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HUD writes a $38 MILLION check to combat a far too common issue

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The Federal Government has decided to help take on housing discrimination by investing into the Fair Housing Initiatives program.

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It looks like the federal government is taking on housing discrimination.

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According to a press release posted on the HUD website, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development will be investing $38 million into the Fair Housing Initiatives program as a way to fight housing discrimination.

A little bit for a lot of people

This money will be made available as grants to fund “a variety of critical fair housing activities, including fair housing testing in the rental and sales market, public education efforts, capacity building, and education and outreach activities.” Here’s how the money breaks down by activity group:

• 7.45 million goes into education and outreach. These activities go out into needy communities and let them know about their rights to fair housing under federal, state and local laws. A million dollars of this fund will run a national media campaign.

• $500,000 will fund initiatives that can expand the “capacity and effectiveness” of fair housing organizations. This should give state and local resources the money they need to effectively scale their operations

• $30.35 million will go to private organizations that investigate and enforce the Fair Housing Act. This money will be invested over a multi-year period

Top priority

It’s pretty clear from the monetary distribution that empowering the reporting and investigation of fair housing violations is a top priority. According to data from the National Fair Housing association, “it is estimated that there are over 4 million instances of housing discrimination annually in the rental market alone,” even though only 28,181 official complaints were logged last year. Moral of the story?

It’s a vastly underreported issue, and HUD is hoping that an education campaign will increase reported cases.

It’s also worth noting that private fair housing organizations processed 70 percent of complaints, a majority by a long shot. That’s why such a large chunk of the funding goes towards these enforcement agencies.

No better time

The overall funding comes at a crucial juncture too. In that same body of research, the National Fair Housing Association found an increase in housing discrimination activity in 2016 compared to 2015. Additionally, the worst of 2016’s activity seems to concentrate around the fall season, with an increase in hate crimes and harassment cases.

Agencies interested in applying for the grants must apply by September 18, 2017.

#HUDmoney

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Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

Homeownership

Hemp could be the next sustainable building material to catch on

(REAL ESTATE) Hemp has been introduced as a building material after becoming legal to grow in America, but will it be the next popular green building material?

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Although mud and daub type building structures date back thousands of years, interest in concrete made from plant materials has increased due to the interest in sustainable architecture.

Research into more sustainable buildings materials have led to the development of bio-composite concrete of hemp and lime, which has been registered in the United States as Tradical Hempcrete® by American Lime Technology Products company.

This green product is also sold as precast walls with structural framing. The hemp lime product alone had issues with fire safety, rotting under wet conditions, and the lack of ability to perform as a standalone structure due to its poor load-bearing qualities.

Different framing structures have been introduced worldwide to improve the capacity of the building material to be used in larger buildings, although ironically these high rise buildings have been found to be less energy efficient which seems to defeat the purpose of green building.

Hemp or bamboo stalks as the structural frame combined with the hemp/lime concrete mixture are the currently preferred construction materials, and are used by companies such as Hemp Architecture in England, described in an Architectural Review article on alternative building materials.

Growing hemp for construction purposes was never criminalized in in Europe, and hemp-constructed homes as well as businesses have flourished in France and the United Kingdom
Other building projects have continued in the United States, though custom homes using hemp based products such as James Savage’s home in Stuveysant, NY are the exception rather than the rule.

The main impasse to American hemp-based construction was growing hemp was not legal in the United States until recently, and the majority of hemp construction products are imported from Canada. Although these products are fire and pest resistant, as well as economically friendly, the main appeal may be the appeal of the drug culture stigma more than the practicality of the building materials.

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Homeownership

The Granny Pod could be the alternative to nursing homes (and why people will soon demand bigger back yards)

The Granny Pod looks like a guest house and sits conveniently in any backyard – they plug right up to existing plumbing and electrical and allow both caregiver and senior to have their own space while remaining connected.

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I’ve spent most of my life living everywhere but the United States, and from what I’ve seen in other cultures, when couples tie the knot parents come with the marriage! That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents live with the kids (although I’ve seen that in countries like Japan, Korea, and Turkey), but I feel safe saying that it’s a given the kids will taken in/take on/take over their ailing parents at some point in said parent’s lives (Italy for example).

