It’s no surprise that affordable housing in North Texas is hard to come by. It’s an issue at the forefront of city leaders across the Metroplex.
But a new partnership between the City of Arlington, the nonprofit Housing Channel in Fort Worth, and the University of Texas at Arlington is aiming for a solution that could be replicated across North Texas.
Officials will break ground on the new project on Friday afternoon.
Construction is already underway for Wynn Terrace Senior Cottage Community, an innovative, new affordable housing development in East Arlington that will focus on seniors.
There is a big reason why a project like this is so important for seniors on fixed incomes.
Rising property taxes are pricing people out and so is the rent.
According to the Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers, the median income for Texas seniors on a fixed income is $25,601, but a renter must earn $46,889 annually to afford the current fair market rent of $1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment in North Texas. However, even many one bedrooms are much more than that.
The concern here is the baby boomers – the largest generation next to millennials – a majority of whom will reach 65 or older by 2030.
“73 million people – that’s a huge population of people and there’s really not a lot of housing available for people who are on fixed incomes,” said Donna VanNess, president of Housing Channel in Fort Worth. “It’s a very scary thing and sometimes seniors who don’t have the opportunity to continue working or don’t have retirement, they basically age into poverty.”
VanNess said she knows of families who are spending upwards of 50% to 60% of their monthly income on housing right now. The general rule is to not spend more than 30% of monthly income on housing or other needs could be compromised.
VanNess said in order to afford the median rent in North Texas, one must make $24 an hour. If they are earning only the minimum wage in Texas of $7.25, they would have to work 115 hours per paycheck.
“There has been a lot of inflation and property prices are rising. What’s happening is our seniors are being displaced basically out of their own homes because their property taxes are so high that they really can’t afford to continue to live in the home that they’ve had for a really long time and then there’s also the problem of ongoing maintenance for that,” said VanNess. “I just want people to realize that we need to come together as a community to support each other and support projects like this. Because this is a really an economic issue. It’s not just primarily a housing issue. And when we provide quality stable housing for people, then everybody thrives.”
The new senior cottage community is aiming to serve as a model for implementing more affordable housing options in North Texas.
Located in East Arlington, the new “micro-community” will boast a dozen attractive one-bedroom homes under 600 square feet, each built to high-level energy performance standards, with half of the units reserved at below-market rental prices for seniors who meet lower-income guidelines. Other community amenities include individual patios, a landscaped community gathering space, and covered parking.
“It’s just a different housing option. We hope that this is an introduction and a model that can be emulated,” said VanNess. “The cottages are similar to what would be an efficiency apartment. They’re detached but they’re grouped into a community. So it helps with that isolation sometimes that seniors feel.”
Design and construction costs for the Wynn Terrace project are estimated at $1.5 million, which will be subsidized in part by $650,000 in federal Home Investments Partnerships funding.
The other interesting aspect of this project is the contribution from UT Arlington. Students from the UTA College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs (CAPPA) helped design this community and the homes. The school will actually study this project and the efficiency of the homes, and use it as a blueprint for other potential affordable housing developments in North Texas.
“We’ve collaborated over the last four or five years and we’ve built three homes, all unique and innovative. So this time, this is our biggest project to date,” said VanNess.
Housing Channel bought the land from the City of Arlington, which VanNess said has been integral in pushing the project forward.
The Wynn Terrace Senior Cottage Community is the latest achievement connected to the ongoing partnership between the City of Arlington and the 32-year-old community organization, which is dedicated to increasing access to affordable housing. Since the mid-2000s, Housing Channel has administered more than $4 million in federal funding to further Arlington’s affordable housing efforts, including distribution of down payment and closing cost assistance for low and moderate-income first-time homebuyers, rehabilitation of existing housing stock, construction of new single-family subdivisions, and free foreclosure prevention counseling and homeownership education for Arlington residents.
VanNess said that the organizations powering the Wynn Terrace development hope the project will be studied and replicated in other areas of Arlington and across the region.
“There is often negativity around the term ‘affordable housing,’ but the fact is that increased access to affordable housing benefits everyone, in the form of reduced homelessness and transiency, community members who have money back in their pockets they can spend with local businesses, and reduction of neighborhood blight,” said VanNess. “Innovative thinking, collaboration, and effective public policy are essential to addressing this critical community need.”
Other project contributors and donors include Acme Brick, Builders First Source, Ambit Polyurethane, Kelly Moore, Huber Engineered Woods, James Hardie Siding, and Tamlyn.
The new homes are expected to be available for rent by summer 2024. There is already a waitlist for the application process to live there.
The Knight Frank study said the highest proportion of property registrations in Hyderabad was in the Rs 25-50 lakh price range.
Hyderabad recorded registrations of 6,493 residential properties in August 2023, a 15 percent year-on-year and 17 percent month-on-month rise, a September 14 report by property consultancy Knight Frank said.
The total value of properties registered during the month stood at Rs 3,461 crore, up 22 percent over the same month last year.
“The housing market in Hyderabad is on a significant upswing, driven by a rising demand for improved living spaces, particularly in modern complexes equipped with numerous amenities. Additionally, the RBI’s (Reserve Bank of India) decision to keep interest rates steady since April 2023 has further boosted buyer confidence,” said Shishir Baijal, chairman and managing director, Knight Frank India.
Affordable housing gets a boost
The report said that in August, the highest proportion of property registrations in the city was in the price range of Rs 25-50 lakh, accounting for 52 percent of the total.
Properties priced below Rs 25 lakh constituted 16 percent of the total registration. The share of sales registrations for properties with ticket sizes of Rs 1 crore and above was 9 percent in July 2023, higher compared with 8 percent in July 2022.
The demand for properties in August 2023 was largely concentrated in the range of 1,000-2,000 sq ft, with this category accounting for 70 percent of registrations.
There was also an increase in demand for smaller homes (500-1,000 sq ft), with registrations for this category rising to 16 percent of total registrations in August 2023 from 15 percent a year earlier.
Properties larger than 2,000 sq ft also saw an increase in demand, with registrations in this segment rising to 11 percent of the total in August from 9 percent in August 2022.
