NoBro’s affordable housing is affordable for whomst?

From this morning’s GMRVA;

Roberto Roldan at Virginia Public Media, which is now the name of our local public media…group? collection of stations? squad?…looks into the affordable housing component of the proposed North of Broad development. Here’s the deal: The developer will build 80 affordable units by 2022 and then “the developer expects to build another 200 in the next five to seven years. The developer will also need to help raise $10 million in private donations. That money would go to the nonprofit affordable housing developer Better Housing Coalition, which will build 200 affordable apartments elsewhere in downtown.” That’s how we get to the Mayor’s promised 480 affordable units.

Of course, as with all conversations about affordable housing, the word “affordable” does a lot of the lifting. Roldan says that, of those 480 units, 40% will go to folks who make 60% of the area median income, and 60% will go to folks making 80% of the area median income. That’s a majority of the affordable, income-restricted units reserved for people who make $46,000 per year. It’s not that I’m against building housing for people making moderate incomes like that—we, of course, need to build more housing for everyone. But I am unconvinced that a downtown arena and the required BigTIF is the only way to get more housing for those folks. @SmithNicholas on Twitter even points out that the private market in Richmond is already building similarly affordable units on its own.

So here’s my take, and, remember, I am not a housing expert: If the City wants to subsidize affordable housing, which I believe it has the moral responsibility to do so, it should focus on housing for people making 30–50% of AMI—the stuff the private market won’t touch. Here are a couple quotes from a paper (PDF) by a real expert, local Kathryn Howell: “The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the Richmond region faces a shortage of 33,206 units available and affordable to households earning less than 30% of the AMI and a shortage of 28,626 units for those earning less than 50% of Area Median Income” and “We find that a robust housing preservation and production strategy must focus on housing for households earning less than 50% of the Area Median Income to reduce rent burden and prevent future evictions.” We need a lot of units, way more than 80 or even 480, and we need them for folks making very, very little money. The City could and should come up with good policies to help with that—even a TIF! Portland, for example, has used TIFs to help build 2,200 affordable units over the course of a single decade. But if we’re going to dedicate a big chunk of our City’s future revenue to a big project like the proposed North of Broad development, we should make sure that it’s building the right kind of housing Richmond needs at the right affordability level.

Using a TIF to subsidize affordable housing

From City Observatory:

Portland’s tony Pearl District, adjacent to downtown, as blossomed in the past decade, adding more than 7,000 new residential units, plus offices and stores. The city’s policy has plowed tens of millions of dollars in the tax increment from new construction and rising property values into affordable housing in the neighborhood.  That funding, coupled with other resources, has supported the construction of 2,200 units of affordable housing, interspersed with market rate units.

2,200 affordable units! That's astounding.

From [Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Sit Down.](

The Old South may be your American Downton Abbey but it is our American Horror Story, even under the best circumstances it represents the extraction of labor, talent and life we can never get back. When I do this work, it drains me, but I do it because I want my Ancestors to know not only are they not forgotten but I am here to testify that I am their wildest dreams manifest.

Richmond by bike

Views from my first real ride on the Capital Trail—embarrassing, I know. 15 years ago, I used to ride out to this 7-11 way back before the trail existed. Turns out bike infrastructure is real nice!

Ban cars, Part 3

Via Alon Levy:

The upshot is that there are two valid strategies to deal with literally hundreds of millions of first-world citizens who stand to lose income, wealth, or social or cultural status from the green transition. The first is to buy them off, or at least buy off those who can be bought off without bankrupting the state. The second is to tell them no. No, we are not going to accommodate you: saving the planet is too important a goal, and turning your 20-minute car commute into a one-hour three-seat ride by a bus because you kept voting against trains is a price we are willing to pay, and even if you’re not willing to pay it, we don’t need you to vote for us.

Ban cars, part 2

Self-driving cars, SUVs, and the trolley problem.

The Detroit Free Press investigation showed that NHTSA knew four years ago that the proliferation of pickups and SUVs was putting pedestrians at risk thanks to heavier vehicle weights, higher bumpers, and compromised visibility. “Pedestrians are 2-3 times more likely to suffer a fatality when struck by an SUV or pickup truck than when struck by a passenger car,” the agency concluded in 2015. Children between 5 and 9 years old had a fatality risk four times greater in collisions with light trucks and SUVs than with cars. The regulators did nothing. If another product saw its nonuser death count spike by 50 percent in 10 years, consumers would revolt and Congress would make a big show of getting to the bottom of it. Automobiles are different.