Agencies issue final rule to strengthen and modernize Community Reinvestment Act regulations
Federal bank regulatory agencies today jointly issued a final rule to strengthen and modernize regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to better achieve the purposes of the law. The CRA is a landmark law enacted nearly 50 years ago to encourage banks to help meet the credit needs of their entire communities, especially in low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods, in a safe and sound manner.
DOT Pledges TOD Funds for Conversion of Downtown Offices to Housing
The severity of commercial building vacancies and the housing crisis have drawn bipartisan attention, forcing many government and city officials, as well as property investors, nonprofit housing service providers and others, to scramble for solutions. One potential solution is to convert unoccupied commercial spaces into residential spaces. In this morning’s release, the Biden Administration provided a guidebook, detailing case studies and resources for navigating available programs, to compliment the Housing Supply Action Plan released in May of last year. The guidebook is an “all government” approach for commercial-to-residential conversions, providing information on all federal programs available to address this challenge while maintaining an emphasis on the Administration priorities of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction.
Big Win for ADUs: FHA To Count Rental Income for Mortgages
Under previous rules, only a duplex qualified as rental income for mortgage purposes. The revisions will also help existing homeowners finance new ADUs via the FHA’s renovation loan program. “The new policies provide greater flexibility for the use of rental income from ADUs, which will help more borrowers qualify for FHA-insured financing on homes with ADUs,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housing Sarah Edelman in a release.
Creating Affordable Housing is a Priority for ADU Owners
Notably, 20 percent of homeowners surveyed constructed ADUs with the explicit intention of contributing to the availability of affordable housing in their neighborhoods. Additionally, over 60 percent of these homeowners indicated that their ADUs were designed to facilitate multigenerational housing arrangements, allowing family members such as adult children or retired parents to reside closer to relatives. The report also delves into the influence of ADUs on renters. Among those currently residing full-time in an ADU, a substantial 60 percent disclosed that they are now able to live in a neighborhood that would have otherwise been financially out of reach. Further, an additional 43 percent of renters reported that ADUs have brought them closer to employment opportunities. Notably, more than a quarter of renters also mentioned that ADUs enabled them to enroll their children in top-rated schools, underscoring the positive impact of these units on their lives.
Affordable housing expansion proposed at 16th Street Mall office space (paywall)
Chuck Perry has been working on a 16th Street Mall building since the early 1990s. Now, he’s hoping to usher in a new era for downtown Denver, just like he did 30 years ago. Perry submitted a concept plan to the city last week to convert nearly 75,000 square feet of office space into 55 new units of affordable housing at 700 16th St., otherwise known as the Denver Dry Goods Building. The plan is contingent on the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) approving his application for 4% low-income housing tax credits to help bring the project to fruition. The units would be available to future tenants making between 30% to 80% of the area median income. Perry won’t know until CHFA approves its low-income tax credits, which CHFA said it will be announcing in mid-November. Currently, the building has 51 existing affordable housing units, as well as a number of market-rate condo units. The project is also proposing improvements to the existing 51 units’ energy systems on floors four through six. Perry estimated that the project would cost between $55 million and $60 million.
REAL ESTATE AND MOBILITY
Transportation Transformations – How Highway Conversions Can Pave the Way for More Inclusive and Resilient Places
Cities from Pittsburgh to Toronto to San Francisco are retrofitting or removing highways to create connected sidewalks, art installations, and parks. And they are installing features to manage stormwater and mitigate the effects of extreme heat. Community groups, engaged citizens, public-sector agencies, and real estate developers have formed cross-sector coalitions to ensure that new infrastructure supports resilience, economic prosperity, and equitable development.
Many office returns are stalling. Employees say these perks will change the game. (paywall)
“The annual return-to-office power struggle that happens each fall has arrived yet again, as we’re seeing companies beg, entice and force their employees to show their faces around the water cooler — even if it’s against their will,” said Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs. “People don’t want to spend time and money on frequent office pilgrimages if they’re just going to be sitting on the same video calls they’d be doing in the comfort of their own homes or on tasks that they feel less productive doing from the office.” Commuting adds up, too, with workers losing thousands of dollars in both incurred costs and lost time, according to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Employers do appear to be taking note, albeit slowly. In the past two years, job postings citing commuter benefits rose 43%, according to an analysis by workforce and labor demographic firm Lightcast. However, that still represents a small portion of job postings overall, at 1.1%.
