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robertogreco : publichousing   5

Eco-Apartheid Is Real | The Nation
“Eco-apartheid, which I define as a regime of greening affluence for the few at the expense of the many, is the path of business as usual.

And yet there was something frustratingly superficial about all this coverage, even when it focused on inequality.

In the era of the Green New Deal, journalists and activists still struggle to convey just how profoundly the climate emergency, our political economy, and social inequalities are connected. As a result, they’re still missing how much egalitarian green investment—like a Green New Deal for Housing—could address social, economic, and environmental crises at the same time. And while this policy idea is specific to the US context, an intersectional analysis here could enrich global debates about what effective and equitable green investment could look like around the world.”



“Yes, installing more efficient and comfortable systems in the United States will take money, both for retrofits and new construction. But targeted investments in racialized, working-class communities to decarbonize and increase resiliency is the core idea of the Green New Deal. The climate crisis and the cost-of-living crises are converging in American homes. And so are potential solutions.

A Green New Deal for Housing would retrofit public, subsidized, and low-income homes. It could use the power of public purchase and procurement to get low-carbon appliances into the homes that need them. Public investment and regulation would also lower the costs of the most efficient appliance technologies for everyone.

All this would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the building trades. It could revitalize appliance manufacture in the United States. And the focus on efficient appliances and energy systems would spare us the individualized green moralizing that doesn’t make a difference anyway.

The key is to fuse the demands—and the social movements—for climate and housing progress. And while climate activists have gotten the attention lately, the housing movement’s growing confidence and power are just as impressive. Both the real estate and fossil fuel industries are finally under siege from powerful insurgencies.

Progressive movements and think tanks have been issuing detailed reports calling for national rent control and massive federal investment in new public housing construction, with groups like People’s Action calling for a Homes Guarantee. The Democratic presidential candidates are following suit.

The housing movement just won huge legislative battles in Oregon and New York State. And in New York, days after the tenants’ victory, the state’s climate justice movement won passage of an ambitious bill that would cut emissions to net zero by 2050—while ensuring that over a third of clean-energy spending benefits low-income and racialized communities.

Through no-carbon public housing construction and the kinds of building upgrades described above, a Green New Deal for Housing would be a perfect vehicle for such targeted investments. (All told, US homes are currently responsible for nearly one-sixth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.)

And such a framework could unite climate, housing, and racial justice movements—and architects and designers. The New York Times reports that long-range cost concerns already have made affordable housing a leader in extremely low-energy building construction methods. In Norwich, England, the town’s housing authority built 100 lovely, award-winning three-story units of social housing to an extremely efficient passive house standard; green affordable housing can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit their communities.

New and rehabilitated public housing complexes would also make ideal resiliency centers, providing physical and social infrastructure. Every public housing complex could double as a community cooling center during heat waves. And with solar rooftops, microgrids, and batteries, they could be refuges during storms when the power goes off.

All told, a Green New Deal for Housing would drive down carbon emissions, increase resiliency, and attack economic and racial inequalities. Contra the complaints of centrists, an ambitious and intersectional climate policy isn’t a gratuitous and expensive add-on. The massive green investment would, in fact, be the logical result of connecting the dots between all our environmental, economic, and social crises—and between the growing movements that are fighting for transformative change.”
eco-apartheid  apartheid  environment  climatechange  2019  politics  economics  intersectionality  housing  policy  climate  publichousing  race  greennewdeal  danielaldanacohen  climateurbanism 
july 2019 by robertogreco
For Housing Affordability, California Must Amend its Constitution - Opinion | Political News | thebaycitybeacon.com
"This fall, California voters may have the opportunity to amend Proposition 13, one of the most regressive tax laws in the country. The 1978 initiative essentially freezes the assessed value of real estate at the time of sale—inevitably establishing and perpetuating wild inequities between the young and old, renters and landlords, immigrants and incumbents. How can California’s political “third rail” be reformed, albeit incrementally, with lasting, sustainable progress? There are several ways.

Evolve California is currently gathering signatures to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to allow re-assessments of commercial aka business properties—a move that could generate ~$10 billion a year for health care, education and other badly need investments in California society.

Another significant contributor to inequality, segregation, and the housing crisis stands unchallenged in 2018.

Article 34 of the California Constitution, enacted by voters in 1950, states that no cities, towns or counties may ”develop, construct or acquire” any “low-rent” housing “unless approved by a majority of qualified electors of the city, town or county” at the ballot box. Practically, this means our local governments and representatives are prevented from directly providing the homes struggling Californians need so direly today.