Residential sales in Hyderabad during August 2023 were seen in properties sized 1,000-2,000 sq ft whereas the price range of Rs 25-50 lakh accounted for the highest number of registrations.
The City of Alexandria is taking its massive zoning reform aimed at making housing more affordable to the community this fall.
In Alexandria, around 20% of households are paying over 30% of their income in housing, and around 10% are spending more than 50% on housing.
Zoning for Housing/Housing for All is an effort to rectify that. It’s a top-to-bottom housing reform project that aims to expand housing production in Alexandria, make housing more affordable in the city, and address current and past inequalities.
Among the changes are more incentives for developers to provide both market rate and affordable housing in exchange for bonus height or density and taking another look at how the city classifies single-family zoning.
That last point is reminiscent of the Missing Middle zoning changes — allowing multifamily structures in neighborhoods that were formerly limited to single-family detached homes — that sparked controversy in Arlington earlier this year.
According to the project website:
The initiative will evaluate the current limit of one household per lot in the City’s Single-family Zones and the potential benefits of allowing a greater number of households per lot in those zones. Staff will examine changing the number of permitted units as well as the definition of “family.” As currently conceived, this initiative will potentially amplify our housing production goals by enabling new typologies in neighborhoods where they don’t exist now, and/or are by their nature are less expensive, but this initiative will not be examining the potential for these new units to be “committed affordable” as we have interpreted that without specific tools or public investment to make them so.
Starting next week, the city is kicking off a whirlwind tour of town halls and hearings running up to a scheduled vote on Nov. 28.
“Launched in 2019, the Zoning for Housing/Housing for All initiative has a joint goal of expanding housing accessibility, affordability and availability across the city while also addressing equity in housing for all groups in Alexandria,” the city said in a release. “Prior to 2023, the City Council adopted three reforms under the initiative, including text amendments related to Accessory Dwelling Units, Co-Living and Auxiliary Dwellings Units.”
The schedule for this rollout is:
- August 29: Zoning for Housing/Housing for All Panel Discussion
- September 5: Joint Planning Commission/ City Council Work Session, City Hall (draft recommendations released).
- September 14: Community meeting, Location coming soon.
- September 23: City Council Public Hearing, City Hall (opportunity to comment)
- September 24: City Council Town Hall (opportunity to comment) Location coming soon.
- October 5: Community meeting, Location coming soon.
- October 12: Community meeting, Location coming soon.
- October 14: City Council Public Hearing, City Hall (opportunity to comment)
- October 21: City Council Town Hall (opportunity to comment) Location coming soon.
- November 1: Planning Commission Public Hearing on Zoning for Housing, City Hall (opportunity to comment)
- November 14: City Council Public Hearing on Zoning for Housing, City Hall
- November 18: City Council Public Hearing on Zoning for Housing continued, City Hall
- November 28: City Council Meeting, City Hall (scheduled vote on Zoning for Housing reforms)
A group of seniors in Novato have scored a major win after months of an emotional rollercoaster over whether the city could sell their beloved mobile home park to offset the city’s financial challenges.
The 400 residents of the Marin Valley Mobile Country Club – one of the last remaining affordable housing communities for seniors in the county – spent their summer pleading with the city to not sell the city-owned property worth millions. But their tears of fear have now turned to tears of joy as they celebrated Wednesday a city council ruling to not sell.
“WE DID IT!” was the subject line of an email I received from one of the residents, their excitement jumping through the virtual note.
Carol Joy Harris has lived in the park for over a decade and calls it her slice of paradise. She says she’s one of many who plan to live out their days on the property.
“I have always said they’re gonna take me out of here by my boot heels,” she told CBS News Bay Area.
It’s the sense of community, she says, that makes the neighborhood so special. They consider the land an unofficial “blue zone,” where people live longer than average.
“I do think it’s the reverse of loneliness here. If someone is not seen by their neighbors for a couple of days ‘Hey, it’s so-and-so, how are you doing?'” Harris explained, making a phone gesture with her hands.
In June, residents got wind of a potential sale of the property that would put $30 million back into the pockets of the city of Novato. The city argued the park had been a financial strain but financial documents provided by the park showed they had been self-sufficient for years.
The potential sale sparked an emotional response from residents who have found their final homes in the community.
“It’s family. I get choked up,” said a low-income resident. “It’s the most wonderful place I’ve ever lived in my life.”
At a city council meeting earlier this summer, residents came in waves to oppose a bid from a mobile home management company to purchase the land. The company vowed to not increase rent for current tenants.
“Under our management, that community will remain a mobile home park and will remain one of the most affordable housing choices in Marin. We do not buy communities on the backs of our residents,” said Dean Moser, President of HCA Management Company.
But it wasn’t enough to convince residents that their affordable housing would remain.
“I want to say to the residents here that we’ve had a cool run so far,” Harris said. “Nobody can shake our sense of community from us.”
That sense of community was strong at an August 22 city council meeting where residents demanded the city keep an unofficial promise to allow residents to own the land after a bond is paid in full next year.
After a closed city council meeting the group said it “has decided not to pursue the offer from HCA to purchase Marin Valley Mobile Country Club. As identified in the City’s Strategic Plan, the City Council has identified Marin Valley Mobile Country Club as a strategic priority and will continue to address the management, oversight, and financial conditions in the coming months.”
For now, ownership of the park is their next fight. On Wednesday night, they celebrated with pizza and dancing, knowing they fought and won to keep their homes.
As four developers are looking to use Florida’s new Live Local Act to deliver lower-cost apartments to the Orlando area, Orange County established its playbook on how projects like these should be handled and where they’re allowed to go.
Some worry the policy, adopted by the commission on Aug. 8, is too restrictive and could actually derail good affordable housing projects. Developers looking to use Live Local to build on commercial property within 100 feet of a single-family home would be limited to constructing only townhomes or quadplexes, per the county’s rules.
County officials say the provision reflects what’s already in the county code regarding multifamily development projects.
“The state legislation only pre-empted local government policies and codes with respect to density and height in certain zoning districts,” said Deputy County Manager Jon Weiss, “It was clear that the proposed multi-family development must meet all other multi-family standards and regulations. Those include setbacks, buffers, etc, which were intended to address potential compatibility issues.”
