Housing in Brief: Rents Rise for the Poor, Drop for the Rich

Plus, Baltimore invests in community land trusts, and the CDC considers expanding the eviction moratorium. 

In this 2019 file photo, United Workers and Fair Development Roundtable members rally before presenting their Rise, Reclaim, Rebuild report — which in part asked for money to be allocated to community land trusts — to Affordable Housing Trust Fund commissioners. (Courtesy Fair Development Roundtable)

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Baltimore Begins Investing in Community Land Trusts

The Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development announced this week that it is awarding $2.25 million to three community land trusts to create permanently affordable single-family homes, according to a Department press release. The three groups, Charm City Land Trust, North East Housing initiative (NEHI) Land Trust, and South Baltimore Community Land Trust, will each receive $750,000 from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, according to the release. The funds will support the creation of 26 new homes, made affordable to residents earning less than half the area median income, according to the release. AMI in Baltimore is $104,000 for a family of four, so the units would target individuals earning up to $36,4000 a year or four-person households with no more than $52,000 in yearly income. The community land trusts will own and manage the properties, and the homes can be sold to low-income buyers who agree to sell to other low-income buyers when they decide to move, splitting the equity with the land trust, according to the release.

As Next City has reported, Baltimore’s affordable housing trust fund has been pushed along at several junctures by a group of community activists organizing door-to-door signature campaigns for the original ballot measure that created the fund, and pressuring officials to allocate money into it. The group has pushed for the fund to dedicate $20 million to community land trusts. The first distributions will support projects in the McElderry Park/Broadway East, Belair Edison, and Curtis Bay neighborhoods. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said that promoting “equitable community development in our historically redlined neighborhoods is at the top of [his] agenda,” according to the release.

“Community land trusts are one tool to provide permanent affordable housing across our neighborhoods, while helping close the racial wealth gap,” he said, according to the release.

Rents Rise for the Poor, Drop for the Rich

Over the last year, the cost of rent in high-end luxury apartments has dropped while rent in lower-quality apartments have gone up, according to a story in the Washington Post. The decrease in rents for high-end housing has come as well-off people have opted to look for homes outside of big cities amid the pandemic, and was exacerbated by an increase in supply of luxury housing that became available early last year, according to the report. Meanwhile, the increasing costs at the lower end could be explained by a growth in demand for lower-cost housing, which is already scarce everywhere in the United States, according to the report. Some tenants have faced steep rent increases even as pandemic-related job losses have tended to affect lower-wage workers, according to the report.

“This pattern is evident across the Chicago metro area,” the story says. “Neighborhoods that began last year with high rents are offering sharp discounts; those that started out at lower price points — and are often home to majority-non-White populations — have generally had increases.”

Other factors include gentrification of lower-income neighborhoods that was already underway, the story says. And according to some economists, some landlords may have responded to the federal moratorium eviction by raising rents for tenants who continued to pay while others fell behind, the story says.

“They don’t have money to move elsewhere, and landlords know they have them over a barrel,” Sandy Rollins, executive director of the Texas Tenants’ Union, told the Washington Post. “They can say, ‘Here this is the price, this is what you have to pay, you can go to the food bank if you need to save money.’”

CDC Likely to Extend Eviction Moratorium

The Centers for Disease Control is likely planning to extend the federal moratorium on evictions that is currently scheduled to lapse at the end of this month, according to a report in CNBC. The agency “has sent a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review, which experts say indicates that the health agency is taking steps to keep the protection in place,” according to the report. While no official decision has been announced by the CDC or the White House, advocates with the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Housing Law Project told CNBC they believe an extension is likely.

Around 10 million households are estimated to have fallen behind on rent during the last year, according to a separate report in the Washington Post. The Biden administration is considering extending the moratorium through at least July, as governments work to administer billions in rental assistance made available through several rounds of federal stimulus, according to the report. Landlord groups have filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the moratorium, as Next City has reported. Meanwhile, advocates are hoping to strengthen the moratorium, as many evictions have continued to be filed over the last year.

“Generally speaking, the moratorium has done what it is intended to do,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the Post. But she also said the moratorium “has a lot of flaws and shortcomings that undermine its public-health purpose and have allowed an alarming number of evictions to proceed,” according to the report.

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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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.

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Tags: affordable housingevictionsland trustsrent

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