Star Wars Director Proposes Affordable Housing Plan?

From CNNMoney:

 The film emperor may be striking back. For 25 years, filmmaker George Lucas tried to persuade his Marin County, Calif., neighbors to let him build a digital production studio on his ranch there, but the area’s residents thwarted the plan.

So Lucas has come up with an alternative for his Grady Ranch property: To build low-income housing on it.

In a letter posted online Lucasfilmwrote, “It is with great sadness that Skywalker Properties has decided to pull its application to build a studio facility.

Instead, the maker of some of the biggest box office successes of all time, including the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, intends to sell the property to the Marin Community Foundation (MCF), a non-profit that has already funded more than 2,500 units of affordable housing and will explore options for developing Grady Ranch.

Lucas had applied to the county planning commission for permits to build a 260,000 square-foot compound that would be used as a digital media production studio. The company claimed the facilities would create about 600 high-paying jobs.

“The level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors,” Lucasfilm said in its statement. . . .

It may seem as if the affordable housing project is a way for Lucas to stick it to his opposition, but Tom Peters, the CEO of the Marin County Foundation disagrees. “I know Lucas and checked with him on that point personally and directly. It was essential that I was convinced that it was not done out of spite. I would not have accepted the project if I thought it was,” he said.

Read the rest here.

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Wells Fargo Accused of Housing Discrimination

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) filed [an administrative] complaint Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The group said it looked at [more than 1,000] foreclosed homes in several metro areas and found that they were more likely to be rundown and poorly marketed in minority neighborhoods than in white ones.

Complaints range from failing to cut grass to allowing boarded up homes to decay and failing to put up “For Sale” signs.

NFHA said Wells Fargo is violating the federal Fair Housing Act, which requires banks and investors to maintain and market homes without regard to race or ethnicity. . . .

Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, disputed the complaint generally and said it didn’t have enough information to respond to specific cases. . . .

Shanna Smith, president of NFHA, said she hopes HUD will “call the parties together try to work this out and begin an investigation,” Smith said. “Filing this complaint with HUD will light a fire. I am sorry that this is what we have to do to get their attention.”

Smith said her organization looked at eight lenders, adding Wells Fargo was the most egregious offender and is the only bank named in the complaint. She did not rule out complaints against others.

Wells Fargo services one out of every six home loans in the United States.

Washington-based NFHA, which describes itself as “the only national organization dedicated solely to ending discrimination in housing,” said it looked at more than 1,000 homes in Baltimore; Dallas; Dayton, Ohio; Miami and Fort Lauderdale; Oakland; Philadelphia; Washington; and Atlanta.

You can read more here or here.

Thoughts?

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Texas City Pushing For New Law Targeting Undocumented Renters

From Fox News Latino:

Local officials in a Dallas suburb [Farmers Branch]  say they plan to continue pushing for a ban on undocumented immigrants renting property within the city limits — a measure that has cost the city $5 million and remains unenforceable due to court challenges. . . .

City officials and law backers argue that undocumented immigrants strain local schools and police resources. They also note that local voters supported an early version of the law five years ago by a 2-to-1 margin.

The new law would require all renters to obtain a city license and the city’s building inspector to check the status of any applicant who wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Undocumented immigrants would be denied a renters’ permit, and landlords who knowingly allowed them to stay could have their renters’ license barred. . . .

Glancy emphasized that the city is targeting undocumented immigrants, not documented immigrants or U.S. citizens, noting that the city’s library hosts English classes. . . .

The mayor also said that since the law was first passed, the number of car accidents involving uninsured drivers has declined and fewer students have moved in and out of local schools. . . .

Elizabeth Villafranca sees things differently. Villafranca owns a local Mexican restaurant and moved to Farmers Branch after the push to ban undocumented immigrant residents began. She ran and lost for city council.

Villafranca said she and other U.S.-born Latinos, along with legal immigrants, are more often pulled over by police or threatened by other residents. Though the law never went into effect, Villafranca said, supporters “had the effect they wanted.”

Read more here.

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Affordable Housing in the U.S. is a Myth?

From the Washington Post:

While rents have been rising, wages have stagnated, making affordable housing an increasingly scarce commodity. The National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group, calculated how many hours of work at the minimum wage would be required to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent—the government’s measure for the monthly cost of a “modest, non luxury rental unit” in a specific area, plus utilities. In no state was a 40-hour work week enough.

Read more and see the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s chart here.

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Job o' the Day: Advocacy Associate at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) in NY

The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) – a member-organization of neighborhood-based affordable housing groups – seeks an Associate to coordinate policy and advocacy to win improved affordable housing policies in New York City. The Associate will help develop clear affordable housing policy recommendations, then implement those recommendations to win policy change by mobilizing advocacy campaigns with ANHD’s member organizations.