The Live Local Act, which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March and took effect on July 1, requires counties and cities to approve a multifamily development project in an area already zoned for commercial, industrial, or mixed-use if at least 40% of the units are affordable for households making up to 120% of the Area Median Income.
In addition to speeding up the approval process, the new rule is intended to give developers more flexibility with density and make them eligible for tax incentives.
Orange County officials say the law doesn’t give clear direction to local government jurisdictions about how it should be implemented, leaving it open to interpretation.
“Like everyone else, Orange County has had a very short timeframe to modify its processes and standards to comply with the new mandates,” Alan Marshall, an assistant director of the county’s planning, environmental, and development services department told the commission at the Aug. 8 meeting. “Aspects of the Live Local Act are unclear and in need of a board decision. …A resolution is needed to ensure clear direction to our staff and to the development community by adopting a process and identifying standards.”
According to the county’s policy, Live Local projects would be prohibited on land with a planned development designation. Planned developments make up the majority of the land across unincorporated Orange County, covering approximately 92,308 acres, according to county data. These are where most multifamily projects are built.
For the Live Local Act, “the legislature did not describe PDs. They did not say that PDs were an eligible zoning district,” Marshall said. “Secondly, PDs are generally negotiated districts with very specific conditions and agreements, kind of like a contract.”
He noted that substantial changes to PDs, including the addition of multifamily, require a public hearing under the county’s code.
“The mechanics of putting multifamily in PDs requires public hearings, and Live Local does not allow for public hearings,” Marshall said. “The mechanics just don’t work.”
The county commission adopted a policy saying that Live Local projects can only go on land zoned for commercial, industrial, and mixed-use. That accounts for 17,688 acres.
But it was another rule that generated the most discussion during a county meeting Wednesday when two developers sought input on two different projects.
The policy says that Live Local projects planned for property within 100 feet of a single-family home would be required to follow R-2 zoning standards, meaning only smaller-density products with up to four units per building could be built.
Deputy County Manager Weiss told GrowthSpotter that there are plenty of vacant commercial and industrial sites that would be eligible for higher-density projects under the Live Local Act.
Meanwhile, county commissioners say that state legislators need to tweak the Live Local Act.
“I believe the Live Local Act has promise,” said County Mayor Jerry Demings, “but the legislature does need to clarify the ambiguity in the law.”
For now, Orange County attorneys say they are taking a safe approach with their interpretation of the law.
“There are obviously some points of this law that are unclear,” Assistant County Attorney Whitney Evers told commissioners. “ So what you’re seeing…staff is airing on the side of caution. Because we aren’t sure where this is going to go.”
With the new policy in place, Lee Steinhauer, the general counsel of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, said he’d like to see the county give some leeway to developers attempting to build good Live Local projects.
“The question everyone is going to have is: How strictly is this (policy) going to be interpreted?” he said. “Is it going to go to the letter of the policy or is there going to be some level of flexibility in terms of allowing good projects that provide some of the affordable housing that we need?”
Osceola County received its first Live Local Act application this week when Texas-based SHIR Capital submitted preliminary plans to convert all 444 hotel rooms at Holiday Inn at Celebration into studio apartments. The Live Local Act hasn’t been tested yet on a hotel conversion.
To read more about early-stage development in Central Florida, go to GrowthSpotter.com and subscribe.
When Yong Cheng Yang took one look at the price of a downtown Madison studio apartment, she knew there was no way she could afford to live there.
“Once I saw that, I was like, ‘I’m not even going to do any more further research,’” she said. “I just drove away (from campus) and they got cheaper and cheaper.”
Yang, a rising University of Wisconsin-Madison junior from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota studying kinesiology and global health, widened her search for an apartment for the 2023-24 academic year and eventually signed a lease along with a UW-Madison graduate student for a small apartment on Fish Hatchery Road. The apartment was in her price range of around $500 a month, Yang said, but it’s a 30-minute commute by bus from campus and the bustling downtown.
“I was just really stressed about the budget and then the distance, too, just because I’m not from here and I don’t know anyone here, so I’m trying to survive,” she said.
Yang said she has had to construct her class schedule around her commute, avoiding enrolling in later classes that would keep her out late.
“I can’t do a lab too late … I know that in the fall, it’s going to get so dark,” Yang said. “I have to be really cautious and make sure I get home safely.”
Yang is one of hundreds of UW-Madison students who have struggled to find affordable housing near campus as rent prices in the city increase. It doesn’t help that the population of Madison and the university’s class sizes have boomed in the past few years, making for an even more frenetic scramble for near-campus housing units and residence hall space. And even though the Madison City Council and UW-Madison have taken steps to provide more housing options, those efforts are hamstrung by market factors and restrictions imposed by the state Legislature.
The median one-bedroom apartment in Madison costs $1,364, according to tracking data from Apartment List, and the median two-bedroom costs $1,617. The city’s average rents increased by 28.4% since March 2020.
An online survey in June asked UW-Madison students to describe their experiences looking for off-campus housing for the 2023-24 academic year. The survey, conducted by newly elected District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan, who represents much of the campus area on the City Council and is himself a rising senior at UW-Madison, received over 1,700 responses.
“Apartment hunting was stressful, everything was either too far away from my classes or was way out of my price range,” one student wrote. “I opted to live another year with a roommate I couldn’t tolerate just to be able to afford housing.”
“It gets more stressful each year,” another student responded. “I’ve paid more for each apartment I’ve had every year and have had to sign earlier and earlier in order to secure a place to live.”
“To be frank, it f—ing sucks,” wrote a third.
Students reported difficulty finding off-campus housing that was both affordable and reasonably close to campus as the cheaper units are snatched up quickly, leaving available only unaffordable “luxury” apartments, housing farther from campus, or units that are in relatively poor condition.
“A lot of other people outside of the campus bubble do not know what students are facing,” Govindarajan said. “They might see a picture of a small bathroom and be like, ‘Oh, that’s in terrible condition.’ But some students might see that and be like, ‘Wow, the tiles on this bathroom are actually clean. There’s no mold, there’s no rats.’”
