 160-unit project in Santa Ana, California, has been tweaked to incorporate “a panoply of Covid-related elements for the building, inside and out,” the report says. That includes private balconies and shaded patios, rooftop gardens, voice-activated elevators, prominently located stairwells to allow residents to avoid elevators altogether, and sinks placed near the entrance of apartment units “to allow for convenient handwashing upon entry,” according to the report. Pandemics and public-health concerns have driven architectural changes in the past, as the story notes, informing everything from the 19th century renovation of Paris under Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann to the efforts to reform tenement housing in New York in the early 20th century.
A New York Housing Plan Optimized for Immigrant Communities
The Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC) in New York has released its Housing Plan for a City of Immigrants, which explores how New York City’s next housing plan could be optimized to help the city’s immigrant communities thrive. The report is part of CHPC’s New Lens for NYC’s Housing Plan initiative, “a multi-year strategic visioning process meant to reframe the next New York City housing plan to look beyond a unit goal and address broader public policy concerns.” The plan recommends providing universally accessible rental assistance regardless of immigration status, incentivizing affordable-housing production in immigrant communities that are close to jobs and transit, allowing home conversions that provide for multi-generational households, and using housing policy to promote economic opportunity by, for example, easing rules on commercial activity on residential properties. The report is particularly timely as the COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on immigrant workers in New York, said Jessica Katz, CHPC’s executive director, in a press release.
“The stakes of this crisis are massive not just for the millions of foreign-born New Yorkers who have always been the lifeblood of this city, but for the future of New York itself as it wrestles with the economic impacts of COVID,” Katz said, according to the release. “Without improving access to affordable housing for all New Yorkers, reimagining our housing stock to better suit the needs of a changing population, and adapting housing policy to foster economic growth in immigrant communities, we may lose some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world, the majority of workers maintaining our infrastructure, billions of dollars in economic output, essential tax revenue and public services—and we will disrupt the stability and wellbeing of millions of families.”
As Next City previously reported, the “New Lens” series is meant to help officials consider the impact of the housing plan on various aspects of civic life, rather than just the sheer number of housing units available. Other “lenses” in the series include a feminist housing plan, a housing plan focused on racial equity, and a housing plan meant to promote public health.
Editor’s note: We’ve corrected the Kresge Foundation’s involvement in the new Detroit fund.
This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our twice-weekly Backyard newsletter.
Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.