August 14, 2005


Goodbye, commute: Middle-income earners line up to buy new homes popping up near their workplaces. (Diane Wedner, August 14, 2005, LA Times)

THEY extinguish fires, teach children, tend the ill and run small businesses in urban areas. What they cannot do is find homes they can afford near those jobs. But faster than anyone imagined, relief is coming to Inglewood, Oxnard, Pomona, Covina, South Park, Palm Springs and other Southern California communities where middle-class workers are starved for housing.

Major players such as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, John Laing Homes, Watt Communities and the California Public Employees' Retirement System already this year have pumped millions of dollars into transforming abandoned factory sites and empty lots into high-density neighborhoods for those who want to live close to their work.

CityView, Cisneros' workforce-housing development company, had about 2,000 homes underway statewide in the first quarter of 2005. By the end of the year, it will have invested $750 million in moderate-priced housing, most of it already under construction. The company, which burst on the scene two years ago with $40 million in start-up money from CalPERS, the largest U.S. pension fund, has received $260 million more to develop workforce housing in a dozen California locales, including the San Fernando Valley, Azusa and San Jose.

Local and state governments are in on the act too, easing zoning rules for builders, expediting the permit process and tossing in various tax credits.

Another shot in the arm could come from the Housing America's Workforce Act, introduced this summer in the U.S. Senate, which would give companies that help eligible employees buy homes a 50-cent tax credit for every dollar they provide, up to $10,000 or 6% of the purchase price.

Workers who earn 80% to 120% of an area's median income — the targeted purchasers of workforce housing — need all the help they can get. A buyer had to earn $124,320 a year to afford the California median-priced home of $530,430 in the second quarter. Bu

No one in our neighborhood of Dartmouth College employees could afford to live in Hanover, NH otherwise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 14, 2005 12:00 AM
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