With foreclosures and job losses continuing to rise, the need for safe and decent affordable housing also continues to rise.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE regularly looks at housing policy and legislation on the federal and state levels, so we decided to take a closer look at what's being done on the local level.
Henry Cisneros, former Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary and four-time mayor of San Antonio, elaborates on why the local connection is so important: “Housing has to happen at a physical place, so it really falls on local officials to be the prime movers with respect to the location, the supply, the production, the approvals, the quality, the adequacy of affordable housing.” The best mayors are those with a comprehensive strategy to address the full spectrum of housing needs, he says.
In this issue's cover story, we showcase some of the nation's best mayors when it comes to affordable housing and what they are doing to combat homelessness and foreclosures and to preserve and add to the affordable housing stock in their cities (cover story starts on page 32).
They all have different stories and different ways of funding or incentivizing affordable housing developments.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has a comprehensive housing campaign, with ending homelessness being one of the new priorities. In Leading the Way III, one of his goals is to reduce long-term homelessness and family homelessness by 50 percent by 2012 by creating a shelter diversion program to find non-shelter options for families, improving communications between shelter providers and organizations with access to permanent housing, and producing more housing for the homeless.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is seeking a new seven-year, $145 million housing levy, which if approved would help to build and preserve about 1,670 affordable rental units.
Mayor R.T. Rybak and the city of Minneapolis have a policy for any project that has city money in it to make at least 20 percent of its units affordable. In his first term as mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty has some big affordable housing goals. He has pledged to replace many of the city's homeless shelters with 2,500 units of permanent supportive housing.
And in the Lone Star State, Houston Mayor Bill White points to the 2007 initiative Apartments to Standard, which has resulted in 1,000 units being substantially rehabbed at a cost of $20 million in the Fondren/Southwest Freeway area. And Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert teamed up with seven other Texas mayors to request $25 million from the state to combat homelessness.
If you're not already working with the mayors in the cities where you are developing or want to start a project, I recommend that you do so. These mayors have the same goal as you—to provide quality affordable housing for their citizens—and they might just have incentives that can help you.