Students predominantly rent the housing surrounding the UW-Madison campus near Spring and Regent streets, as well as homes and apartments in the downtown area near State Street, on the east side of the Capitol and along West Washington Avenue.
Rising housing prices have led some students to split a small home among more roommates than can comfortably fit, or move farther from campus to find housing within their price range, according to Cleo Le, vice president of the Campus Area Neighborhood Association, a neighborhood advocacy group that represents residents living near the UW-Madison campus.
“Demand is making it so that they will have to pay extraordinary prices for, honestly, probably not the best apartment,” Le said. “The whole leasing season for downtown at times can feel very exploitative.”
Search for housing is ‘extremely stressful’
The scramble starts almost as soon as class begins.
In Madison, apartments typically open for applications for the following academic year in October or November. Before the fall midterm season begins, many students are already looking for a place to live for the next year.
UW-Madison senior and history major Jack Kluth described his experience searching for off-campus housing as “extremely stressful in multiple ways.” He said he and his roommates found searching for housing online difficult, and the online database the university offers was unhelpful and “outdated.”
He also struggled to keep up with the pace of everyone else grabbing the available apartments.
“We would schedule a tour (or) walk-through and have it canceled just before because somebody else had signed on to the lease before we could see the place,” Kluth told the Cap Times in an email.
Kluth and his roommates started looking for housing early in the fall and signed their lease in the winter, a common timeline common among students.
Third-year interior architectural design major Kelsey Olson initially wanted to live in a house with her roommates but had to settle for an apartment.
“A lot of the houses that we looked at were either already taken or they were just way out of our price point for the amount of rooms we needed, or they went super fast,” Olson said. “We (signed the lease) before Halloween because it was going even faster because of the amount of kids that had been enrolled or over admitted a second time around. There was even more competition for us.”
Housing in the downtown and campus area can become prohibitively expensive if students don’t start looking early in the fall, according to junior Tyler Kollross, who started the search for his apartment in October.
“Get on it right away,” Kollross said. “Otherwise, it’s going to be tough to find something that you’re actually looking for and within a decent price range.”
In 2000, the city passed tenant protections that prohibited landlords from showing or leasing apartments during the first quarter of the length of the lease. For example, if a tenant signed a yearlong lease that begins in August, the landlord could not begin showing or leasing the apartment until November. This mandated “cooldown” period was overturned by legislation passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature in 2011 as part of a sweeping rollback of tenant protections during former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.
With so little time, some students are left overwhelmed or confused, particularly for second-year students who previously lived in the dorms and are first-time renters. Gabi Hartlaub, a sophomore studying journalism, said she had “absolutely no idea what (was) going on” as she was looking for housing for the first time last fall.
“Most of the places that I was looking at that were close to campus were like $1,500 a month for one person,” Hartlaub said. “The websites would say, ‘Oh, it’s $1,500 a month,’ and I thought that you split that between two people. No, it’s $1,500 a month per person.”
Though Hartlaub was able to find a place with another roommate on Mifflin Street within her price range, the apartment has only one bedroom. She and her roommate plan to turn the living room into a second bedroom.
“This is Madison,” Hartlaub said. “This is not Los Angeles.”
Rising housing prices a result of ‘perfect storm’
Kurt Paulsen, a professor of urban planning at UW-Madison, points to many factors contributing to rising housing prices, from larger structural forces to challenges unique to Madison.
“If you see some kind of really out-of-whack system, it’s never one thing,” he said. “It’s really a confluence of multiple factors all hitting at the same time.”
Construction costs have jumped since the COVID-19 pandemic as high inflation and supply chain snarls pushed the price of materials up. Another contributing factor is rising interest rates, Paulsen said. As the Federal Reserve has continued to increase rates, developers must pay more on loans taken out to finance construction.
Such costs require property owners to charge more for rent to make up for the higher price of building the housing development, Paulsen said. In addition, landlords are increasing rent on existing properties to cover rising utility costs, and high demand means that people are willing to pay more.
Adding to Madison’s housing supply crunch is the city’s rapidly growing population. The city added more than 36,000 new residents between 2010 and 2020, according to US Census Bureau data, and city estimates project that Madison will grow by about 115,000 people between 2020 and 2050.
To keep up with this demand, Madison must add at least 10,000 housing units every five years, experts project. The slower the city builds, the larger the deficit grows.
Much of that growth has been driven by millennial and Gen Z workers seeking jobs with some of the city’s biggest employers, particularly with Verona-based health care software company Epic Systems, which employs over 10,000 people in Dane County and is adding another 1,700 workers by the end of this year.
These younger workers, Paulsen said, often compete with UW-Madison students for the limited number of units in downtown Madison, the cultural center of the city and home to many bars, restaurants, shops and other amenities.
“The Madison downtown/campus property market is a unique challenge not present for other Big Ten universities: The areas downtown and near campus where most students want to live are also in high demand for workers and homeowners,” Paulsen said in a July letter to the City Council. “It’s really a geometry problem: lots of stuff in a small space, with increasing demand for more housing and more commercial activities.”
Students who spread out east, south or west of campus run up against “very well-established residential neighborhoods like Vilas, Greenbush and Regent” that “wanted to preserve their kind of single-family character and not be overrun by student rentals,” Paulsen told the Cap Times.
On top of the city’s growing workforce, UW-Madison’s class sizes are some of the largest they’ve been in the university’s history. The larger class sizes would have little effect on the campus-area housing market if Madison wasn’t already facing such a severe shortage, Paulsen said.
“If you add a cup of water to a container that’s empty, it has no effect,” Paulsen said. “But if you add a cup of water to a container that’s full, it’ll spill over.”
All of these factors, both national and local, coalesce into what Paulsen called a “perfect storm.”
“You have deep and lasting housing demand coming from demographics — the millennials — and strong job growth all pushing on a market under-supplied a thousand units every year in an environment where construction costs and interest rates are high,” Paulsen said.
Little space both on and off campus
Ahead of the 2022-23 academic year, the university aimed for a freshman class size of about 8,100, around 350 fewer students than the 8,465 enrolled in 2021. However, because more accepted applicants chose to enroll at UW-Madison than the school predicted, the 2022 freshman class ballooned to 8,628 students, the largest in the university’s history.
