Saturday, December 23, 2017

Cap and Trade Tax on Single Family Homes to pay Affordable Housing

Cap and Trade Tax on Single Family Homes to pay Affordable Housing

Just when you think you have seen everything from Progressive Politicians in California, they come up with a new scheme to tax single family homes for so called "affordable housing.  Here is a the platform for Ben Bartlett for State Assembly from Oakland California.

Ben Bartlett for Assembly - Green New Deal



The East Bay is s a thriving hub of technology, commerce and culture, and attracts people from around the world.
Yet our challenge is to continue our trajectory of prosperity in the face of a severe housing shortage. Our housing crisis is both driving local families away and deterring new residents from moving in. Skyrocketing property values and the demand for housing have brought forth record-breaking rents and rates of displacement, altering the economic and cultural landscapes of the East Bay as we know it. Meanwhile, the median worth for families of color is projected to drop to zero within the next 55 years, creating a treacherous foundation for poverty, instability, and loss of freedom.
As leaders and citizens of the East Bay, we are at an inflection point. It is time to avoid this disaster and reclaim our cities as a home for students, seniors, families, and everyone in between. This starts with the “three P’s”—production, preservation and protection––the three crucial features that our Bay Area housing market currently lacks. To ensure that all people in the East Bay have a home, we must facilitate local development of affordable housing units, encourage sustainable preservation of existing lots and units, and ensure the protection of residents and families from displacement. It is essential that we enact effective California state policy to create the changes East Bay communities need most.


As progressives, we cannot continue to oppose the production of new homes. It is clear that we have a severe housing shortage and, as history attests, whenever there is a shortage of a critical commodity, poor people receive less than their fair share. If we continue to focus all our efforts on opposing production, it will be the poor who will suffer the worst consequences. To accommodate rapid commercial and industrial development, the Bay Area is in need of 3.5 million new housing units––either through construction or rehabilitation. The key to revitalizing our housing market starts with securing enhanced regional funding, greatly increasing affordable production, and repairing existing sustainable units.
Cap and Trade Style Mechanism
There are currently 76 local housing trust funds in the Bay Area working to administer housing grants and loans through various funding sources. To create a more effective system, a series of larger regional housing trust funds (RHTF) for the entire San Francisco Bay Area should be established to fund the expansion of affordable housing. RHTFs will maximize existing local housing funds through a ‘cap & trade’ system on local cities. The ‘cap & trade’ system first ensures that cities meeting development quotas will have funds allocated from RHTFs for new housing construction and predevelopment loans, further encouraging housing local development. Meanwhile, cities that are not building their mandated units of affordable housing will pay fees that are allocated  through RHTFs to other cities for productive construction. This process will be a key driver of successful and continuous development in California municipalities.
A state carbon tax provides a possible source of funding for RHTFs.  A carbon tax would be placed on land zoned for single family homes (SFH). SFH zoning is historically exclusive, discriminatory and creates auto dependent communities that generate heavy CO2. If they choose, cities can keep their R1 and R2 neighborhoods, but they will be obligated to pay a carbon tax that is dedicated to affordable housing and transportation initiatives. Alternatively, cities may opt to raise the heights of corner lots and properties near transit centers, and subsequently pay a smaller carbon tax. In any case, this tax revenue can be used to fund RHTFs and affordable housing units.