I’m not sure the US is set up that way. The big business of senior living facilities and nursing homes tells me otherwise.

But that might be changing thanks to the Granny Pod and similar mono-living facilities that can be installed in a person’s backyard (which is why we suspect people may demanding bigger back yards in coming years).

Close, but not TOO close

MedCottages or “Granny Pods” seem to be a viable solution for taking care of elderly family members without giving up the independence Americans put so much emphasis on.

A recent story explains that Reverend Ken Dupin created the MedCottage as an alternative to nursing homes, as 78 million baby boomers head toward retirement.

These 12 feet by 24 feet pods can sit conveniently in any backyard and plug right up to one’s existing plumbing and electrical. The pods allow both caregiver and senior to have their own space while remaining connected.

Retiree support for Granny Pods

For its part, AARP, the lobbying group for aging Americans, has gone on record to assert that local zoning laws pose one of the biggest obstacles to making such dwellings a practical solution to caring for aging family members in what it calls “accessory dwelling units.”

AARP spokesperson, Nancy Thompson said “the MedCottage has some of the features the organization advocates in accessory dwelling units, but not all of the universal design features that could be useful for people of all ages.” She does add that it’s a step in the right direction for accessory dwelling units.

No more condo fees

I’m no social worker, but studies bear out that human contact is vital as we grow older. Even in a worst case scenario (when an individual living in a nursing home is alone in their room for much of the day), they at least meet other patrons at lunch or dinner, and at whatever social outings are plugged into a daily schedule. For all the close circuitry and monitoring the Granny Pod offers, I don’t know if it takes the place of human contact, so hopefully families will remember the ties that bind them and do more than just monitor a screen to see if Granny is okay.

Another benefit of the Granny Pod is that once it’s paid for and installed, that’s it – no more monthly rent or condo fees that can deplete a retiree’s resources.

Granny Pod starting a movement

According to the Washington Post, other companies seeking to make similar structures are Seattle-based FabCab (whose name comes from Fabulous Cabin), and San Francisco-based Larson Shores Architects, which designs what it calls “Architectural Solutions for the Aging Population,” or ASAP, and its “Inspired In-Law” dwellings” demonstrates that assisted living facilities aren’t the only item on the menu.

As this type of structure catches on, it may threaten nursing homes and even retirement condo villages, and could influence the sizes of yards builders offer in coming years. Industry practitioners should be aware of the trend, and be able to offer this type of setup to clients who are actively considering options for their parents (the solution may just be a bigger back yard).

#GrannyPods

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Homeownership

Real estate association launches impactful video – I’m not crying, you are

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The dream of owning a home is under assault – one real estate association has launched a massive awareness campaign that is truly meaningful.

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The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has launched a new site, KeepTheDreamAlive.ca to lobby locals to “keep the dream of home ownership alive.”

America is not the only nation with diminishing affordability conditions, rising prices, and limited inventory. No, Canada is experiencing a similar market, and OREA is taking action to make sure those people hoping to own have the chance to do so.

“Millennials want to own homes but it’s never been tougher to achieve,” the organization notes. “Rising home prices have pushed home ownership out of reach. All their hard work and saving just isn’t enough to compete with rising prices.”

The KeepTheDreamAlive.ca site offers homeownership statistics and makes it easy to email their candidate to express the importance of the dream of ownership.

The video is moving. Prior to watching, we assumed it was another feel-good video about how neat homeownership, but to end it in broken dreams is more realistic than what you’ll see here in America.

We hope that changes. In America, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is extremely realistic with data and they have long been very vocal on people being squeezed out of the market. And the major real estate sites paint a sunny picture of home searching and making the dream come true, but none reach as far as OREA has, to express that homeownership is simply out of reach for otherwise qualified people.

Send a link to this story to your local and state Associations as they consider their plans for marketing outreach next year. Perhaps it’s time to empower local homeowners to contact their representatives, lest they remain unaware of the big picture.

While NAR has repeatedly noted that three things will alleviate the pressure on the market (investors putting inventory on the market, builders stepping up production, and more current homeowners opting to sell), overall awareness that homeownership is out of reach for many can put a spotlight on these conditions in each market.

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