The university is again aiming to enroll 8,100 first-year students for the 2023-24 school year, more than 500 fewer than were admitted in the 2022-23 year, according to Brendon Dybdahl, University Housing director of marketing and communications.
But while freshman class sizes have grown dramatically, the university’s supply of on-campus housing has not.
No additional residence halls have been built nor are any scheduled to be constructed in the near future, Dybdahl said. A renovation of one of the campus’ larger dorms, Sellery, added two floors to the building with an additional 250 beds and is expected to be completed ahead of the 2023-24 academic year, according to the Division of University Housing.
To provide enough housing for on-campus students, the university has instead had to use the space it has.
“Over the past few years, this includes converting more of our large double rooms into triples, converting some study lounges into resident rooms, and using the Lowell Center (a conference and lodging facility previously used as a campus hotel) as a residence hall,” Dybdahl said. “We also offered incentives to some students who were interested in canceling their residence halls contract for other options.”
During the 2022-23 academic year, University Housing offered to cover students’ housing expenses for moving out of the residence halls and into Eagle Heights, an on-campus housing community near UW Hospital typically inhabited by graduate students and medical students. The university also offered students living on campus $5,000 or a free campus dining plan to seek off-campus housing as an alternative to living in the dorms.
Last year, 76 students took up the university’s offer to live in Eagle Heights, and another 200 chose to move off campus, Dybdahl previously told Channel 3000. University Housing is hoping to be able to offer all freshman students housing in residence halls this coming academic year if the university meets its freshman enrollment target, Dybdahl said.
University Housing can accommodate around 8,000 undergraduate students in its 21 residence halls and an additional 2,000 graduate students and their families across three apartment communities, according to the university. Undergraduate students living on campus are overwhelmingly freshmen, but some students stay in residence halls after their first year.
For the city of Madison, ‘it’s all carrots and no sticks’
Wisconsin state law prohibits municipal governments from enacting “inclusionary zoning” or rent control measures, in which cities regulate the amount of rent privately owned residential developments charge their tenants. The city of Madison can offer incentives for lower-rent developments but in most cases can’t set limits or mandate affordability.
“It’s all carrots and no sticks,” Paulsen said.
The City Council ran up against state law earlier this year when it voted down a proposal from developer Core Spaces of Chicago to build a 232-bed market-rate apartment building at the intersection of Johnson and Bassett streets, with many alders citing the lack of affordable housing units included in the development as a reason for denying it. The City Council reversed its decision and approved the project in July in response to concerns that the developer could sue the city.
“What we’re facing with student housing today is that our hands are tied legally by those that were in power previously in the state Capitol and the fact that we still have a state Legislature that’s very unsympathetic to the plight of affordable housing generally,” said District 4 Ald. Mike Verveer, who has represented much of the downtown area since 1995.
Without the stick approach, the city has resorted to dangling carrots in front of developers in the form of lifting height or floor restrictions in exchange for including a certain number of affordable units in the development, which Verveer called a “density bonus.” Legislation adopted by the city in March allows developers to build additional floors as long as at least half of the additional space comprises affordable housing units for at least 30 years.
But some students are concerned that the new affordable units will not be enough to meet demand, and the market-rate housing these new developments will offer will still be too expensive.
“The city of Madison, the city that I was born and raised in, has been prioritizing developing luxury apartment buildings for Epic employees and simultaneously raising property taxes which in turn raises rent on student housing,” said UW-Madison education studies and history student Joe Finkelmeyer, in an email to the Cap Times.
The city and UW-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid passed a memorandum of understanding in which they committed to working toward the goal of providing affordable housing units to low-income students. Under the memorandum, the city and the university are looking to work with developers to connect FAFSA-eligible students — those receiving financial aid — with cheaper housing near campus.
Over the past few years, the City Council has approved a series of high-density student apartments in the downtown area, including developments that include both market-rate and affordable housing units. One of these developments is the oLiv Madison apartment complex on Gorham Street, which is expected to be completed by fall 2024. The developer, Core Spaces, agreed to reserve 10% of the apartment building’s over 1,000 beds for affordable housing.
But Le of the Campus Area Neighborhood Association said students worry that the cheaper housing being built is not enough to keep up with soaring demand or stabilize housing prices for students who don’t qualify for financial aid but still struggle to find housing they can afford.
“What I get from students who I talked to casually about the project is that it is nowhere near enough and that the qualifications for it miss a huge portion of students who are still in need of cheaper housing, even though they aren’t FAFSA eligible,” Le said. “They’ve even argued that because they’re not eligible for certain grants and loans it makes affording housing in the area even more difficult.”
Possible remedies in Madison
In March, the City Council voted to change Madison’s zoning code to allow more unrelated people to live in homes that were previously limited to single-family housing, upping it from two to five.
Govindarajan wants to further change zoning laws to allow the construction of denser apartment buildings in neighborhoods limited to single-family housing, particularly the blocks south of Regent Street and west of Camp Randall. This would allow developers to buy single-family lots up for sale to build multifamily housing units.
Though he expects to face opposition from some residents in those neighborhoods, Govindarajan said the change is needed.
The city also has a land banking program, in which the city buys lots it can then use to facilitate affordable housing projects, neighborhood revitalization and economic development. Because the land becomes city-owned property, Madison officials can mandate that developers include affordable housing if they wish to buy and develop those lots, increasing the supply of affordable housing in the area.
Govindarajan said a combination of “upzoning” single-family neighborhoods and increasing funding for the city’s land banking program could help increase the number of market-rate and affordable housing units. But these potential solutions would only start to make a difference in the long term, he said.
“It’s definitely going to be a very long time because the city of Madison is already so behind on housing in general that it would need to meet what it’s already behind on and continue to build (for) the influx of people moving in just to be able to break even, and then they should build even more to make sure housing goes down,” Govindarajan said.
“The point is not to just provide enough housing for everyone, but provide enough options in housing that tenants have the ability to negotiate prices rather than it just being a landlord’s market,” he said.
