Housing in Brief: Colorado Had a Housing Shortage Before Marshall Fire

Also, NYC homeless shelters will provide separate units for transgender people, and more.

Snow covers the burned remains of homes on Mulberry Street in Louisville, Colo., after the Marshall Wildfire. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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Colorado Affordable Housing Ideas Arrive in Aftermath of Fire

On January 21, a task force will deliver a report to Colorado’s legislature helping the state decide how to spend $400 million in affordable housing funds, according to Public News Service. The money is part of $500 million in American Rescue Plan funding that the state set aside for affordable housing. The first $100 million of those funds went immediately to programs run by the state’s housing department.

The task force recommendations arrive following an enormous wildfire in Boulder County that destroyed 1,000 homesin the last few days of 2021. The fire, which ravaged parts of Superior and Louisville, left 13,000 homes in the area without natural gas and 7,500 without power as of New Year’s Day and led thousands of people to be displaced, seeking temporary shelter, according to the New York Times. “The rental market was already tight to begin with before this fire,” a Superior resident told the Colorado Sun. People have fled to AirBnBs, hotels, friends and family’s homes, and a YMCA shelter operated by the Red Cross, according to the Colorado Sun.

NYC to Provide Separate Shelter Spaces for Trans and Gender Non-conforming People

A judge’s settlement following a class-action lawsuit dictates that four of NYC’s five boroughs will be required to provide optional separate beds or a separate shelter for transgender and gender non-conforming people, according to Xtra Magazine. Units are to have their own bathrooms separate from the rest of a shelter and provide disability accommodations, including allowing service pets. Each borough has to maintain the separate units either until the end of 2026 or the borough has created a dedicated shelter for trans and gender non-conforming people. Residents will have to request placement in the units. While the units must be provided by the end of this year, shelter operators will have to prioritize private shelter units by request effective immediately.

The settlement also mandates data collection on complaints of discrimination against trans and gender non-conforming people within the shelter system and what actions the Department of Homeless Services took in response.

The settlement is the result of a 2017 lawsuit filed by a formerly homeless trans woman named Mariah Lopez who faced discrimination and abuse in the city’s only LGBTQ shelter, Marsha’s House. Lopez, who now works with the advocacy group STARR, was mentored by trans rights activist Sylvia Rivera as a teenager, according to Vice. She initially represented in the lawsuit pro se, but later was joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Harvard Law School’s LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic.

NYC House Flipping Follows 2016 Rezoning

City Limits reports that local residents of NYC’s East New York neighborhood say rampant home-flipping began after a 2016 rezoning (though it wasn’t nonexistent before the change). The East New York rezoning was one of the signature neighborhood rezonings during former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure following the passage of his 2015 Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy. That policy incentivized developers to build more densely while reserving a quarter of new developments for people making below the area median income, though the exact amount would be determined in the neighborhood planning process. Following the change for East New York, speculators began purchasing and reselling homes, causing some properties to increase in value by up to half a million dollars, City Limits reports. While the city made other concessions as part of the 2016 upzoning, including new affordable units, those units appear to be being built too slowly to offset rental increases as a result of speculation.

Some New York lawmakers are trying to curb speculation by proposing a tax on transferring property within two years. Under the proposed legislation, the difference between purchase and sale price of a property would be taxed at 65 percent if the home was resold in under a year and 50 percent if it was resold under two years.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: affordable housing

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