To keep our friends current on the Center’s activities since our last update (covering January to March 2009), we will summarize a few new developments below. The stories are:
Ø Summer law clerks accelerate Center’s legal agenda
Ø Center plans detailed report on legislation regarding regulatory barriers to affordable housing
Ø Center investigates cost factors for affordable housing developments in Washington area
Ø Website adds links and updates
Ø Center snippets
The Center has made substantial progress on its legal agenda this summer, with the help of three law students who served as volunteer law clerks. They are:
- Ziran Zhang, now a third-year student at George Mason University School of Law, who worked full-time from May to August;
- Ronald K. Washington, now a second-year student at Georgetown University Law Center, who worked part-time during June and July, before accepting a position with the Federal Housing Finance Agency; and
- Thomas B. Ashton, now a second-year student at George Washington University Law School, who worked part-time during June-August.
With the law clerks’ help, the Center is up-to-date on the latest judicial and legislative developments on regulatory barriers to affordable housing (a/k/a “exclusionary housing policies”), as well as the existing legal studies of those barriers. Further, the clerks did reports based on their intensive studies of several states where there have been extensive efforts to overcome those barriers – Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland. Those studies will become part of the Center’s planned report on legislative initiatives, discussed below.
In recognition of the clerks’ tremendous contributions, the Center hosted a luncheon for them in Old Town Alexandria, VA, on July 23. The venue was the Fish Market Restaurant, a structure that dates from the nation’s constitutional period. Present were the Center’s Board members (Tom Loftus, John Rector and Mike Clark), and Advisory Committee members Phil Caughran and Scott Lindlaw. It was great fun, and we hope to do it again soon – with fewer time constraints!
2. Center plans detailed report on legislation regarding regulatory barriers to affordable housing
Thanks to the law clerks’ work, the Center has begun an evaluation of legislative initiatives to eliminate those barriers generally. The report will be comprehensive and scholarly, and it will break new ground.
There appears to be no such published analysis -- although exclusionary zoning has been substantially addressed. The Center believes it can make an important contribution regarding regulatory barriers to affordable housing generally. The Center plans to get input from experts in affordable housing law.
Legislative remedies appear important in order to eliminate those regulatory barriers generally in the foreseeable future. Unlike litigation, legislation can create an executive agency with enforcement authority statewide (or even nationwide, in the case of a federal statute). Also, a statute can be written to cover regulatory barriers to affordable housing generically. Litigation often resolves only the particular affordable housing project and/or government practices at issue in the case.
Further, litigation often is quite expensive and protracted, whereas statutory remedies can be designed to be relatively speedy and inexpensive. Now appears to be a good time for the Center to concentrate on developing its legislative analysis, because the recent recession has caused a major cutback in new affordable housing projects. The Center has not yet found an affordable housing project suitable for litigation.
3. Center investigates cost factors in Washington area
Continuing its independent investigation of regulatory barriers to affordable housing in the Washington, DC, area, the Center recently has focused on specific cost factors for affordable housing developments. It is assessing whether those costs exceed what is necessary for safe, healthful affordable housing. (As reported in our last Update, the Center has confirmed that nonprofit affordable housing developers have been experiencing interference from regulatory barriers in many Washington, DC, area jurisdictions.)
The Center has found that affordable housing renovation projects in inner-city structures may cost around $250,000 per affordable unit, when all development costs are factored in. That figure applies even to some well-managed, well-regarded projects. The Center is speaking with developers and experts about the various components of development costs, to determine which costs could be reduced through governmental cooperation.
4. Website adds links and updates
The Center has upgraded the content on its website (http://cswac.org) by providing:
- links to other valuable websites on affordable housing research and groups, legal aid, and other housing law resources; and
- online versions of its updates.
The Center plans to upload to the website numerous other documents (such as corporate and financial documents, pictures, and material from Tom Loftus’ 1996 law review article).
Center snippets . . .
· Please note the Center’s new post office address: P.O. Box 1402, Vienna, VA 22183.
· In May, the Center received a very generous $200 gift from the United Methodist Women of Walker Chapel, the Loftus’ parish in Arlington, VA. Thanks very much again, UMW!
· Since our last report, Center personnel have attended a number of instructive events and seminars, including:
April 23: HAND (Housing Assoc. of Nonprofit Developers) seminar on “Risk Management and Tax Credit Compliance”
May 21: HAND tour of affordable housing developments in Baltimore, MD
June 17: Public Hearings on zoning ordinance amendments, before Fairfax County, VA, Planning Commission
June 22: Public Hearings on zoning ordinance amendments, before Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
June 23: Public Hearings on applications before Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals
July 28: CNHED (Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development) seminar on federal legislative and executive branch advocacy; and
DC Government seminar on its new inclusionary zoning regulations
July 29: HAND seminar on current issues in asset management
Thanks to all of you for your support!