The university is also looking to build another dorm, but the state Legislature has not yet approved the construction of any additional residence halls, Dybdahl said.
To build additional residence halls, the university must get approval from the Legislature to issue a revenue bond to pay for construction. The revenue from student room and board fees, rather than increased taxes, would pay for any new dorms.
“University Housing has been actively pursuing construction of a new residence hall to accommodate the growing demand,” Dybdahl said. “We are trying to move this process forward as quickly as possible, but approvals and construction will take several years.”
In the meantime, some students already are preparing to begin the frenzied search for housing for the 2024-25 academic year. Kollross, the third-year UW-Madison student, said he’ll start looking for housing in “probably September, October, right away.”
Bryce Dailey, a second-year consumer behavior and marketplace studies major, said he’s also preparing to start looking for housing soon.
“I will probably start looking for housing again in less than a month if I can,” Dailey said.
When it gets hot enough, as it has across the South in recent weeks, barefoot toddlers suffer second-degree burns from stepping onto concrete. People who fall on the blistering pavement wind up with skin grafts. Kids stay inside all day, “trying to survive.” Windshield wipers glue themselves in place, and the ocean transfers heat back into your body. One electric blackout could bake thousands to death inside their homes.
You would think people would flee such a hellscape expeditiously. But as record-breaking heat fries the Sun Belt, the region’s popularity only grows. The numbers, laid out recently in The Economist, are striking: 12 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. are in the Sun Belt. Of the top 50 zip codes that saw the largest increases in new residents since the start of the pandemic, 86 percent were in blazing-hot Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
To be sure, during the pandemic people also moved to a few relatively cool cities in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. But hot places overwhelmingly dominate nearly every ranking of population growth and migration: The 50 counties with the greatest extreme-heat risk grew by nearly 5 percent from 2016 to 2020 due to migration, according to Redfin data. Meanwhile, the 50 counties with the lowest heat risk saw their population decrease from migration by 1.4 percent in the same time period. Those hot counties were led by Texas’s Williamson County, near Austin, whose population grew by 16 percent from inbound migration, and where 100 percent of homes have a “high heat risk.”
The South may be approaching the approximate ambient temperature of Venus, but that’s no deterrent. People keep wanting to move there. (I count myself among these people, as someone who has dedicated the past year of my life to finding a house in Florida.) This unstoppable appeal of Sun Belt cities rests on three factors: These places tend to have less expensive housing, lots of jobs, and warm winters. None of these is sufficient to attract people in large numbers, but together they seem to generate an irresistible force, sucking up disaffected northerners and Californians like a fiery tornado.
These days, you don’t have to wonder how the other half lives. You can open up Redfin and see how much house you can get in Dallas for less than your New York rent. The median home price in Los Angeles is $975,000. The median home price in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler is $520,000. Once you have this knowledge, it can be hard to evict it from your mind. What would you do with an extra half a million dollars?
The one thing every sunny, growing city has in common is affordable housing. This explains why Los Angeles, with its unimpeachable weather, is losing residents (including to Phoenix). It’s “vastly easier to mass produce housing in the suburbs of Phoenix or the suburbs of Houston than it is anyplace in coastal California or the Northeast,” says Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard. Cities in the Northeast and West tend to make it harder to get construction permits, and they have zoning requirements that make building affordable housing in desirable areas difficult. Plus, it’s just easier to build on an immense, unending desert than around the mountains of California or in old cities like Boston. In a study in 2007, Glaeser found that in the 1970s and ’80s, housing supply increased by 20 percent more in the South than elsewhere in the country.
In fact, many people seem to end up in the South because they aim for the perfect climate of California, quickly realize they can’t afford it, and settle for a similarly warm, cheaper place, like Phoenix or Austin. Just ask Elon Musk.
A “business-friendly” environment
Not all hot, affordable places are created equal. Austin became a pandemic boom town, but Midland, a West Texas city that’s just as warm and even less expensive, did not. This is where a complex mix of economic growth, human capital, and a certain yuppie je ne sais quoi come into play.
The Sun Belt cities that have soared are mostly in states with low taxes, which helps attract businesses. But many are also home to prominent universities that churn out highly educated workers. They’ve successfully created “agglomeration economies” of lots of similar types of companies in close proximity. Austin has the University of Texas, an Apple campus, and throngs of upwardly mobile Californians and New Yorkers who have fled high house prices. Midland, well, does not.
Austin began its strategy of luring tech workers as early as the 1970s and ’80s, when UT’s then business-school dean, George Kozmetsky, recruited computing companies to the area and launched incubators to nurture local talent (one of his mentees was a UT student named Michael Dell). Companies tend to cluster near other, similar companies—a phenomenon that explains Silicon Valley in California, Kendall Square in Cambridge, and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Knowledge workers like to be near people who can provide them with mentorship and job leads. You might not want to stay at your job forever, so it’s nice to have other companies to jump to. Businesses and educated workers tend to attract each other, and attract more businesses, creating a virtuous circle. In the first year of the pandemic, Austin had the highest inflow of tech workers of any major city.
Many of the booming Sun Belt cities also possess the seeds of a hip Millennial lifestyle: Live music, outdoor recreation, and interesting bars and restaurants. The newcomers demand even more microbreweries and tapas places, which then sprout up and attract more newcomers. “When the people come, they in turn change the place,” says Cullum Clark, the director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative. “The place becomes bigger; it becomes richer; it becomes more cosmopolitan.” And expat Californians tend to like that.
Walter Bimson, the chair of Valley National Bank and a mid-century booster of Phoenix, once explained that people would surely move to the desert city, because they “want to flee from shoveling coal and from shoveling snow.”
His hunch—that people love sun—has persisted as a lay explanation for Sun Belt migration, but polling on the significance of weather to people’s moving decisions is sparse. Weather often gets wrapped into a nebulous factor called “amenities” or “quality of life,” which can also include the local schools and crime rates. When asked, many people name better weather as a reason for their move, but not the reason. In 2018 survey data shared with me by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida, the top reasons people gave for moving to Florida were to be closer to family (37 percent), to start a new job (22 percent), and then the climate or weather (14 percent.) A 2014 Gallup poll found that weather was a prominent reason for those seeking to leave Illinois, Maryland, and Idaho, but it wasn’t the top reason for movers from any state. People who moved during the pandemic were likely to cite financial reasons or COVID risk as their motivations.
