Bo’s housing news clips: causes and social repercussions of housing segregation

A cluster of reports and articles on NIMBY movements offer details on the causes and social repercussions of the continuing segregation of housing in the U.S. The issues are most robust when multifamily units are proposed for upscale neighborhoods – and even the most liberal of cities seem paralyzed to confront reacting, affluent property owners.

Meanwhile, a poll by the Woodrow Wilson Center shows 90 percent of respondents still believe in “the American Dream” of owning their own home.

For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles on social, environmental and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at

Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High-Scoring Schools

By Jonathan Rothwell        Brookings Institute       June 2012

A new study strongly indicates that exclusive zoning highly correlates with high academic test scores in local schools. Low income kids in cities with less restrictive zoning and less segregation scored better on academic test that kids segregated into low-income schools. The study has serious implications for NIMBY reactions to placing affordable units in upscale neighborhoods. In its summary statements, the 22 page study states, “Access to high-scoring schools is unequal by income and race because that access is constrained by housing availability and cost.”

When the 1 percent say no

Cities need public transit and affordable housing. But outdated laws make it easy for the wealthy to block progress

By Will Doig       Salon       May 31, 2012

Continuing the grand tradition of privileged communities opposing transit projects, the good people of 90210 are fighting a plan to run a subway below Beverly Hills High School.

For years, Beverly Hills has been trying to derail the planned alignment of the West Side Subway Extension, saying it would be safer to run it beneath Santa Monica Boulevard (though their own study indicates otherwise). The threat of lawsuits and endless public hearings have delayed the project but not killed it; now opponents have released a video claiming that the subway could ignite pockets of methane gas and blow the school to bits. “Methane gas, toxic chemicals and teenagers don’t mix,” intones the grim voiceover, “but this dangerous combination is on the verge of exploding at Beverly High.” Smash-cut to Michael Bay-esque footage of teen-filled hallways consumed by raging fireballs.

Full story at:

A Waiting Game For Homeowners Trying To Sell Short

By Annie Baxter       NPR        June 4, 2012

Banks are often accused of dragging their feet when a homeowner wants to sell for less than the balance on the mortgage. A lot of those “short sales” might be better dubbed “really long and drawn out” sales. New federal guidelines, though, could now push lenders to approve short sales faster.

That’s welcome news to Cathy Yamauchi. She has been trying to unload her house near Minneapolis, Minn., through a short sale since Thanksgiving. A divorce and a drop in income put her in a bind financially, and she says she can’t afford the place anymore. She stopped paying the mortgage nine months ago.

That’s left her in a state of perpetual packing. She points inside a nearly empty kitchen cupboard. “I wanted to bake something one night, and I’m like, oh, I already packed that baking dish,” she says. “So yeah, my cupboards are pretty bare.”

Yamauchi initially tried selling the house for the balance on her mortgage, $280,000, but she eventually dropped the price by about $50,000. 

A buyer made an offer, and since then Yamauchi’s Realtor has tried twice to submit a short sale request to Citigroup — the servicer that collects mortgage payments on behalf of the holder of the loan.

Full story at:

After The Housing Bust, Revisiting Homeownership

By Chris Arnold      NPR       June 5, 2012

For generations, owning a home has been a key part of the lifestyle most Americans aspire to. But when the mortgage crisis exploded in 2007, it brought down the U.S. housing market — and the entire economy along with it.

The ensuing recession was an assault on the American dream of homeownership itself. The tidal wave of foreclosures, the crash in home prices and tighter lending standards have left some Americans unable or simply too nervous to buy a house.

In the wake of the housing crisis, a flurry of media coverage has trumpeted how Americans are rethinking homeownership. Pundits asked, “Is renting the new owning?” and a September 2010 Time magazine cover proclaimed, “Why owning a home may no longer make economic sense.”

But has renting become “the future of home-dwelling” in America, as one cable news reporter posited?