Article 34’s proponents intended to control the development of large, federally-funded public housing tower projects. The law also restricts local governments from efficiently building even mid-rise public housing or subsidizing low-income housing. A mid-century, single-story city building, or even a vacant lot, could become a five-story building with affordable rents and public services on the ground floor. Alas, we can’t really have that without an expensive ballot referendum and subsequent approval by a majority (or supermajority) of voters.

Moreover, the referendum process makes the provision of publicly-owned housing intractably slow. In California, prudent politicians tend refrain from placing affordable housing bonds on the ballot until they absolutely know the measure can win a supermajority of voters. When municipal coffers fill up with tax revenue or development fees, cities cannot use it to invest in modern mid-rise public housing directly, absent an expensive and risky Article 34-triggered election.

The crux of the issue is this: California’s landowners have become vastly more wealthy and powerful, by government fiat, at the expense of renters. This inequality is unsustainable. Homeowners receive exponentially more in public subsidies, and Proposition 13 tax rates disproportionately reward greater wealth and “incumbency” of property owners, but renters ultimately foot their landlords’ property tax bill. Not only do renters get little to no relief from this regressive system—because of Article 34, they are essentially forced to beg localized pockets of voters for the direct public provision of badly-needed affordable housing. Property owners, on the other hand, do not have to ask for their Mortgage Interest Deduction through a popular referendum every time they claim it.

Say it with me: public housing already exists. It exists largely not as shelter for the neediest, but as vestiges of historic inequality that abstractly, disproportionately rewards legacy homebuyers with secure asset wealth.

There have been concerted efforts to overturn this unfair system for almost as long as we’ve had it. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown led two unsuccessful efforts to repeal Article 34 in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The most recent effort, in 1992, was defeated before an entire generation of eligible voters was born, so the current electorate may feel differently about our status quo.

Perhaps its time has finally come.

Since 1950, California courts have whittled down Article 34’s power, and some cities work around the law by delegating the job of affordable housing construction to privately-run nonprofits. But given the severity and depth of our affordable housing shortage, California cannot afford more roadblocks to directly providing publicly-owned affordable housing.

To state the obvious, Article 34 also maintains racial and economic segregation. Requiring voter approval for the development of publicly-funded affordable rental housing means that racially and economically homogenous communities can effectively veto integration. The electorates of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have consistently voted to approve low-income housing placed on the ballot at regular intervals. Compare the generosity of those voters to, say, communities in Marin County or Palo Alto—I can guarantee that the results will not surprise you.

Governing by popular referendum may sound ideal, but California’s experience with direct governance over the last 107 years has demonstrated that local pluralities of voters can sometimes succumb to fear, uncertainty, and outright animus towards marginalized groups.

If you think this is all ancient history, think again: in 1994, nearly 59% of California voters approved of Proposition 187, designed to bar undocumented people from accessing public services like health care and education, prior to it being ruled unconstitutional by the courts. More recently, California voters repudiated marriage equality by approving Proposition 8 in 2008, only for it also to be overturned by jurists. In 2016, California voters brought back the death penalty.

Occasionally, the state’s voters have been unwise enough to approve unconstitutional legislation, and federal courts have found such laws especially offensive when they discriminate against political minorities in the exercise of civil rights or use of public programs, as was the case with Prop 187. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court found no such violation by Article 34 of equal protection under the 14th Amendment in James v. Valtierra (1971).

Renters from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties sought to have Article 34 invalidated on the basis of racial and wealth discrimination. Instead, Justice Hugo Black, writing for the 6-3 majority found such mandatory referendums on low-rent and public housing to indicate a “devotion to democracy, not to bias, discrimination, or prejudice.” (If only!)

Article 34 of the California Constitution, much like the general political aversion to subsidized housing, is explicitly rooted in prejudice against poor people, people of color, and immigrants writ large. The history is stark and ugly, and it is high time for California to face it head-on. That history, as it unfolded in Oakland, will be the subject of Part 2 in this series."
housing  california  policy  racism  class  2018  1950  article34  inequality  segregation  race  proposition13  sanfrancisco  oakland  bayarea  publichousing  affordability  taxes  williebrown  berkeley 
june 2018 by robertogreco
How to Get Rid of Your Landlord and Socialize American Housing, in 3 Easy Steps | The Nation
"Homelessness, unaffordable urban real estate, devastating gentrification, and the housing bubble are all rooted in privatized housing."