Still, it would be weird to ignore the sun in Sun Belt. This is something that all the experts I spoke with eventually conceded—that weather is hard to find in the data behind the Sun Belt’s rise, but it’s also hard to explain away. “No variable better predicts metropolitan-area growth over the last 120 years than January temperature,” Glaeser says. “Everybody likes playing golf in the winter,” says Enrico Moretti, an economist at UC Berkeley. “People really don’t like cold winters,” says Jenny Schuetz, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. People might not always admit it, but they appear to like warm weather.
Warm winters seem to act as an accelerant on cheap housing and plentiful jobs. People will vaguely consider a place with lots of new businesses and $300,000 homes, but once they see a few hundred Instagram posts of 70-degree February days, they call the moving company. “I think it’s word of mouth. It’s Instagram. A place gets buzz,” says the University of Toronto professor (and Atlantic contributor) Richard Florida. “‘My friends are there. It’s fun. They’re going out to restaurants; they’re going to the beach; winter doesn’t look cold.’” If you can work remotely, why not?
Chambers of commerce, real-estate agents, and industries that attract workers to warm-weather states tend to play up the “golf in the winter” element and play down the “lava-hot July.” “January, February, and March are the three reasons why people were attracted” to the Sun Belt, says Andrew Ross, a professor at NYU who has written several books about Sun Belt cities. “Housing-industry developers, real-estate brokers, they don’t talk about the summers. They talk about January, February, and March.”
A Sun Belt tipping point?
That said, all of these new Arizonans and Texans might leave if their cities continue heating and also escape the realm of affordability. There’s already an exodus afoot from Miami, for instance. The conservative governors of some Sun Belt states likely don’t appeal to the creative, liberal types who are drawn to cities. “Let’s you’re a gay designer who moved to Miami. Now you look up and you see Ron DeSantis,” Richard Florida says. “And you go, What the fuck am I doing here?”
Florida thinks the next great migration, for both climate and affordability reasons, will be north. Midwestern towns that can offer good amenities without scorching summers, such as Madison or Pittsburgh, are poised to offer a Sun Belt alternative. The Midwest currently has the most worker-relocation incentive programs, which pay remote workers to move to an underpopulated city. (Indiana alone has 16.) Or people might migrate to slightly cooler parts of warm states, choosing Flagstaff over Phoenix. (This is already happening, to some extent.)
For now, though, climatologists’ dire predictions don’t seem to be fazing people. Sure, Texans would prefer for it to be cooler, but the heat is apparently just this side of tolerable. Many residents of Phoenix and Dallas spend their summer days rotating between air-conditioned houses, air-conditioned cars, and air-conditioned offices, minimizing the felt impact of the triple-digit heat. “The fact that people are moving more into climate-risky places, and away from lower-risk places, suggests either that climate risk isn’t a primary factor that’s driving this, or that something else, like the cost of housing, is weighing out more than the climate risks,” Schuetz says. Knowledge of flood risk can nudge people toward lower-risk homes, according to a study by Redfin, but it’s unclear if this is true for more widespread climate risks, like heat. What’s the “safer” house if 100 percent of a county has a high heat risk?
It would be unfair to write off people moving to the Sun Belt as irrational or ignorant. We would all love a cheap house and a good job in a city that’s just warm enough. But life involves compromise. There aren’t enough houses in California. There aren’t enough jobs in Cleveland. Sometimes the best you can afford is Phoenix. “We can’t tell them not to move there,” Schuetz says, “unless we make it feasible for them to live in other places that are lower risk.”
GREAT BARRINGTON — One town official looking to funnel more money toward people who need help paying for housing is proposing to tack on a fee to all real estate deals over $1 million.
The 1 percent “real estate transfer fee” would be split by buyers and sellers. The cut would be taken off all kinds of real estate including single family homes, land and commercial sales, though transfers between family or for use as affordable or workforce housing would be exempt.
Select Board Vice Chair Leigh Davis presented her proposal to the board at its meeting Monday as she continues to spearhead affordable housing initiatives along with members of the board’s Housing Subcommittee of which she is chair.
Davis says the plan is worth it — such a small price for such a high reward. The data she pulled from the town Assessor’s office, she says, bears this out.
Had the 1 percent “fee” been in place for the 148 real estate sales last year, Davis notes, it would have generated more than $200,000 for the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Four other municipalities have such a measure and others are working on it. A bill pending in the Legislature would give towns flexibility about how to tailor a fee policy to the community.
Whatever the board and voters decide, it won’t be quick.
The Select Board will hear public comment before taking a vote to pass the measure to voters at the annual town meeting in May, said board Chair Stephen Bannon. Davis said it could take years before the policy takes effect, and the governor will have to sign off on it.
But Davis, who works for a nonprofit that creates and manages affordable housing, said the need to fill the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund’s coffer is urgent.
She cited a housing crisis in which people who can’t afford housing costs or even find available apartments or homes, and said it is worth putting the measure in motion to pay for various strategies that would either create new affordable housing or keep elderly people on fixed incomes in their homes.
It’s also a way, she added, to make sure the town’s restaurants and shops can be staffed.
“The displacement of longtime locals and our workforce continues,” Davis said, also pointing to a Washington Post analysis of national real estate data showing that 45 percent of homes bought last year in Great Barrington, Egremont and New Marlborough were paid for with cash. “If this isn’t a call to action, I don’t know what is.”
Evidence that there is plenty of wealth in these hills is not isolated to these three South County towns, whose all-cash home purchases were at the 45 percent level since around 2017, and down from previous years.
The housing market has tipped out of balance in what is a “national housing affordability crisis,” CNBC reported last month. The news site ranked Massachusetts as the fourth most expensive state in the U.S. to live in.
The proposed “fee” — which by many definitions is really a tax since it is not payment for a service and is compulsory — points back to whether the town should tax the rich or property rich in town.