How One American City Reclaimed a Highway (and It Paid Off Big Time)
Facing a slew of transportation and economic development challenges in 1990, the city of Rochester, New York, decided to reclaim its urban expressway. Called the Inner Loop, it occupied a 2.68-mile belt around downtown Rochester, cutting off historic neighborhoods and resulting in the destruction of 1,300 homes and businesses. The highway was considered overbuilt almost as soon as it was finished in 1965, with excess capacity for a metropolitan area whose decline led to a diminishing number of inbound commuters and residents.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, Spreading Fast, Come in Varying Shapes, Speeds
Charging stations come in many varieties and brand names. Some require prepaid subscriptions or on-site payments, but others are free. ChargePoint, Blink, Electrify America and EVgo operate some of the largest EV charging station networks. Convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K are rolling out chargers with their own brand names. It’s essential that more EV charging stations are installed across the country, Dylan Jones, mobility lab director at architecture firm Gensler, wrote in a Sept. 13 blog post. But the consumer experience has been largely neglected. That also must change, he said.
The Future of Electric Vehicle Charging: A Guide for Commercial Real Estate Developers
Understanding different business models for EV charging is crucial as it can influence investment and revenue opportunities. There are several options, such as leasing the site to network operators who handle the infrastructure investment, equipment and maintenance. In return, they might pay rent or offer a revenue-sharing solution based on usage. Alternatively, some landlords own and maintain the EV charging equipment. While this requires upfront costs, it offers more control over the charging rates, access to customer data and other revenue opportunities, such as contracting with fleet customers.
The sure-fire way to save America’s cities? Do what Tokyo does.
Despite facing many of the same pressures of scarce land and a growing population, the city of 14 million builds much more housing — and much more quickly — than US cities do. Since the 1960s, Tokyo has tripled its housing supply, while New York’s has grown by only about a third. And because housing is far more abundant in Japan’s capital, it’s also cheaper. The median Japanese tenant spends about 20% of their disposable income on rent (in America it’s 30%). Rent for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo, which Americans are fawning over as “the new Paris,” is a quarter of what it is in New York.
Eminent domain was used to evict a Chinatown family. Now it might help them stay housed
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in 2021 to explore the use of eminent domain to acquire Hillside Villa, a 124-unit apartment complex in Chinatown where she has lived for 30 years with her husband, daughter and now grandson. Her apartment building’s affordability covenant kept rents low until it expired in 2018. Then came rent hikes and eviction notices. Now the city wants to buy Hillside Villa, an olive green and red painted four-story complex with a landscaped central courtyard and a small front yard shaded by mature trees — and keep it affordable. If the effort fails, Hernandez worries she’ll be separated from her family.
Here’s What We Do and Don’t Know About the Effects of Remote Work (paywall)
Studies of productivity in work-from-home arrangements are all over the map. Some papers have linked remote work with productivity declines of between 8 and 19 percent, while others find drops of 4 percent for individual workers; still other research has found productivity gains of 13 percent or even 24 percent. Nick Bloom, an economist at Stanford and a prolific scholar on remote work, said the new set of studies showed that productivity differed among remote workplaces depending on an employer’s approach — how well trained managers are to support remote employees and whether those employees have opportunities for occasional meet-ups. Researchers tend to agree that many workplaces have settled into a new hybrid phase, in which offices are at about half their prepandemic occupancy levels and about a quarter of American workdays are done from home. That suggests some of the effects of remote work may stick. As Mr. Bloom put it: “This is the new normal.”
‘People are happier in a walkable neighborhood’: the US community that banned cars
Culdesac ushered in its first 36 residents earlier this year and will eventually house around 1,000 people when the full 760 units, arranged in two and three-story buildings, are completed by 2025. In an almost startling departure from the US norm, residents are provided no parking for cars and are encouraged to get rid of them. The apartments are also mixed in with amenities, such as a grocery store, restaurant, yoga studio and bicycle shop, that are usually separated from housing by strict city zoning laws.