"More fundamentally, though, what we call private housing is actually public land that government has set aside for private purposes. Land, save the bits beneath one’s feet, can’t be “possessed,” as a phone or a shirt can. What a “land owner” possesses is a deed—a voucher one may redeem with the government to marshal violence (through policing) to exclude all competing claimants. The government established this location-exclusion program, designating pieces of nature as being solely for the use of the deed holders, and devoting its violent capabilities to enforcing that designation. In the 19th century, the government enacted homesteading laws to allow frontier settlers to claim indigenous lands as their own. If those deeds were challenged, the federal government sent troops to back them up. Or look at the 20th century, when the government funded highways and commuter transit—the Federal Housing Administration extended loan guarantees to new housing developments in order to create a massive suburban private-housing stock. The entire apparatus by which housing is privately “owned” is created by the government’s decisions to subsidize or protect certain interests.

Ostensibly, the government pursues the public interest, but treating real estate as privately owned wealth, as a financial asset, has devastating public effects. On a grand scale, treating land as an asset allows speculators to create bubbles large enough to threaten global economic collapse. The housing bubble—really a land bubble—of the last decade bid the price of land up so high, concocting such dangerous “complex financial instruments” to turn out so many sub-prime mortgages, that the burst was enough to sink some of the world’s most profitable firms, plunge us into the Great Recession, extinguish the majority of all black wealth in the United States, bankrupt pension funds worldwide, and destroy the governments of Greece, Iceland, and other nations.

Closer to home, private ownership of land underlies racist segregation. The aforementioned FHA policy, for instance, designed to protect homeowners’ access to gains in their houses’ location value, provided white people with the incentive to take their capital and flee urban centers for sprawling exurban developments, there to adopt racial exclusivity covenants, in order to prevent black people from moving in and undermining the location price—thus, the plot of A Raisin in the Sun. In the resulting “inner city,” which the public Home Owners’ Loan Corporation “red-lined” on its residential security maps, black people who were locked out of “middle-class” neighborhoods were conscripted to capital-starved, decaying ghettos, where parasitic slumlords reigned supreme.

Finally, developers have an incentive to snap up urban land and then leave it vacant until it appreciates in value, driven by community development around it, and then sell it. Meanwhile, residents have to live with the social repercussions of a community riddled with vacant lots.

What to do?

There are a few ways to turn land and housing stock toward the public good.

An exclusion fee …

Community land trusts …

Public housing …

Gentrification, home-mortgage bubbles, homelessness, skyrocketing rent—these are not facts of nature. They are the outcomes of the policies that consign the basic human need of location to the whims of rent-obsessed landlords and chop-licking speculators looking for an easy flip. Private land policies are as evil today as they were almost 4 centuries ago when the Pilgrims near Bridgewater, Massachusetts, arrested Wampanoag people for hunting on a tract of land after the Pilgrims had “purchased” it. “What is this you call property?” the sachem, Massasoit, argued on that occasion. “It cannot be the earth, for the land is our Mother…. everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How then can one man say it belongs to him only?” There was no satisfactory retort then, and there isn’t one now."
2015  jessemyerson  housing  realestate  ownership  land  gentrification  history  race  inequality  capitalism  policy  politics  vienna  eminentdomain  boston  communitylandtrusts  exclusionfees  publichousing  publicinterest 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Commander of his stage: Lee Kuan Yew | The Economist
"Singapore as a nation did not exist. “How were we to create a nation out of a polyglot collection of migrants from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and several other parts of Asia?” asked Mr Lee in retrospect. Race riots in the 1960s in Singapore itself as well as Malaysia coloured Mr Lee’s thinking for the rest of his life. Even when Singapore appeared to outsiders a peaceful, harmonious, indeed rather boringly stable place, its government often behaved as if it were dancing on the edge of an abyss of ethnic animosity. Public housing, one of the government’s greatest successes, remains subject to a system of ethnic quotas, so that the minority Malays and Indians could not coalesce into ghettoes."

[via: http://finalbossform.com/post/114505166644/even-when-singapore-appeared-to-outsiders-a ]

[See also: “Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore a paragon of development; but authoritarians draw the wrong lessons from his success”
http://www.economist.com/node/21646869 ]
singapore  leekuanyew  diversity  ghettos  publichousing  housing  minorities  ethnicity  quotas  race  malaysia  development  policy  2015 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth – a Documentary
[available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKgZM8y3hso ]

"It began as a housing marvel. Two decades later, it ended in rubble. But what happened to those caught in between?

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home.

At the film’s historical center is an analysis of the massive impact of the national urban renewal program of the 1950s and 1960s, which prompted the process of mass suburbanization and emptied American cities of their residents, businesses, and industries.

Those left behind in the city faced a destitute, rapidly de-industrializing St. Louis , parceled out to downtown interests and increasingly segregated by class and race."
documentary  architecture  housing  publichousing  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  history  stlouis  pruitt-igoe 
january 2011 by robertogreco

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