Photo: Flickr user Steven Bevacqua.

This week, an artist improves bus stops in Los Angeles, new insights into how undervalued homes in majority black neighborhoods are and a reflection on the promise and pitfalls of rent control.

Title Page

Meet the Anonymous Artist Installing Bus Benches at Neglected Stops on L.A.'s Eastside. Los Angeles Times.

Introduction

Google Village Could Bring 25,000 Jobs to Downtown San Jose: Study. Mercury News.

“This report validates that with this development, we are about to create downtown San Jose 2.0,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with San Jose-based Silicon Valley Synergy, a land use consultancy. “The number of office workers, the daytime population, the retail and the restaurants, that is all going to change.”

Executive Summary

Only about 10 percent of neighborhoods in metropolitan areas are majority black, but those neighborhoods contain about 37 percent of the overall black population in the country, according to a new report from Broookings' Metropolitan Policy Program and Gallup. The report, using census and real estate data, found that in those neighborhoods where the black population is at least 50 percent of the overall population, homes were "valued at roughly half the price as homes in neighborhoods with no black residents." In other words, the demographic composition of a neighborhood imposed a "large financial penalty" for residents through valuation gaps.

The report took into account questions of the neighborhood and home quality as well, still finding that "homes of similar quality in neighborhoods with similar amenities are worth 23 percent less in majority black neighborhoods, compared to those with very few or no black residents." Furthermore, in metropolitan areas with bigger valuation gaps, segregation tends to be worse. The researchers also found that upward mobility for black children in those neighborhoods tended to be more limited in metropolitan areas with greater devaluations. 

There are a number of consequences cited in the report. But it's worth looking to two local studies here in Harris County to get a glimpse as to how valuation can works. The first deals specifically with the appraisal industry. Sociologists Elizabeth Korver-Glenn and Junia Howell found that, in Harris County, "even when holding home size and quality constant, houses in White neighborhoods are worth 2.5 times more than houses in Hispanic neighborhoods and 3.7 times more than houses in Black neighborhoods." In interviews with appraisal industry workers, Korver-Glenn said, "The very first thing that became clear to me was that the appraisers were using neighborhood racial composition as a way to gauge neighborhood comparability."

The second study from Korver-Glenn looked at the entire home-buying process to show how race and racism shaped each step to compound the impacts of discrimination, reinforcing the segregation and devaluation noted in the Brookings and Gallup report.

"Ultimately, I think that the compounding inequalities I observed perpetuate segregation and associated inequalities in education, wealth, and health (among others) in Houston," Korver-Glenn wrote in an email, "and will continue to do so unless there is a significant collective will to intervene in discriminatory practices and the private market institutions that enable them."

Conclusion

After falling out of favor in the 1970s and 1980s, rent control is making a comeback, writes Stateline staff writer Teresa Wiltz, but is that necessarily a good thing?

"Supporters argue rent control is the quickest and easiest way to provide relief to renters in danger of being priced out of their homes," writes Wiltz. "But critics say it just makes the problem worse, by causing renters to hold fast to large apartments they may no longer need and by pushing many landlords out of the rental housing business."

In addition to some state restrictions hampering cities, many question whether rent control effectively alters the housing crisis. "A January study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that rent control creates both winners and losers — even among renters," notes Wiltz. "Longtime renters who have been living in rent-controlled units benefit greatly from rent control, while newcomers end up paying higher rents because the supply of available units is constricted."

In the end, rent control is just one tool of many, a point senior policy fellow Mark Willis of New York University underscores. Calling for a "comprehensive and balanced plan" to address affordable housing need, Wiltz notes that Willis feels "cities need to build more affordable housing, preserve existing affordable housing units; help people stay in their homes and help tenants find housing in resource-rich, 'high opportunity' neighborhoods."

Endnotes