The Advocacy Associate will assist with the research, policy analysis, and development of ANHD’s housing production and preservation priorities, including a campaign to win policies that require permanent affordability of publicly-subsidized housing as well as synthesize policy ideas into easily understood materials for diverse audiences, including member groups, elected officials, policymakers/experts, and other issue stakeholders. The Associate will support member advocacy committees and working groups by working collaboratively with our members, providing them with the information and technical assistance needed to formulate and pursue successful Citywide advocacy campaigns.

To learn more and apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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New Housing Regulation to Protect LGBT People From Discrimination

by Kristen Pavón

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s new rule, Equal Access to Housing in HUD Program — Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, aims to “ensur[e] that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulation goes into effect 30 days after final publishing.

On its most basic level, the rule requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing and FHA-insured mortgage lenders to make housing/mortgages available without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant.

One interesting aspect of the new rule is that it not only protects against FHA-insured lenders making lending decisions based on actual sexual orientation and gender identity, but also on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Meaning, a person does not have to be LGBT for protection under this rule — the lender only has to believe the person to be LGBT and determine eligibility or alter existing terms for mortgages.

You can read HUD’s press release and the final rule here. Thoughts?

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Notes on the National Homelessness Awareness Month Federal Policy Briefing

by Kristen Pavón

November is National Homelessness Awareness Month and to kick it off, the National Center for Family Homelessness hosted a policy briefing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) here in D.C.

The briefing featured the following panelists:

In addition to the program’s panelists, Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and Development for HUD, Mercedes Marquez, gave the opening remarks.

The amount of information given at the briefing was a bit overwhelming but also alarming, inspiring and motivating.

In particular, I was moved by Amy Grassette’s story. She spoke about her family’s hardship after losing their small business after 9/11. Her family experienced homelessness for almost 2 and a half years after losing their business. Amy gave us a great perspective in terms of the services she received while homeless and where she saw room for improvement.

Here’s a hodgepodge of my notes/thoughts/questions from the briefing:

  • More than 34% of the homeless population are children (and this statistic is likely a low estimate because of under-reporting).
  • For the 2009-2010 school year, there were 1 MILLION homeless youth (and again this number is probably low because some states do not report this data).
  • The Opening Doors Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness has a goal to end youth and family homelessness by 2020 by focusing on the following services: access to affordable housing, jobs, mainstream services, and collaboration between agencies.
  • The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty takes a human rights perspective to housing, meaning that housing is a basic right.
  • There was a 20% increase in family homelessness between 2007 and 2010.
  • Oftentimes, it costs less to offer families housing vouchers (so that families can live closer to schools) than provide transportation to school.
  • The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act can allow tenants to remain in their homes longer and more needs to be done to publicize this law.
  • While housing is the foundation for a stable community and life, housing alone is not sufficient to end homelessness. Wraparound services are needed to be effective in preventing and ending family homelessness.
  • Homeless children are at a higher risk for: physical and mental health issues, hunger and poor educational outcomes.
  • One-third of homeless children have been forced to skip a meal.
  • 85% of brain’s core structure is developed from birth to age 5, and because of this, it’s important to intervene early and provide mental health services, transitional services and early education childcare.
  • There’s room for improvement in these areas: affordable, adequate & accessible housing; transportation services; childcare services; accessible, affordable, adequate healthcare; livable wages; education; and case management services.

On another note, if you’re in DC and a new law grad — you should check these kinds of events out. I learned about it from Twitter — of all places! @HUDnews tweeted about the program yesterday. It was a great networking opportunity — Keep your eyes and ears open!

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Job o' the Day: Chi-Town's BPI Looking for Public Interest Interns

Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), a Chicago-based public interest law and policy center that addresses compelling issues of social justice and quality of life in the Chicago region, is hiring interns for the summer of 2012.

BPI’s staff of lawyers and policy specialists works to increase the availability of affordable housing for working families, transform segregated public housing, improve Chicago’s public schools, and help restore open, honest, responsible, and accountable government in our state using a wide variety of approaches, including legal and policy research, advocacy, organizing, litigation and collaboration with non-profit, business, community and governmental organizations.
Interns work closely with our staff on important public interest projects in BPI’s program groups: affordable housing, public housing, public education, and political reform.

Interns receive excellent supervision and mentorship, the opportunity to contribute directly to solving pressing policy issues, and the chance to learn more about Chicago’s ever growing public interest community.

1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls are encouraged to apply. BPI is frequently able to offer summer funding assistance to legal interns through the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) program. PILI provides funding for law students to work at various public interest legal organizations in Chicago.

To apply or learn more about the position, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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