Office-to-Residential Conversions: Mandates, Myths, and Possibilities (podcast)
Hybrid work continues to evolve across North America. With vacancy rates skyrocketing since the pandemic began, an “urban doom loop” is endangering the vitality and economic drivers of our central business districts. In this episode of the Gensler Design Exchange podcast, Steven Paynter and Duanne Render of Gensler are joined by Kate Collignon of HR&A and Egon Terplan from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. They weigh the opportunities and challenges of one proposed solution: converting the stockpile of empty offices into desperately needed housing. Through insightful case studies and data-driven analysis, listeners gain key insights into making office-to-residential conversions a reality — or discovering alternate pathways to rescue our downtowns from becoming ghost towns.
Wendy’s just redesigned itself for the Uber Eats era
Food delivery apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats had been steadily growing since launching a few years earlier, and Wendy’s executives began to see that fewer customers were sitting in their dining rooms or idling in drive-throughs. Increasingly, people were getting their burgers and fries through third-party delivery services picking up orders that had been placed online. That observation—combined with the online ordering bonanza of the pandemic—has led to a complete rethinking of how Wendy’s designs, builds and operates more than 7,000 restaurants around the world.
Why Smaller CBDs Are Bouncing Back First: New Research Takes a Look at the Diverging Paths of Recovery
A diminished demand for proximity to large employment centers is driving down office asset values, according to Green Street. In addition, research—conducted by Stanford University Department of Economics researchers Arjun Ramani and Nicholas Bloom, using data from the U.S. Postal Service and Zillow—that was released during the pandemic revealed that major urban areas have undergone residential migration from densely populated zip codes toward their less-crowded counterparts. This shift seems particularly pronounced for higher-income earners, as detailed earlier this year by economists Wenli Li of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Yichen Su of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Retail, both in terms of businesses and employment, appears to be following a comparable pattern.
The stakes are high for downtown recoveries. Here’s how Denver stacks up. (paywall)
When it comes to getting people back downtown, Denver isn’t leading the pack. That’s according to new data from the University of Toronto School of Cities and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, which have been analyzing GPS data from more than 18 million North American smartphones to determine how downtown visits compare to pre-pandemic totals. In Denver, downtown visits are now 67% of their 2019 levels. By comparison, the national average is 74%.
Diesel, gas-powered vehicles to be banned in city center
Sweden’s capital said this week it would ban conventional diesel- and gas-powered vehicles from entering a significant part of its downtown, in what is one of Europe’s most ambitious efforts to combat automobile emissions. The plan, announced Tuesday by the vice mayor for transport, Lars Strömgren, will allow only vehicles that run on electricity or natural gas in a 20-block zone. The only exceptions are plug-in hybrid vans and vehicles driven by certified physically impaired drivers, police and emergency workers.
Pete Buttigieg explains electric vehicles
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg joins David Pakman to discuss electric vehicles, renewable energy, public transit, his viral moments on Fox News and during Congressional hearings, and much more.
How Denver stacks up as mass transit systems flounder across the U.S. (paywall)
Data estimates show that by the end of 2023, Denver metro public transportation levels will only be 61% of the decade high in 2019. – When mass transit activity is measured against office occupancy, all metros with ridership dips at or above 30% also show office vacancy of at least 11%. In Silicon Valley, where knowledge workers pivoted to working remotely during the pandemic, ridership is down 31%, and local groups don’t foresee a return to the pre-pandemic office environment. “The optionality that remote work provides puts us in a situation that we’ve never been in before,” said Ahmad Thomas, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “It is hard for me to envision an environment, especially in Silicon Valley with the companies I work with, where we are reverting to a five-day office workweek for many of the skilled workers.”
RTD’s two-month Zero Fare for Better Air added 1.1 million riders
Ridership grew by 1.1 million passenger boardings, a 10% increase over last year’s program, which lasted one month. The more than 6 million passengers during July and August represented the largest number of RTD customers since the pandemic disrupted commuter habits, RTD reported in a news release. RTD hopes the people who traveled on free public transportation were satisfied with the experience and continue to use the buses and commuter and light rail trains.
Boulder Installs Protected Bike Lane Infrastructure New to the U.S.
