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Citizens' Housing and Planning Association: CHAPA Housing Briefs - December 3, 2012

CHAPA Housing Briefs - December 3, 2012

State Updates

DHCD Announces Compact Neighborhoods Policy to Encourage Smart Growth Zoning

DHCD announced a new Compact Neighborhoods Policy, effective November 14, to encourage municipalities to zone for compact residential development. The policy is the result of a broader goal set by Governor Patrick for the Commonwealth to develop 10,000 new multi-family housing units annually.

Compact Neighborhoods will reward municipalities that have or create districts that allow as of right development at densities of at least 4 units per acre (in areas zoned  single family) and at least 8 units per acre on land zoned for multifamily (2+ unit) housing.  Districts must meet the same smart growth (“eligible location”) standards required for Chapter 40R districts and permit a minimum level of new development (a number equal to at least one percent of the community’s current year round stock).  Municipalities with qualifying compact zoning will receive a preference for certain state discretionary funding and that zoning will be considered when a subsidizing agency reviews comprehensive permit site approval applications.  The State will make Priority Development Fund grants available to help with planning costs.  Interested municipalities must submit an application to DHCD to determine the eligibility of their zoning.   

Massachusetts Building Permit Activity Up in 2012

According to the latest Census Bureau estimates, building permit activity in Massachusetts in 2012 (through October) is up 46% compared to the same period in 2011.  An estimated 8,190 units have been permitted year-to-date, up by 2,598 from 2011 (5,592).  Multifamily units more than doubled (from 1,600 to 3,338), with 66% of the increase in Boston and Cambridge and another 25% in Natick.  Overall, units in multifamily properties made up 40% of the 2012 units permitted to date.  Permits for 1-unit properties rose by 18% (from 3,375 to 4,413 units).  The 8,190 units permitted year-to-date in 2012 is the highest number of units reported for that period since 2008 (when 8,393 units were permitted), though well below the 2007 and 2006 ten-month totals (12,352 and 16,894).

Massachusetts Home Sales Volume up in 2012, Home Prices Slightly Down

The Warren Group reported last week that Massachusetts single home sales in 2012 through October totaled 39,391, up 22% from the same period in 2011 (32,248), while condominium sales through October totaled 16,239, up 29% from the same period in 2011 (12,559).  The year-to-date median sales price for single family homes was $287,500, down 2% from a year earlier ($293,000), while the year-to-date median condominium sales price was $275,000, up 0.7% from 2011 ($273,000).

Greater Boston Housing Report Card Released

The Boston Foundation released its 10th annual report on housing trends in Greater Boston on November 14.   Written by members of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, “The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2012 A New New Paradigm for Housing in Greater Boston” estimates that the region will need to add 12,000 new units a year through 2020 to meet demand if current population trends continue and up to 19,000 units a year under a stronger growth scenario in which the number of younger residents grows.  Turnover of existing family homes is expected to meet more of the demand for single family homes than in the past as 130,000 owners aged 55 or above downsize, leave the state or die. 

The report predicts that 48-53% of the demand for new units will be for multifamily (2+ unit) properties.  It expects more demand for smaller homes in transit-oriented locations, as older residents downsize and new, smaller households seek less expensive housing.  To meet this demand, communities will have to become more accepting of multifamily housing than in the past. The report also recommends initiatives to address emerging needs, including land-banking mill properties, a state/private effort to reduce housing production costs, new student housing and anticipating the future service needs of seniors.

Deadline for Independent Foreclosure Review December 31, 2012

The Federal Reserve Bank and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have initiated enforcement actions against a number of mortgage servicers based on deficiencies in the servicers’ foreclosure review process.  Regulators are encouraging borrowers who may have been financially harmed in the mortgage foreclosure process in 2009 or 2010 to request an independent review.  The review would determine whether homeowners suffered financial injury and should receive compensation or other remedies because of errors during the home foreclosure process.  After the review, servicers may be required to provide compensation.  Affected borrowers could receive up to $125,000 plus equity.

While there are only a few weeks left before the deadline, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is still encouraging community groups, counselors, advocates, faith-based organizations and others to reach out to borrowers who may be eligible for this relief.  Outreach materials can be obtained through the independent foreclosure review toolkit. The toolkit includes frequently asked questions, detailed information about the review process, and forms in multiple languages.  For additional questions, please contact Ana Patricia Munoz of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston at

CHAPA Hires New Director of Public Policy

CHAPA is pleased to welcome Rachel Heller as our new Director of Policy.  Rachel is well known by members of both the Massachusetts housing and community development field and the Massachusetts legislature. Most recently, she served as the Director of Public Policy for the Alliance for Business Leadership. She has also served as Chief of Staff and Housing Policy Director for former State Senator Susan Tucker and worked as a Senior Policy Advocate at Homes for Families prior to her time at the State House.  Rachel will begin on Monday, December 10, 2012 and can be reached at         

CHAPA Completes Successful Round of Massachusetts Regional Meetings

CHAPA would like to thank our hosts, partners and stakeholders who participated in eleven regional meetings in Boston, Salem, Newton, Lawrence, Springfield, Worcester, Hyannis, Fitchburg, Framingham, Brockton and Fall River over the past few months. Meeting participants identified a number of issues that continue to be priorities for them, including homelessness prevention, the rising gap between income and housing affordability, continued demand for permanent supportive housing, funding for the rehabilitation of our existing housing inventory and strengthening our public housing stock.  Long term concerns include the lack of grassroots advocacy for more affordable housing, the challenges of housing an aging population within the next decade, and identifying more sources of financing for both ownership and rental housing. 

DHCD Posts Materials from November 13th "Under One Roof" Conference

On November 13, 2012, DHCD hosted the widely attended "Under One Roof" housing conference at the DCU Center in Worcester. Materials from that conference are now available for download.

Federal Updates

Advocates Mobilize to Prevent Deep Housing Cuts from Sequestration

The Budget Control Act enacted in 2011 requires Congress to implement a 10-year deficit reduction program through spending caps on discretionary programs worth $1.5 trillion and to take additional steps to reduce deficits by another $1.2 trillion.  Absent an alternative strategy, the Act requires annual automatic cuts (sequestration) to discretionary programs beginning in January 2013, with the 2013 cuts applied across the board to all discretionary programs.  It gives Congress discretion over how it distributes the future annual cuts through 2021.  New estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) detail the potential size of cuts to HUD programs in 2013, 2014 and 2021 under the caps, sequestration and under even deeper reductions proposed by Representative Paul Ryan.   

In Massachusetts, sequestration would reduce the number of households with Housing Choice Vouchers (75,200 in 2012) by 6,300 in 2013 (as opposed to by 2,100 under the spending caps) and by another 1,200 in 2014 (for a total of 7,500), while the Ryan proposal would cut over 18,000.  Sequestration would reduce HUD grants to Massachusetts for CDBG, HOME, public housing and homelessness by $26 million in 2013. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is urging housing advocates to contact their members of Congress to avoid sequestration and adopt a deficit reduction approach that includes revenue increases as part of the solution.  CBPP notes that passage of the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Act (AHSSIA) could contribute to this effort, saving $700 million a year in voucher program costs. (CHAPA will circulate a sign-on letter next week.)    

Recent Research and Reports

Children in Federally-Assisted Housing More Likely to Live in Low-Performing School Districts

A new study sponsored by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), “Do Federally assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Public Schools,” has found that families with children who have federal housing assistance generally live nearer to low performing schools than other low income families with children, though the imbalance varied tremendously by state and MSA.  Massachusetts scored particularly poorly on access to higher performing schools for federally assisted families.

To measure school quality, the study looked at the median score of state standardized tests for each elementary school and where it fell within the distribution of median scores statewide.  It looked at four federal housing programs that assist about 2.86 million families with children: public housing (360,000), project-based Section 8 (about 400,000), Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units (about 900,000) and Section 8 housing choice vouchers (about 1.2 million).  Nationwide, it found that families with federal assistance lived near schools with median percentile rankings ranging from 19 to 31, depending on the program, lower than the median ranking for all families with children nationwide of all incomes (53), all renter families (37) and all poor families (30).  

By federal program, the median percentile ranking of schools varied, from a high of 31 for LIHTC families (i.e. half attend schools with median scores at or below the 31st percentile of public schools in their state), to 28 for project-based Section 8, 19 for public housing and 26 for voucher holders.  Assisted Black and Hispanic families had median percentile rankings of 20 and 25, compared to a median of 40 for white, non-Hispanic families.

In Massachusetts, the median percentile rankings ranged from 21 for voucher families (the same as for all poor families in Massachusetts), to 15 for public housing and project based Section 8 and 12 for LIHTC families.  The Boston MA-NH MSA median school percentile rankings were even lower, ranging from 16 (78th lowest among 100 MSAs) for voucher holders, to 7 for public housing and 6 for project-based Section 8 and LIHTC families (the latter third worst in the nation).  

Study Finds Massachusetts among States with Highest Levels of Income Inequality

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute issued a report this month that documents the “wide and growing” gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest households in most states.  “Pulling Apart: A State by State Analysis of Income Trends” found that the average income of the top fifth of households was eight times that of the poorest fifth as of 2005-2007.  Massachusetts had the 8th highest level of inequality among the 50 states in terms of the gap between the highest and lowest fifth in 2005-2007 and the second highest increase in inequality since the late 1970s.

Census Bureau Supplemental Poverty Measure Shows Higher Poverty Rate in Massachusetts

The Census Bureau released its 2011 Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) estimates on November 14.  The SPM was created in response to long-standing criticism of the current federal poverty measure which is based entirely on food costs.  Unlike the official measure, the SPM considers variations in household composition, child care, health care and housing costs, the value of food stamps and housing assistance and the impact of taxes and tax credits.  Using the SPM raised the 3-year (2009-2011) average poverty rate in Massachusetts to 13.7%, (rather than 11.0% under the official measure) and the national rate to 15.8% (vs. 15.0%).  Overall, the SPM resulted in a higher poverty rate in 14 states (mainly due to housing costs), a lower rate in 26 states, and an unchanged rate in 10 states.  Among the five other New England states, using the SPM raised the poverty rate in New Hampshire (10.4%) and Connecticut (12.0%), lowered it in Maine (10.9%) and Vermont (9.2%) and resulted in no significant change in Rhode Island (12.9%).

Upcoming CHAPA Event

December 7, 2012 - The New England Housing Network will be hosting its annual conference at the Sheraton Framingham. Please visit CHAPA’s calendar page for additional information. While the deadline to register has passed, we encourage walk-in participants to attend.