[editor's note: This man is an idiot.  Such policies would definitely be unconstitutional and destroy the California economy. Progressives have no limit to their socialist ambitions. YIMBY millennials are cheering this policy on Twitter. What a complete FOOL!]
The creation of a California State Bank is another important and innovative way to fund affordable housing production as well as many other social programs. By creating a state bank, local and state governments can better manage the trillions of dollars in revenue generated by the state. This money can then be used to help fund RHTFs to ensure that enough money is available to build affordable housing in the Bay Area and throughout California.
Using New Technologies & Materials for Sustainable, Innovative Housing Design
Population growth and an economic boom, coupled with an unprecedented string of catastrophic natural disasters have exacerbated the housing affordability crisis by causing a shortage of construction labor and scarcity of building materials. If we embrace new technologies and other innovations in materials and construction, California can drive housing production and meet demand despite these challenges.  Prefabricated homes, micro units, and backyard cottages are all examples of California’s innovative spirit being used to create new forms of affordable and sustainable living spaces. We should focus on infill housing development, which is less destructive to the environment and supports mass transit and alternative modes of transportation, including walking and biking.
Encourage Low-Income Participation in Construction and Property Investment
New development leads to a demand for construction jobs and invigorates local economies. Encouraging the hiring of local low-income and marginalized workers for these jobs will breathe new life into Bay Area economies as well as accelerate the construction of affordable housing. A critical step in obtaining reliable housing is to maintain consistent employment and offer statewide discounts for building fees in exchange for project labor agreements, local apprenticeships for low-income youth and re-entry populations, and workforce development construction programs. In pursuing this exchange, we will reinvigorate local East Bay economies and provide stable employment to thousands of Bay Area residents.
Preservation of existing housing should be our first priority. It is the most cost effective, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible approach to housing development. Much of the Bay Area is in desperate need of vacant lot development and rehabilitation of existing structures. Under the current practices of large scale developers, newly built properties in the Bay Area have boasted significantly higher price tags than existing properties. Therefore, it is crucial that existing housing units in the East Bay be rehabilitated and preserved rather than demolished for luxury development.
Sustainable Redevelopment
Sustainable property redevelopment will allow us to reface the condemned blocks of the East Bay. Repurposing ruined structures and reusing their building materials prompts the sustainable growth of housing, community gardens, parks and other forms of community resilience. The Bay Area provides ample opportunity for these practices of urban conservation.
Rehabilitate Vacant Properties
The rental price for a newly constructed apartment in Oakland can range from 150% to 200% of the cost of an existing apartment with the same size and location. Migration to the East Bay from surrounding regions has prompted mass development of new luxury housing, resulting in the displacement of prior residents and increases in local rent. By promoting the rehabilitation of vacant and abandoned properties through nonprofit development and RHTF funds, high-quality, sustainable housing can be made available to East Bay residents at affordable costs. The state should require cities to create vacancy plans and incentivize full use of retail spaces and residential units.
Acquisition of ‘Naturally Affordable Housing’ and Affordable Back Yard Cottages
The state can facilitate non-profit agencies’ acquisition of properties in which a majority of residences are at risk of displacement and severe economic dislocation. One purchased, the rents can be stabilized, and vulnerable populations protected from market ouster.
Further, funds may be allocated, and/or tax incentives can be designed to help banks finance the construction of backyard cottages for homeowners willing to enter into affordability covenants with their tenants.
Earthquake Retrofitting
The Association of Bay Area Governments found that the Bay Area will lose 160,000 homes if there is another 1906 earthquake. The sector most impacted will be affordable and rent controlled homes. To preserve these communities, we propose enhancing the earthquake authority’s purview to provide low cost financing earthquake retrofitting for current and future affordable housing units, and offer low cost forgivable loans to low-income homeowners to invest in earthquake and environmental protection.
From students to seniors, lower-income residents of the Bay Area are being faced with the increasing possibility of displacement and eviction due to egregious rent hikes and the prioritization of commercial development over housing development, among other factors. Legal protection from unjust displacement is imperative in the current housing climate of the Bay Area. Rather than perpetuating the cycle of eviction and relocation, we must prioritize policies that stabilize families and ensure economic integration of emergent communities.
Prioritize Pathways to Property Ownership – Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act
Urban municipalities around the nation have implemented policies to promote channels for property ownership for longtime tenants, especially those with lower incomes. By creating a statewide variation of the ‘tenant opportunity to purchase act,’ we can create pathways to affordable home ownership. In essence, landlords must first offer their properties to current tenants for purchase before selling to new buyers and developers. Tax incentives can be offered to sellers for doing so.
Prioritize Pathways to Property Ownership – Lease-to-Own Homeownership
More lease-to-own style arrangements in the Bay Area will provide buyers, who do not qualify for mortgages, with alternative pathways to affordable home ownership. Through tax/insurance incentives for third-party mortgage holders, tenants can affordably rent their property until it is time for purchase. This process can increase long-term tenancy in existing housing units, facilitate investment in housing from lower-income residents, and protect tenants and their families from displacement or eviction from properties with exponentially rising rents. The state should also require housing authorities to be proactive with home choice vouchers.
Prioritize Pathways to Property Ownership – Incentives for Low-Income Ownership
Further, we propose amending investment criteria to allow early presale investment and offering streamlined approval of condominium plots in exchange for low income ownership of units. Enabling nonprofit agencies to guide low-income tenants toward low rate condominium and project investments will help provide East Bay residents with long term housing, build assets, and jumpstart local economic development around these new communities.
Protecting Low-Income Homeowners – Accessory and Junior Dwelling Units
To protect low income and/or credit challenged homeowners, California could provide financing and/or tax incentives for the construction of back yard units (ADUs or JDUs). These units can prevent displacement by raising the value of an underwater property, increasing incomes with collected rents, creating equity, which would allow families to age in place.
Protecting Low-Income Homeowners – Family Continuity of Ownership
Many families from disadvantaged backgrounds are being displaced via probate court. When the title holding family member passes without leaving a will, the property is often lost. This loss results in displacement and a loss of generational wealth. To fix this injustice, we propose the creation of a virtual trust by requiring the homebuyer, at point of recording, to name a beneficiary to the property and to then send a notification to the designee. Ultimately, this will eliminate the unsettling trend of Bay Area families facing displacement and will grant them a legal right to inherit the property and standing to correct arrears, following the passing of a family member.
In conclusion, it is vital we enact policies to Produce more affordable units, Preserve existing units, and Protect communities from displacement. As the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world, I believe it is our duty to give people a place of security and comfort, because Everyone in the East Bay Deserves a Home.