The tall curbs will replace existing striped buffers and flexible white posts at strategic, prioritized locations on Baseline Road between 30th Street and Foothills Parkway. Ongoing work, along with community feedback, will help inform more significant improvements during the next phase of work beginning in 2024. Several of the tall curbs will showcase art from a local artist selected from the city’s mural roster.
What if the massive Colfax-Federal super-intersection was totally transformed?
For years, community groups and street safety advocates have pushed for sweeping changes to the massive “cloverleaf” interchange at Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue on the city’s west side that they say acts as a car-centric barricade between neighborhoods. Last week, they got proof that city and state transportation leaders have finally listened. The Colorado Department of Transportation, with the support of the city and county of Denver, is applying for a federal “Reconnecting Communities” planning grant that could start a years-long process of removing the cloverleaf and restoring some of the street grid that once existed there.
Will the charging networks arrive in time?
“We’re going to have the ability to produce and deliver millions of EVs,” said MIT Professor Charles Fine at the final session this semester of the MIT Mobility Forum. “It’s not clear we’re going to have the ability to charge them. That’s a huge, huge mismatch.” Indeed, making EV charging stations as ubiquitous as gas stations could spur a major transition within the entire U.S. vehicle fleet. While the automaker Tesla has built a network of almost 2,000 charging stations across the U.S., and might make some interoperable with other makes of vehicles, independent companies trying to develop a business out of it are still trying to gain significant traction.
Over 1,400 Municipalities Have Altered Parking Minimums In Affordable Housing Push. Has It Worked?
“Parking is really expensive, and the obligation to provide parking can break projects that would otherwise succeed,” Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World, said in an interview earlier this year. But one size doesn’t fit all. It is a misconception that affordable housing in general needs less parking, Qumseya said, adding that suburban projects often require even more parking because residents commute to jobs in the city. “The parking is driven by the demographic and the needs,” he said. “We do our own analysis to see whether there is sufficient demand for parking.”
Title V: Little-Known Government Program Could Provide Big Solution to Homeless Crisis
“Title V has been in existence for more than 30 years, and it states that surplus federal buildings and property must be evaluated and made available to nonprofit organizations and state and local governments to serve unhoused people,” says Antonia Fasanelli, executive director of the National Homelessness Law Center in Washington, D.C. “In our experience, nonprofit agencies and state and local governments need developers to assist them when they want to provide housing for unhoused people.”
How will driverless cars ‘talk’ to pedestrians? Waymo has a few ideas
The Alphabet-owned company’s driverless Jaguar I-Pace vehicles will use their roof domes, which are wrapped in LED displays, to communicate messages to other road users. For now, the company is going with just two messages: for pedestrians in front of the vehicle, shifting grey and white rectangles meant to communicate that the vehicle is yielding to them, and for drivers behind the vehicle, a yellow pedestrian symbol to let them know there’s a pedestrian crossing. The symbols join other visual and audio cues that Waymo employs to “talk” to other road users. The company has used its roof dome to display the initials of the customer who is hailing the ride and to signal to cyclists that a passenger intends to open the door. Waymo also uses external audio alerts to communicate with emergency responders or to explain what the vehicle is going to do next, like rerouting.
RTD reports a 10% year-over-year increase in boardings during Zero Fare for Better Air
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is reporting a 10% increase in the overall number of boardings on bus, rail and paratransit services during the recent Zero Fare for Better Air initiative. When compared with the same period last year, an additional 1,106,567 customer boardings occurred on RTD’s system during the months of July and August. Boardings during the two-month initiative reflect the largest number of customers RTD has had on its system since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted ridership in March 2020.
Colorado Motor Carriers Association sues Vail over delivery vehicle ban
Kris Widlak, the town’s director of communications, said in a statement on Wednesday that the town believes its regulations are legal,” but also that “they are essential for the safety of our residents and guests.” “Our aim is to provide the safest and best experience possible in our pedestrian malls,” Widlak added. The town of Vail enacted its loading and delivery ordinance in August 2022, prohibiting motor vehicle traffic in its pedestrian areas. The town’s ordinance implemented an e-courier delivery program contracted through 106West. The program is designed to have carriers purchase a dock permit for one of the town’s loading docks to keep delivery vehicles from entering pedestrian areas. Goods are then unloaded and delivered into the villages using electric carts.