Washington and Baltimore were among 14 cities selected yesterday for a pilot program involving home builders, mayors and the federal government and designed to get home construction going again big time in America's cities.
The cities, selected by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo, were announced at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Housing Act of 1949. That landmark law made housing a national priority after World War II, when American soldiers came marching home to a national housing shortage.
Today's housing situation is very different. Last week the home ownership rate reached a record high--67 percent--and the hot economy continues to drive new interest in urban redevelopment. But Cuomo said the nation also has a record number of low-income families paying too much for rent, many of whom live in cities with widespread substandard housing. Barriers to urban rebirth, a spokesman for the National Association of Home Builders said, include cumbersome permitting and regulatory processes.
To meet the urban challenge, HUD, the NAHB and the U.S. Conference of Mayors agreed in February to work toward building an extra 1 million new houses in cities over the next 10 years. The 14 pilot cities will serve as models for speeding that construction.
HUD is not providing extra funding, but it has promised to help pilot cities identify federal programs that ease home building and it will offer specially trained staff to work on the joint effort.
Each pilot city has its own priorities. The District's say the city will "develop plans to quickly dispose of abandoned homes; work with home builders to increase access to building . . . where there is a strong demand for new homes; . . . and create a 'one-stop' system for building permits."
The District also plans to identify sites for in-fill development.
Baltimore, among other things, will sell vacant houses and lots for $1 to developers and provide relocation funds, waive some fees and code and site requirements to reduce project costs, and provide city bond funds to help city employees buy houses.
The other pilot cities are Buffalo; Chicago; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Houston; Louisville; Philadelphia; Sacramento; Tampa; San Antonio; and St. Louis.