Not everyone thinks so. One resident opposed to the idea wondered why such a fee is limited to real estate when only the rich can afford to shop at many places in town.
“If the aim here is to get a transfer of wealth from the wealthy in Great Barrington, why not put an extra tax on Guido’s [market]?” said resident Trevor Forbes, who said he found it ironic that another “tax” was proposed at a Town Hall known for its Revolutionary War-era uprising over British rule and taxes.
Some people are simply house rich from a property purchase made decades ago right after World War II, said resident Michelle Loubert, who said she believes the proposal is divisive.
“And lo and behold, maybe today, it is worth a million dollars,” she said. “They may not have a lot of money in the bank.”
But Fred Clark, who is chair of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, said this fee is another tax, like that paid for a car purchase or for excise taxes that maintain infrastructure.
Except that it is worthy, Clark said, and would help the community “come to the aid of our neighbors,” and would use the real estate market to “help balance” a lopsided situation.
Property registrations in the Mumbai real estate market from January to July 2023 were the second highest on record with over 72,700 registrations, while registration revenue collection of close to Rs 6,500 crore was the highest, according to data from Maharashtra’s Inspector General of Registrations and Stamps (IGR).
In the first seven months of 2022, Mumbai reported 78,101 registrations and Rs 5,280 crore as revenue from registrations, according to Knight Frank India, a real estate consultancy that collated the data.
“The city in the first seven months of 2023 registered a total of 72,706 units, leading to a substantial revenue collection of over Rs 6,453 crore for the state exchequer. Highest compared to the same period since 2013,” Knight Frank India said in its report on July 31.
“This surge in property registrations has significantly benefited the Government of Maharashtra. The rise in revenue can be credited to several contributing factors, such as the higher value of properties being registered and the increased stamp duty rate,” the repor added.
The current stamp duty for purchasing a property in Maharashtra ranges between 5 percent and 7 percent. The registration fee is Rs 30,000 for properties worth more than Rs 30 lakh and 1 percent of the value of the property for homes below Rs 30 lakh.
What happened in the first quarter of 2023?
In January 2023, the city reported 9,001 property registrations and a revenue to the state exchequer of Rs 692 crore. In February, registrations stood at 9,684 and the revenue at Rs 1,112 crore, while in March, the city reported 13,151 registrations and over Rs 1,143 crore revenue.
The higher numbers for February and March owe to the large number of high-value transactions—above Rs 10 crore—transacted in the financial capital.
This was after Budget 2023-24 imposed a Rs 10-crore cap on the reinvestment of capital gains from the sale of long-term assets, including property, which became effective from April 1, 2023. No such cap was applicable earlier.
Moneycontrol had reported on March 30 that there were as many as 130 transactions involving properties valued above Rs 10 crore in Mumbai in February 2023, totalling Rs 5,595 crore, according to data from Zapkey.com.
This number is historically the highest compared to deals closed in February of previous years. Compared with 75 deals in February 2022, there were 130 transactions in February 2023, a 75 percent increase.
The largest contributor to the registration department’s revenue in February and March 2023 came from the 28 housing units worth Rs 1,238 crore that were purchased by family members and associates of D’Mart founder Radhakrishna Damani in Mumbai.
Another much-talked-about deal was to do with Bajaj Auto chairman Niraj Bajaj, who bought a sea-facing triplex apartment in the posh Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai for Rs 252.5 crore, followed by the family members of industrialist JP Taparia, founder of contraceptive maker Famy Care, purchasing six sea-facing properties worth around Rs 369 crore in the same building from real estate developer Lodha.
What happened in the second quarter of 2023?
In April 2023, Mumbai reported 10,514 registrations and registration revenue went above Rs 900 crore, while in May 2023, the numbers went down to 9,823 registrations and Rs 833 crore in revenue, followed by June 2023 registering 10,319 registrations and revenue of Rs 859 crore.
In July 2023, the registration number stood at 10,214, fetching a revenue of Rs 832 crore from registrations.
According to real estate brokers, the number of registrations in May, June and July have risen owing to multiple factors.
Hiren Pandya, a real estate broker focused on the central suburbs of Mumbai, said, “The summer vacation months are preferred by homebuyers to book apartments and move in, and hence April, May and June witnessed a spike in registration numbers. Further, several homebuyers also booked units and utilised the 30 to 45 days’ window to complete the registration process and shift into the apartment.”
There are times when homebuyers book the apartment but execute the agreement along with other formalities of stamp duty and registration after a gap of 30 to 45 days in order to arrange for funds or if the homebuyer is awaiting clearances from the bank for a home loan.
“With the onset of the monsoon, site visits and closures slow down and the overall registrations also take a hit. In our opinion, the next few months are likely to witness a momentary slowdown, however, the long-term direction surely remains upward, and the Mumbai real estate sector seems to be on a strong footing,” ANAROCK, a real estate consultancy, said in its report released on July 31.
Another reason brokers ascribed to the steady momentum of registrations is the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) pause in hiking its policy rate that determines lending rates for home loans. According to brokers, this has instilled confidence in buyers of affordable housing.
Increase in transactions above Rs 1 crore
Further, over the past few years, there has been a consistent upward trend in the proportion of property registrations for properties valued at Rs 1 crore and above. The share of registrations for properties worth Rs 1 crore-plus has risen from 48 percent in 2020 to approximately 57 percent in 2023, Knight Frank India said in its report.
The report added, “The increase in property prices, combined with a notable rise of 250 basis points in interest rate during this period, has had an impact on property registrations below the Rs 1 crore mark. However, registrations for properties priced at Rs 1 crore and above have remained relatively unaffected by these changes.”
“As a result, there has been a noticeable positive impact on the share of property registrations for properties priced above Rs 1 crore, indicating a sustained demand in this higher price segment of the market,” the report further added.
“The demand in Mumbai’s residential market continues in the face of various challenges as consumers display enthusiasm for homeownership. Notably, there has been a considerable increase in the share of properties priced at Rs 1 crore and above. This can be attributed partly to the growing preference for larger homes and the rise in property prices. Additionally, the relatively better affordability of higher segment consumers has also contributed to this trend,” said Shishir Baijal, chairman and managing director, Knight Frank India.