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Your October Useful Community Plus
October 20, 2022

This month: Lots of Chatter about Housing, Good Reads, Website Additions

Visit us at the Useful Community Development Website.

October, 2022

Lately we notice a marked surge in talk about housing issues, along with the newish term "housing justice." We see the usual struggle to define that new territory; for example, the Urban Institute had started a Housing Justice Hub that seems to concentrate considerable energy on homelessness and racial equity questions related to housing.

Since the cost of rental housing is a primary symptom of inflation in the U.S. at least, some are focused on pressuring government to do something about it. Shelter cost makes up about a third of the CPI, Consumer Price Index. Some call for government to do more, such as maybe impose price controls on rent. Meanwhile the Biden Administration has proposed a loose framework for increasing housing supply in the next five years.

Elsewhere we recently had a conversation with a friend in a lovely middle-class suburb, who expressed some disbelief that those in power in city hall seemed to think everyone was entitled to just the house they wanted at the price they wanted to pay. She cited the availability of plenty of homes in her community that can be purchased for what she considered a reasonable price, and then reflected that problems with Section 8 housing made her unsympathetic to rent subsidies.

All we can say for sure is that a paradigm shift seems underway in housing. We think that better approaches to homelessness could be on the way, in light of the uptick during the pandemic. We suspect that professional appraisers will continue to acknowledge their role in the racial appraisal gap.

We are encouraged by new approaches to flexible housing design, including this joint publication from AARP and the National Building Museum. Wow! I want some of those push button retractable walls.

We can't predict how you will process this new mini-wave of information and discussion about housing, but we encourage you to start a local conversation.

Meanwhile you may want to check out some potential solutions on our website, such as: co-housing, accessory dwelling units, mixed-income-housing, infill housing, rural housing, and community land trusts.

If you are in a neighborhood where you are concerned that some housing may be lost because of its condition, you neighbors can do your own housing condition survey if you can't get your city to do one for you.

And if you have a question about housing, by all means ask us, using the form on this page.

The Center for Community Progress has released a new report on better way of handling delinquent property tax accounts. Download it for some fresh perspectives.

Following up on last month's article, here's a great article on the tree planting grants to become available as part of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.

Probably very few of you are facing the prospect of a new shopping mall in your area, but those with failed and failing malls need to read this excellent article about why malls are bad public investments. It contains fascinating data about property value per square foot of commercial space. This could be good background material for your argument that your city needs to rethink the failing mall.

If you are active in a community organization, as many of our readers are, you need to become familiar with an organization called Nonprofit Tech for Good. Their emails offer many tips, such as this list of 94 free or low-cost resources for nonprofits.

For a brief introduction to the idea that the so-called CHIPS and Science Act contains benefits for rural communities too, read this summary and follow the links it contains.

Big cities will want to start becoming more serious about how they are going to site and regulate air taxi service. In this issue we wrote about the challenges of flying taxi regulation. Now in 2024, we would prefer to refer you to this newer article about how the federal government is preparing to regulate this technology.

If you are associated with a U.S. community development organization that has not received an invitation to participate in the Grounding Values national survey, you may request participation from the Urban Institute.

For those of you interested in doing some fancy charts or making your own maps, see this review of a few apps to explore.

And from our own website, it's time to get your communications people thinking about winter newsletter ideas. It's too late for this year, but holiday planning for next year often begins in this year's holiday season; see our website visitor's report about a community pumpkin festival.

We've answered questions about:

Code enforcement says too much stuff, but one of two property owners thinks she is suffering because of the actions of the other

How to renew interest in a neighborhood association

Design standards versus performance standards

Why are planners involved if the subdivision is built out?

A discussion of whether an owner follows the original deed restrictions or all future changes also

Whether a church must be located a certain number of feet from a bar and strip club

Happy Autumn! Or Happy Spring, if that's what's happening at your place!

Feel free to reply with comments. To ask a question, use that public-facing community development questions page on the website. We'll be back soon on a Thursday in November.

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