More Pension Math

More Pension Math

The real reason CalPERS hasn’t recovered.

Many legislators don’t understand why massive gains in the stock market have barely improved the Funded Ratio of California’s principal pension fund, CalPERS. The answer is simple: massive growth in liabilities.
See for yourself.
Below is a schedule of CalPERS’s Funding Progress. On June 30, 2009, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 8440, CalPERS reported assets of $179 billion and liabilities of $294 billion, producing a Funded Ratio of 61%. Fast forward to June 30, 2016 by which time the DJIA had risen more than 100 percent to 17,456 and CalPERS’s assets had grown more than 66 percent to $298 billion. Yet the Funded Ratio had risen only 11 percent, to 68 percent.

CalPERS 2016–17 Comprehensive Annual Report, page 119

That’s because by 2016 liabilities had grown to $437 billion, nearly 50 percent more than 2009. Because liabilities in 2009 were already 64 percent larger than assets, there’s no way assets could catch up, even with a fast-rising stock market.
That growth in liabilities was not a surprise. It’s the consequence of CalPERS’s board choosing to suppress the initial reported size of liabilities at the cost of explosive liability growth down the road, as explained here.  In other words, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel once pointed out, it’s the consequence of a lie.
Because of that lie, much worse is on the way, especially when the stock market takes a pause. The lie results in thefts from school, local and state budgets. Legislators will have their hands full addressing the consequences.

Why do progressives hate progress?

Friday, December 22, 2017

How a poor man to bought land and a built a home

The Deadly "Isms"

The Deadly "Isms"

People want politics to be simple. Left vs. right. Clinton vs. Trump. My side vs. your side. Elect the right guy, and things will be good!

The truth is more complicated.

Influential political philosophies created the mess we live with today, not just a political "left" and "right." There's socialism, conservatism, populism, progressivism, liberalism, scientism (eugenics), Marxism, totalitarianism, nationalism, fascism, Islamo-fascism, Nazism and probably others I missed.

But only two "isms" work well for ordinary people. More on them in a moment.

It's in the interests of politicians and activists to tell us society is divided into two armies, one good and one evil, with crushing defeat for one side just about to happen. When primitive parts of our brains see the world as "us vs. them," we're ready to fight each other.

We may not realize until it's too late that all those ideologies will reduce our freedom and increase the power of politicians.

Matt Kibbe, head of the group Free the People, calls them "the Deadly Isms" in a new series of online videos.

He urges people to stop wasting time worrying about which "ism" is on the left or right and worry more about how all threaten individual liberty.

Stalin was not the opposite of Hitler. Both were mass murderers who censored the press, seized control of industries and murdered innocent people. We don't benefit by choosing between communism and Nazism, or between the milder forms of them that still find adherents today: socialism and fascism.

Whether government gives you orders in the name of the working class or a superior race, it still takes away your right to do as you please.

On the other hand, there is an ideology that does leave us mostly free to do what we please. John Locke called it liberalism, saying that: "The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man."

We need some government to do some things -- keep the peace, for example -- but otherwise, government should mostly leave us alone.

Unfortunately, today's liberals stole Locke's word. Now liberalism means regulating most every detail of individual behavior and dividing people into grievance groups that use government to take each other's money and freedom.