Five years after the market crash of 2007, the desire to own a home is actually very much alive and well. In a recent poll of likely voters by the Woodrow Wilson Center, 84 percent of respondents said homeownership today is just as important as or more important than it was five years ago. Ninety percent still think homeownership is part of the American dream.

Full story at:

Wood Ridge Apartments ordered to make repairs within 75 days

By Richardo Gandaro       Austin American Statesman         June 5, 2012

Before a packed room full of displaced tenants from Wood Ridge Apartments, where a walkway collapsed May 17, a City of Austin board Monday night set a tight time frame of 75 days for the owner of the complex to make repairs to 10 of the 15 buildings.

That’s 15 days shorter than the recommended time frame set out by the city’s Code Compliance officials, and the board also demanded written reports every 30 days with a representative of the owner presenting them to the commission.

“Your negligence has caused the displacement of 40 to 50 families,” said Charles Cloutman, a member of the city’s Building and Standards Commission. “I’m not seeing that you’re seeing the severity of this.”

Steiner Ranch residents opposing plans for 800 apartments

By Marques Haper        Austin American-Statesman      June 1, 2012

Plans for 800 new apartment units and duplexes in a busy area of Steiner Ranch have residents of this Western Travis County community concerned about increased traffic as well as the possibility of growing school enrollment.

“We need to make whatever development does come … fit and be compatible to the existing community,” said Steiner Ranch resident Greg Milligan, co-chairman of the development committee for the newly formed Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association, which includes residents in the surrounding area.

So far, the neighborhood association has collected 1,500 signatures for a petition against the new apartments, but it’s unlikely they can stop them.

Full story at:

The Ghost of Developers Past

128 years of Rainey Street

By Rachel Feit        Austin Chronicle        May 25, 2012

In many ways, nineteenth century Austin was not unlike Austin today. Then, as now, it was a boomtown, and savvy developers swooped in to take advantage of prime land along the city’s margins. One early real estate bonanza happened in 1884, when Jesse Driskill and Frank Rainey subdivided 16 acres between Water Street (now Cesar Chavez) and the River. Lots sold quickly as the city’s newcomers clamored for more housing. Most early residents of this tree-shaded neighborhood were white, middle-class tradesman whose occupancy was long-term. However, demographic transformations swept the entire city in the early twentieth century. Middle-class families with means abandoned Austin’s Downtown for suburbs north and west of the city. By the 1920s, the makeup of Downtown residents consisted mainly of working-class families and ethnic minorities. These demographic changes also corresponded to a decline in owner-occupancy, and increasingly industrial development in Downtown.

Full story at:

Property crimes occur during housing crisis

By James Cannon        Midland Reporter        June 3, 2012

As Midland’s housing struggles continue, many want to take advantage of the climate, and some have been charged with scamming residents.

So far there haven’t been any extreme cases like the city has seen in the past, but Midland police said a lot of people are breaking rental contracts and skirting housing codes.

In the past, Midland has experienced fairly sophisticated plans to defraud investors and buyers, like the three men arrested in June 2010. Charles Sprayberry, Larry Spence and Charles Gilmore were charged in 2010 with multiple felony charges of theft for defrauding more than 60 people. Midland police estimated the total value of all the homes and properties involved is a combined cost of $150,000.

Full story at:


Mobile home dealers notice difference in boom

By Jon Vanerlann         Odessa American        June 3, 2012

Gary Beckner’s Midland apartment drove up rent $150 last year before he decided to make a change.

Beckner and his wife bought a mobile home and moved to Gardendale.

With rent prices skyrocketing and an influx of new people consistently coming into the Permian Basin for oilfield jobs, the RV and mobile home industry is booming in Odessa.

Beckner, who owned a house three or four years ago in Midland, and moved into an apartment before rent became too high, as well, said it’s tough during a boom to find affordable housing.

“If you’re an oil field worker, you can go anywhere,” he said. “The average Joe can’t.”

Danny Rudd, who is the manager with Solitaire Homes, said their mobile home sales have doubled since last summer.

Full story at: