California hopes to block affordable housing NIMBYs in city that is the home of Disneyland

Reason Magazine, the libertarian standard-bearer for many of its readers, has, at the very least, a definite “lean-right bias,” despite presenting itself as outside the left-right political binary. For example, it regularly uses loaded words — some say right-wing talking points — to describe climate-change issues.

But there are some issues at which Reason excels, and one of those can be seen in this article about how the city of Anaheim (CA) has illegally blocked affordable housing in that city:

California’s state government is coming to the aid of an Anaheim-based nonprofit whose plan to open a group home for formerly homeless women was shot down by the city at the behest of NIMBY neighbors.

It’s a case that tests the power of California housing officials to set limits on localities’ ability to say no to new housing. Should the state prevail, Anaheim could have to permit far more housing than just group homes.

On Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) filed an application to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Grandma’s House of Hope against Anaheim in Orange County Superior Court earlier this year. That lawsuit challenged the city’s refusal to issue House of Hope a conditional use permit to establish a 15-person group home serving formerly homeless women with mental health disabilities.

“The support and assistance that transitional housing providers like Grandma’s House of Hope deliver are essential in addressing California’s homelessness crisis and the shortage of housing for people with disabilities,” said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez in a press release. “Cities and counties across the state will be held accountable for attempts to evade fair housing and anti-discrimination laws.”

For close to two years now, House of Hope has been locked in a contentious battle with Anaheim city officials and neighborhood opponents over its proposed group home.

Its original plan was to host up to 21 women at an 8-bedroom house in a single-family neighborhood on West Street near Anaheim’s downtown. They’d receive therapy and other services from seven House of Hope staff members, several of whom would be on-call 24/7 to respond to emergencies. The plan would be to move these women into permanent housing within 18 months.

It’s something House of Hope has succeeded with at its other group homes, including some in Anaheim. The nonprofit reports a 65 percent success rate at placing program participants in permanent housing within 9 to 18 months and has partnered with the Orange County government on various programs over the years.

But their proposal for an additional Anaheim group home proved controversial with a vocal set of nearby residents. They argued their neighborhood was already “oversaturated” with group homes and that adding another one would threaten public safety, strain sewer infrastructure, and overtask emergency services.

This same scenario plays out across the U.S., with states passing laws about affordable housing requirements and then cities and towns basically ignoring those requirements when local residents make a fuss. So it’s nice to see California taking a stand in at least one city. Now if they could do the same thing in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

affordable housing protest

More adult grandchildren are choosing to live with their grandparents as roommates

The New York Times has an article up noting what some see as a definite trend: adult grandchildren living with their grandparents:

Grandchildren and grandparents have their own discrete needs. The grandchildren, still in school or in low-paying, entry-level jobs are looking for deeply affordable housing with very tolerant landlords. The grandparents — not as young as they once were — may be contending with decreased mobility, health challenges and isolation.

Further, both sides of the age divide come to the table armed with their own skill sets. The grandchildren can demystify smartphones, Twitter and paying bills online. “They get to feel useful in the relationship. They can help the person they love,” Dr. Saltz said. In turn, their grandparents can share family lore and recipes, give the grandchildren a sense of their roots — and a sense of perspective.

Those in their early 20s don’t have the experience to know that life will go on, “and older adults can provide that context,” Ms. Butts said. “We’ve survived disasters before. We’ve survived diseases before. We’ve survived recessions before.”

Mr. Elson and Ms. David, 25, shared a home office and, occasionally, meals. When her grandparents decamped for a few weeks to their condo in Stuart, Fla., Ms. David sorted the mail and flagged the utility bills. “I came from living with three friends in a rowhouse in Washington, D.C., to living with people who were a lot older,” she said. “Different energy, right?”

Yes, but good energy. “I feel very fortunate and grateful to have had that housing option,” Ms. David said.

“The idea of young adults living with grandparents really solves a lot of social issues,” said Rachel Margolis, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who studies the demography of grand-parenthood. “Most older adults want to age in place, and they need help to do so.”

June Iseman, 90, shares quarters on the Upper East Side with her granddaughter Ally Iseman. “My granddaughter moving in with me means I’m not alone,” she said. “Even though she sleeps until 11 and goes to work at noon, the fact is, she’s here. Because I’m not 100 percent OK in terms of my health, that’s a good thing.”

The article adds that living with grandparents, sometimes as the sole parental figure, has been much more widespread among many children of color for a very long time.

New Jersey town cuts down trees in town center rather than let homeless people use them for shade

This is one of those stories that, at first, I didn’t believe.

It’s just so incredibly stupid.

The [Lakewood, NJ] township cut down all of the shade trees that once lined Town Square in a controversial move designed to prevent homeless people from spending time there.

Mayor Ray Coles said the decision was made after a recommendation from the Police Department Quality of Life Unit, which the township said was triggered by numerous complaints from residents and township employees about homeless people defecating and urinating in the area.

“They (homeless people) were harassing people, defecating between the cars and residents were complaining,” Coles said.

All shade trees at Lakewood Town Square were cut down last Aug. 8.

Claudia Romero, who works in a tax preparation company across from the Town Square, said that one day she found human feces on the sidewalk in front of her office and then submitted a complaint to the township. The township did not say how many complaints it received.

The move, advocates say, was unnecessary and does nothing to help those in need.

First of all, we’re trying to plant more trees in the world, not tear them out.

Secondly, I am absolutely certain that, for the cost of removing those trees (plus the dollar values and incalculable aesthetic values of the trees) they could have gotten a porta-potty if public urination/feces really is the primary motivator behind this. (I’ll bet it’s not. I’ll bet it’s just some Karens who don’t like homeless people.)

Finally, why are you ruining the enjoyment of everyone of your town square because town leaders are too stupid/ignorant/stubborn to look for other solutions?

Rest of article here.

New York City living sounds like it sucks for the average person

I used to romanticize living in New York City.

Broadway, the extensive subway system, the five boroughs, etc.

When I ended up living most of my life in Boston — a short car, bus or plane or train ride away from Manhattan — I got to spend a lot of time in NYC. And i was able to regularly visit any number of friends who lived there.

My friends who were professionals did pretty well in the city, especially Brooklyn.

Doctors, successful artists, people in the entertainment industry, etc. They had nice apartments and condos. Still relatively small compared to elsewhere, but not bad.

But regular people in New York had a choice: have roommates, sometimes lots of them, or live in a tiny studio apartment — if you can call apartments with two-burner stoves and a toilet in the living room “studios.”

So I was fascinated by this series in The New York Times in which a Manhattan woman was priced out of her West Village apartment and had to go looking for a replacement in today’s market for no more than $3000 a month. That turned out to be a pretty tall order. She finally settled on a rent-stabilized studio:

So when she learned that the apartment in the elevator building would definitely be available — at a stabilized rent of $2,140.98 — she jumped on it, taking it sight unseen.

“Amanda got lucky,” Ms. Vorobeva said. One tenant had lived there for many years, and the following tenant had moved in recently, after New York State passed the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which affords tenants extra protections and discourages landlords from turning rent-stabilized units into market-rate units.

The broker fee, though, was at a premium: 15 percent of a year’s rent, based on the market rate of $3,200 a month — or $5,760.

When Ms. Dauber finally saw the apartment in person, she was happy and relieved. “It was identical to the one I had seen,” she said, although the living area was furnished differently.

“The big thing was wrapping my head around moving from an apartment with four separate rooms to a box-style studio,” she said. “It’s not lacking storage space; it’s just lacking living space. I had to think strategically about how I could organize everything.”

She sold her furniture to the young couple who rented her former place — it was advertised as a two-bedroom and went for $4,600 — and bought the furniture that was in her new apartment from the outgoing tenant.

She cooks less now, because the kitchen is so small. “The dishwasher is a nice luxury, but I didn’t care either way,” she said. “I need the dishwasher because there’s no place to put a drying rack.”

She unscrewed one closet door and propped it up as a makeshift partition between the bed and the refrigerator. “Otherwise, the bed blocks the closet door, so to get into the closet you have to physically move the bed,” she said. This way, she can shimmy in sideways.


No, thank you.

I still love to visit. I still don’t want to live there.

A rent-stabilized $2,140.98 a month plus a $5760 broker’s fee gets you this studio in Manhattan.

Private equity and Wall Street are snapping up single family homes all over the country, leading to housing shortage, rental price hikes

First, Wall Street and private equity came for mobile home parks, squeezing every last cent they can out of low-income mobile home owners and renters. Now they are coming for single-family homes all across the country, leading to housing shortages, rising mortgage rates and skyrocketing rents.

In one city alone — Omaha — a private equity behemoth has targeted that city in a short amount of time with a blizzard of purchases, according to the Flatwater Free Press:

The Blacketers knew their longtime local landlord had sold this house just southwest of Miller Park. They didn’t know that their rental home had been bought by an Ohio-based private company that’s buying up lower-priced homes at an eye-widening rate across the Great Plains, Midwest, the South – and now in Omaha.

Today, Vinebrook Homes, a company with $2.4 billion in assets that didn’t own a single home in Omaha 30 months ago, has become one of the largest landlords in the city.

Vinebrook bought its first Omaha area properties October 2019. Since then, it has bought enough homes to become one of the largest landlords in the city, by number of properties listed. Data from the City of Omaha landlord registry as of May 4, 2022. Graphic by Hanscom Park Studio.

The flurry of purchases is helping to superheat the housing market in poor neighborhoods. It’s raising rents in North Omaha. And it’s concerning experts, tenants, local landlords and real estate agents who worry that giant out-of-state real estate investment groups like Vinebrook are making it harder for Omahans to buy their own homes.

The same thing is happening across the country. Large real estate firms tied to private equity are buying up homes in low-to-middle income neighborhoods and then renting them back to local residents at sky high prices, all while leaving a trail of complaints about shoddy maintenance and strongarm rent collection practices.

Wall Street continues to discover the many different ways it can make money off poor people:

Business is good for Vinebrook and companies like it, said John Johnson, a Marquette University professor who studies the changing housing market. 

The expert watched as Vinebrook burst onto the scene in Milwaukee. The company identifies cities where the rent-to-own value ratio is skewed, making it lucrative to buy up many homes and rent them out, he said. 

“The profit margins can just be wild,” Johnson said. “You can see why this is a really attractive business model for people who have figured it out.”

In Milwaukee, as in Omaha, Vinebrook focused on the city’s poorest neighborhoods, homes often occupied by families of color. They evict Milwaukee residents at higher rates than local landlords, he said. Vinebrook now owns massive amounts of real estate in that city, while having almost no local employees and virtually no civic presence in Milwaukee. 

“It is literally removing money from the city’s economy, often money that’s coming out of the pockets of some of the poorest citizens of that town,” Johnson said. 

Wall Street owns America and the rest of us just live here.

Graphic: Flatwater Free Press and Hanscom Park Studio. Figures as of May 4, 2022. Vinebrook owned no properties as of Oct. 2019. Now it’s a major player in real estate in Omaha and dozens of other cities across the country — and growing.