Conservatism claims to love freedom, but its advocates don't mind government starting wars and crushing civil liberties of unpopular groups like drug users, immigrants, gamblers, sex workers and pornographers.

Today, both liberalism and conservatism are guilty of encouraging another ism: corporatism. That's what we get when government doles out special privileges to corporations and people who have more lawyers and lobbyists than you do.

A genuine free market rewards entrepreneurs who serve customers well. A government that hands out farm subsidies, wind-farm tax credits, mortgage deductions, etc., skews the economy in favor of those who are already rich. That's corporatism, or crony capitalism, or "crapitalism," and that's basically what we've got in America now.

Donald Trump practiced crapitalism. That's why cronies like Bill and Hillary Clinton attended his wedding. I don't blame Trump. When government has its fingers all over the economy, developers are smart to get cozy with the political class.

But when Trump ran for president, he didn't call himself a crony capitalist; he said he was a "populist." Sometimes he called it "popularist."

Populists are angry at the establishment.

But populism offers no solution. It leads instead to people following the will of self-appointed leaders who say they share the mob's anger. Bernie Sanders is called a populist, too.

Trump complains about regulations one day (I cheer), but then he complains about free trade the next. He seems to go wherever his moods, and the public's shifting moods, suggest. The anger is constant, but individual liberty suffers.

The only ism that doesn't threaten your freedom is liberalism (as originally defined) -- libertarianism, as we call it now.

Let's take power from the other deadly isms and leave people free.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Exodus Starts: Millennials Ditch City Life

Exodus Starts: Millennials Ditch City Life

by Tyler Durden
Dec 20, 2017 2:00 AM

The urban revival of America’s core inner cities has been a decades-long failed experiment, as deindustrialization coupled with failed liberal policies have created a growing problem of inequality and violent crime. Middle-class advancement was once localized in the core of America’s cities, but that is not so much the case today, as those areas are labeled a “barbell economy,” divided between highly-paid professionals and low-skill service workers.

Brookings Institution notes as early as the 1970s, middle-class income in the inner cities started to shrink more than anywhere else. Today, in most US inner cities, the cores are more unequal than their surrounding suburbs, noted geographer Daniel Herz.

As the failed American inner city experiment nears the latter stages before a collapsing point, a new report from Time could be the final nail in the coffin for some American inner cities, as the article suggests “cities have already reached ‘Peak Millennial’ as young people begin to leave.”

According to the latest Census data, after years of growth, the population of millennials in Boston and Los Angeles have declined since 2015, as a mass exodus from city life starts to take shape. Other cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., are experiencing similar issues but not as severe while growth rates of millennials plateau.

Dowell Myers, professor of demography at the University of Southern California, called the peak of the millennial population in major U.S. cities back in 2015, with the largest birth group of the cohort turning 27 this year. To note, Myers could be a far better forecaster than Dennis Gartman, but we’ll leave that for another conversation.

Myers said at the critical age of 27 and above, that is the time when the millennial generation will participate in, what we call, ‘millennial flight’ to the suburbs. Such a trend could be the final nail in the coffin for some American inner cities, who were expecting the millennial generation to lead the charge in the revival process, as what we’ve learned from Myers– that may not be the case.

The Times explains how Myers coined the term— ‘peak millennial’. Interesting, the plateauing of millennial populations are occurring in East Coast cities, while the West Coast is still drawing in young people.

To see which cities have reached “peak millennial” — a term Myers coined —we analyzed a decade of Census data through 2016. We found that while tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle are still drawing young people, large East Coast cities, like New York and D.C., are fast approaching peak millennial, with plateauing populations of those born between 1980 and 1996.

And then there are cities like Boston, which already appear to have reached their peak. Boston lost roughly 7,000 millennials in 2016, after a record high of 259,000 the previous year.

In the explanation of millennial flight from America’s inner cities, Jim Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce said, “they’re doing what every generation does — they get married, start a family and think about having a backyard and looking at school systems” in the suburbs.

While that is definitely true, and what we’ve mentioned above, millennials tend to live in core inner cities, where inequality and violent crime are sometimes out of control. Also, many millennials are becoming priced out of real estate in these areas, as wage stagnation is drowning many millennials into more and more debt, on top of their already ballooning balance sheet of liabilities. Think student loans….

In Boston, the millennial peak was confirmed in 2014 through 2015, as it appears it’s all downside from here. Rooney’s findings conclude millennials in the region are being priced out of homes with the median home in Boston around $561,000, according to Zillow.

In Chicago, the millennial plateau occurred in 2014 through 2015, hitting a high of 814,000 millennials in 2015 and falling by a few hundred in 2016. Jack Lavin, president of the area’s Chamber of Commerce said millennials are moving to the suburbs to start a family— ditching urban areas. Nevertheless, the article does not mention— the out of control homicides adding to the fear of city life.

In Los Angeles, the millennial peak was confirmed in 2015, which saw a decline of about 2,500 millennials in 2016. “It’s hard for millennials to achieve a middle-class lifestyle that they think they deserve”, said Myers. With that being said, millennials are moving out.

Bottomline: The ruling elite and their inner-city playground planners who were expecting the millennial generation to revive their decades-long failed experiment are about to come to harsh terms with the reality of a millennial exodus.

When Density Isn't Greener

A new study challenges some widely held assumptions about urban and suburban development.

Sprawl is not sustainable. That’s the basic assumption shaping high-rises, infill developments, and master plans in cities around the world—not to mention a guiding principle of this publication.
But a new report by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat challenges one of the central tenets of urbanism from a few unexpected angles. Comparing the daily patterns household-to-household, researchers found that certain transportation habits and overall energy use can be more environmentally efficient in suburban housing than residential high-rises.
To date, most research into urban sustainability—in terms of, say, gasoline guzzled, miles traveled, and water, heat and electricity consumption—has not examined household data in such granular detail. Studies that have generally concluded that suburbs are less efficient “are not building studies, but urban scale studies,” said Antony Wood, the executive director of the CTBUH and research professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture. “It’s urban Chicago versus total Chicago.”
Case study locations relative to central Chicago, showing major transportation systems. (CTBUH)
Wood and co-author, Peng Du, who is also a professor at IIT’s College of Architecture, wanted to capture more nuance than that. They created a survey comparing transportation patterns, energy consumption, and use of public space, which they administered to 249 households in four downtown Chicago high-rises and 273 single-family homes in Oak Park, a historic residential neighborhood. Over three months in 2014, respondents answered detailed questionnaires about their daily habits, and submitted 12 months worth of utility bills.
Wood and Du found many points of affirmation that urban life is indeed more sustainable. High-rise dwellers traveled more on public transit, walked and biked more, and made more efficient use of outdoor public space—no surprise there, since they lived closer to CTA stops, parks, and walkable amenities. The researchers also added up all the roads, water pipes, sewage lines, power and electricity supply required to serve the two types of households, and, glaringly, found that suburban development required roughly eight times more “infrastructure network length” per person than the downtown high rises.
Score one for dense urban development, right?

Overall, yes. But the details get more interesting. The building industry often assumes that suburban single-family homes require more energy to heat, light, and cool, since they have larger surface-to-volume ratios than smaller apartment units. But on a per-person basis, Wood and Du found that high-rise residents actually consumed about 27 percent more energy. On a per-floor area basis, probably because of all the shared hallways, elevators, gymnasiums, and lobbies, the downtown towers still consumed about 5 percent more energy than the suburban homes. Comparing travel habits, Wood and Du also unexpectedly found that downtown households actually traveled more miles by car, total, every year. The high rises also had more parking spaces per capita than the suburban dwellings.
What’s going on here? Demographic differences between the two groups in the study probably explain the surprising results. The large suburban households of Oak Park were full of kids, while the apartment towers held childless young professionals and empty nesters. That means, at least in a given room, more people are using the same amount of energy. Similarly, a stuffed minivan is more energy efficient than a lone commuter. “Suburban households were much more likely to have children that they bring with them during car travel,” the report states, “while single high-rise residents took more solo trips.”
This study is limited, but also important, because of the level of data it uses. On the one hand, its scope is much too small to make any sweeping conclusions about urban-vs-suburban eco-friendliness around the country or the world. Eventually Wood and Du would like to take on a larger-scale version with many more families, buildings, and neighborhood shapes. On the other hand, this pilot study offers quantified evidence that demographics count when it comes to environmental efficiency. A new LEED-certified apartment building near the subway may not be very eco-friendly if it’s full of people with resource-intensive lifestyles, as so many luxury developments are. Likewise, don’t get too pious about families out in the unsustainable suburbs: In some ways, they may be living greener than you are.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy Tax Cut Day. Now about that defense spending..

California Considers Placing A Mileage Tax On Drivers

California Considers Placing A Mileage Tax On Drivers

By Phil MatierDecember 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — California is moving closer to charging drivers for every mile they drive.

The state says it needs more money for road repairs, and the gas tax just isn’t bringing in enough revenue.

The state recently road-tested a mileage monitoring plan.

The California Road Charge Pilot Program is billed as a way for the state to move from its longstanding pump tax to a system where drivers pay based on their mileage.

But it’s not just a question about money, it’s also a question about fairness.

State Senator Scott Wiener and others are saying that when it comes to road taxes, it’s time to start looking at charging you by the mile rather than by the gallon.

“If you own an older vehicle that is fueled by gas, you’re paying gas tax to maintain the roads. Someone who has an electric vehicle or a dramatically more fuel efficient vehicle is paying much less than you are. But they are still using the roads,” Wiener said.

“People are going to use less and less gas in the long run,” according to Wiener.

And less gas means less gas tax, and less money for road repair.

“We want to make sure that all cars are paying to maintain the roads,” Wiener said.

One idea would be installing devices that would clock your mileage every time you pull up to the pump or electric car charging station. Or put a tracker on every car.

“The reality is that if you have a smartphone your data of where you are traveling is already in existence,” Wiener said.

None of this is sitting well with drivers such as Joshua Li, the owner of a hybrid BMW.

Li said he saves around $200 a month by not using gas and said he would definitely not be happy if his driving was taxed per mile.

Randy Rentschler, of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said one answer is to raise the gas tax and up the vehicle registration fee for electric cars.

“If you buy a small car that gets great fuel economy, we don’t get enough money to repair the roads … but the fact of the matter is people are buying trucks,” Rentschler said.

However, raising vehicle registration fees and taxing people with fuel-efficient, hybrid or electric vehicles could also discourage people from purchasing such vehicles.

Fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric vehicles are key to reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality around the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What is Social Justice?

"Social Justice" is a term you hear almost every day. But did you ever hear anybody define what it actually means? Jonah Goldberg of the American Enterprise Institute tries to pin this catchall phrase to the wall. In doing so, he exposes the not-so-hidden agenda of those who use it. What sounds so caring and noble turns out to be something very different.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Where Should Poor People Live?

Where Should Poor People Live?

Studies say that lower-income people do better when they live in affluent neighborhoods, but rich people don’t want them there. A few states are seeking ways around that resistance.



  • 8:55 AM ET

    Image Jim Fitzgerald / AP
    Jim Fitzgerald / AP

    AMHERST, Mass. — When Peter Gagliardi first heard about an owner looking to sell an old farmhouse in this college town, he thought it seemed like an ideal place for an affordable housing complex. The property was across the street from a bus stop, near a bike path, and had access to two different sewer lines. What’s more, the city of Amherst, concerned with rising housing prices, had made a commitment to developing more affordable housing for residents in the town and region.
    So Gagliardi’s nonprofit, HAPHousing, hired an architecture firm that would convert the farmhouse into 26 affordable units, a development that would blend into the bucolic landscape of ramshackle barns and rolling hills.
    But when the plan for the development, called Butternut Farms, ended up in front of the community, opposition was vociferous.
    “People basically said, ‘We’re in favor of affordable housing, but it shouldn’t be in a residential neighborhood,’” Gagliardi told me.

    In a zoning meeting about the development, some people said their children had been bullied when they lived in rental developments and didn’t want that to happen again. Others said there would be too much traffic if the development was built. Still others worried  that they would no longer be able to go into their backyards in their underwear. A young boy complained that the residents of the affordable-housing complex would run over the turtles that sometimes appeared in the neighborhood. Another resident complained that he used the property—which was private—to pick blueberries or race ATVs, and the development would put an end to all of that.
    “Some of the things that were said were on the hateful side,” Gagliardi said. “It happens often, it’s the Not In My Backyard Syndrome.”
    For more than a century, municipalities across the country have crafted zoning ordinances that seek to limit multi-family (read: affordable) housing within city limits. Such policies, known as exclusionary zoning, have led to increased racial and social segregation, which a growing body of work indicates limits educational and employment opportunities for low-income households.
    But Massachusetts has a work-around: A state statute, called 40B, allows developers to get around exclusionary zoning and build affordable housing in communities where only a small percentage of units are considered affordable. (A few other states have similar policies.) The statute, passed in 1969 and upheld by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in 1973, has led to the construction of 1,300 developments throughout the state, containing a total of 34,000 units of affordable housing, according to Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, or CHAPA.
    Projects built under 40B are almost always controversial: The statute was enacted in the first place because most communities outside of big cities didn’t permit multi-family housing, said Ann Verrilli, director of research at CHAPA. Even with the statute, communities often spend millions of dollars in legal fees to try and stop the projects, Verrilli told me.
    “There’s real resistance to change, resistance to development of any kind that may have school-aged kids,” she said.

    Butternut Farms, in Amherst, took 10 years to build. (Alana Semuels)
    The experience of developers trying to build affordable housing in Massachusetts takes on added significance now, as housing advocates wait for a decision on a landmark case in front of the Supreme Court that concerns where low-income housing projects are placed. The case, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, arose when a nonprofit housing group sued Texas, arguing that the state primarily distributed tax credits for low-income housing projects in minority-dominated areas. Inclusive Communities argued that doing so perpetuated segregation and violated the Fair Housing Act, which was passed in 1968 to prevent landlords, municipalities, banks and other housing providers from discriminating on the basis of race. The Supreme Court case centers on whether this discrimination has to be intentional in order to be illegal, or whether the Fair Housing Act also seeks to prevent policies that may not be intentionally discriminatory, but that have a “disparate impact” on minorities.

    Housing advocates say the parts of the Fair Housing Act being challenged in this case are important tools in ensuring the country does not become even more deeply segregated. As things are now, few states have policies in place that try and integrate communities or develop affordable housing in so-called “high opportunity” areas. And the process of bringing discrimination claims to court under the Fair Housing Act is a difficult and expensive one. The Supreme Court may yet make it even more difficult to build housing for poorer families in anywhere besides the poorest places.
    “This decision will have a very profound impact on millions of Americans going forward at a time when we need every tool we can use in the arsenal of civil rights actions to make sure we live up to the aspiration of providing equal opportunity and ending discrimination in this country,” said Dennis Parker, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of Inclusive Communities.
    To be sure, there are reasons—besides pure racism—why a wealthy community might resist the placement of affordable housing within city limits. Many municipalities already have trouble funding schools. With more houses and families but not much more of a tax base, their budget problems could get even worse. The small Massachusetts town where I grew up, and where my brother is a public-school teacher, has been enmeshed in debate over a 40B proposal at the same time voters were asked to increase taxes so the town could continue funding schools at adequate levels.
    But people who oppose 40B projects and other affordable housing developments often don’t have any complaints after the projects are built, according to research. A study out of Tufts University, “On The Ground: 40B Controversies Before and After looked at some of the most controversial 40B projects in Massachusetts that were completed before June 2006. It found that the concerns of residents expressed before construction were usually not realized, and that controversy evaporated after construction wrapped up.
    “This study provides significant evidence that the fears of new affordable housing development are far more myth than reality,” the study concluded.
    Similarly, Princeton professor Douglas Massey studied an affordable housing development in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, that local residents had complained would lower home values, increase crime rates, and cause local taxes to rise.
    He found that the development did none of those things. Many surrounding neighbors didn’t even know there was a housing project nearby.

    What’s more, the lives of residents in the housing development improved markedly after they moved to the affluent suburb. An increasing amount of data seems to show that location matters just as much as income in determining a child’s likelihood of escaping poverty. As I’ve written about before, children from low-income families who move to more affluent suburbs are more likely to graduate from high school, attend four-year colleges, and have jobs than their peers who stayed in the city. And cities that have made an effort to keep schools desegregated have enjoyed less race-based strife than peer cities.
    Still, affluent cities and towns often resist low-income housing projects: Despite 40B in Massachusetts, many areas of the state are falling back into the same segregation patterns that the Fair Housing Act sought to remedy nearly 50 years ago. Recent research showed, for example, that the Boston metro area has more racially concentrated areas of affluence (census tracts where 90 percent is white and wealthy) than any of America’s 20 biggest cities.
    There are few states or municipalities that have laws targeted at exclusionary zoning. Three states—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey—have “exemplary interventions” to address exclusionary zoning, according to a paperby Rachel G. Bratt and Abigail Vladeck of Tufts University. Montgomery County Maryland also has a similar intervention. Other states, such as Oregon and Texas, prohibit mandatory inclusionary zoning requirements. In places that don’t strive to promote integration, segregation is likely to be prevalent.
    “The market is going to work to de facto disadvantage lower-income residents,” Bratt told me. “The theory is that in order to deal with segregated patterns, you need to have proactive policies to deal with it.”
    Many affordable housing units in the suburbs are a direct result of court cases, and even enforcement of those programs are lax. In 2009, Westchester County in New York signed a desegregation agreement and agreed to build and market hundreds of apartments for moderate-income minorities after a court found it had misled HUD by applying for funds that it said it would use to integrate housing, and then did the opposite. Four years later, the county had not complied with the provisions.
    New Jersey is one of the few states that bars wealthy towns from excluding affordable housing, largely because of court decisions relating to the Mount Laurel case, but even those have been under attack. Governor Chris Christie attempted to disassemble the state agency overseeing affordable housing and wanted to allow municipalities to decide how much affordable housing to allow. A state appeals court blocked these attempts, but the instance points to the fact that affordable housing programs are being challenged in the few states that have them.
    In Massachusetts, a group put an initiative on the ballot in 2010 that sought to repeal 40B. The coalition for repealing the law said that the statute “has destroyed communities in rural, suburban and urban neighborhoods alike, while lining the pockets of out-of-state speculators.”

    The repeal effort failed, 58 percent to 42 percent, and Marc Draisen, the executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a state planning group, says he thinks the law now has widespread support. But that doesn’t mean it has gotten any easier to build affordable housing.
    Most developers don’t want to do mixed-income developments, and prefer to build market-rate buildings where they won’t have to face any community resistance or years of legal wrangling. That’s even in a state that’s seen by many as a leader in encouraging the construction of affordable housing in communities that don’t really want it.
    “40B is a legal tool but it doesn’t eliminate prejudice,” Draisen told me.  “Some people just do not want low-income housing in their communities.”
    This prejudice won’t likely change soon, no matter what the Supreme Court decides in Texas v. Inclusive Communities. Housing advocates see some hope in an impending HUD rule, which may make it harder for communities to show this prejudice. HUD wants to stipulate that all areas receiving federal funds for low-income housing show that they are proactively promoting integration,housing experts say.
    Still, the government currently lacks the resources to ensure that every community promotes integrated housing. It may be up to developers like Peter Gagliardi to continue to keep fighting to do so. And he can hold up Butternut Farms as an example of how it can work.
    The development is located off a two-lane road near Hampshire College, a campus with rolling green hills, barns, and unobtrusive brick buildings. The 26 units blend right in: They are distributed in a few red barn-like structures and one yellow multi-family house, surrounded by trees and set back from the road, located up a sloping driveway.

    Butternut Farms, from the road (Alana Semuels)
    Gagliardi first set foot on this property in 2000. The homes opened to tenants in 2011. The intervening decade was threaded with court cases, appeals, and $150,000 worth of legal costs for HAP, despite pro bono legal assistance.
    The project, which involved the construction of three detached buildings of eight units of housing each and renovating the farmhouse to include two new units, violated parts of Amherst’s zoning bylaws regarding parking and housing density in residential areas. But that's the point of 40B—it allows developers to get around those laws if the housing they are building is affordable.
    The local zoning board approved HAP’s application to build a 26-unit rental development in 2002, but neighbors immediately filed suit to annul the approval. When a Land Court judge upheld the permit, neighbors appealed. When the case went to the state Supreme Judicial Court, justices decided on behalf of HAP, in 2007.
    “Our conclusion does not ‘needlessly infringe’ on the ‘settled property rights of abutters,’” the justices wrote. “Rather, our conclusion takes into account that the Legislature ‘has clearly delineated that point where local interests must yield to the general public need for housing.’”
    A few weeks before the first tenants moved into the apartments in 2011, a rare tornado blew through nearby Springfield, destroying dozens of affordable housing units there.
    “I pointed out the irony it took us 10 years to get 26 units built here, but at the same time, many times that number of units of affordable housing were destroyed in a brief time of a tornado,” Gagliardi said.
    It’s a happy ending, but the problems that face Peter Gagliardi now face the nation. The country will have to grapple with how to house low-income residents in areas of opportunity, or bear more racial strife. After all, if Gagliardi had so much trouble in a liberal town in Massachusetts, a state with some of the strongest affordable-housing laws in the country, is there any reason to believe developers will be able to build affordable housing in affluent areas in the rest of the country, especially without the benefit of the Fair Housing Act?