John Oliver Gives New Insight into Affordable Housing Crisis
In the latest installment of his “Coronavirus” series of episodes, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver discussed the affordable housing crisis in the U.S. Oliver focused specifically on how the crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19, particularly for those who are facing eviction. As with his other Coronavirus-themed episodes, this one, unfortunately, is quite bleak.
Alison George, Director of the Colorado Division of Housing reports Coloradans have been strong in our collective response to COVID-19. Nearly $70,000,000 in combined resources currently dedicated by Governor Jared Polis, Colorado’s legislature, and the U.S Congress in Colorado are successfully deployed to meet the housing challenges introduced or exacerbated by COVID-19.
RTD PROJECTS AGENCY WILL FEEL ECONOMIC IMPACTS FROM COVID-19 FOR SEVERAL YEARS
RTD staff said 2021 revenue from fares and sales and use tax is likely to fall by more than a third from previous projections, though some Board members noted at a special study session Tuesday that recent reports indicate the metro economy could come back faster and restore revenue. If the new 2021 budget estimate proves true, RTD faces a $252 million shortfall unless it massively redesigns its system and staffing and makes major cuts to operations and wages, the new assessment said.
The RTD Board of Directors, Gov. Jared Polis and state legislators announced an agreement to appoint an 11-member accountability committee to review and recommend changes to the transit agency’s operations and planning by next year.
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) announced that it will open its newest commuter rail corridor, the N Line, on Sept. 21. The rail line will serve Denver, Commerce City, Northglenn and Thornton and include a stop at the National Western Complex. The N Line includes six new stations, with a total of 2,480 new parking spaces. A trip between Union Station and Eastlake-124th Station, the current end-of-line stop, will take about 29 minutes to travel 13 miles. is part of RTD’s 2004 voter-approved FasTracks program to expand transit across the Denver metro region. When the corridor is complete, the entire 18.5-mile N Line will reach North Adams County and include two additional stations as funds become available.
The future of downtown Denver’s transportation system: rebalancing streets for people who don’t drive, smoother deliveries and maybe a gondola?
Denver City Council Member Paul Kashmann reports Kentro Group is continuing with plans to develop two former Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) sites in the Virginia Village/Cook Park neighborhoods. Kentro representative, Chris Viscardi said that the Site Development Plan for 198 for-sale townhomes at 2000 S Holly Street is close to being completed. Demolition of the old CDOT buildings is expected to begin this summer with horizontal construction starting shortly after. Kentro’s partnership was awarded tax credits for the approximately 63-unit senior housing project, to be built north of the townhome development, that will be deed-restricted affordable and offer specific services to accommodate seniors in the community. They have begun design and expect to break ground in the second half of 2021.
At the former CDOT HQ site at 4201 E Arkansas Ave, obtaining an anchor tenant has been an important piece of the development since the onset of the project. Kentro has “made great progress” in securing a grocery store for the project. According to Viscardi, once the anchor is signed, they will begin marketing to “local/regional restaurants and retail uses for the ground floor portion of the project. “Over the last several months we have continued to work with our team of architects/urban planners to deliver the best possible vision for the project. We hope to have our vision codified and be in position to share with the community fairly soon”. Kentro is resubmitting an application for affordable housing tax credits – for which they were turned down last year – to deliver the 150 units of deed-restricted apartments to which they are committed. Awards should be issued by CHFA in November of this year.
REAL ESTATE AND MOBILITY
How Will the Pandemic Impact the Built Environment?
Christopher Leinberger, a land use strategist, developer, and author, said correlations between COVID-19 and metropolitan area density are “spurious and unproven.” He said “walkable urbanism has been through this before — crime, terrorism, and now the pandemic.” There are three challenges to a rebound in cities: “lost jobs in the ‘experience economy’ — retail, restaurants, sports, and festivals — which is what makes ‘walkable urbanism’ special; transit safety; and land costs.” He blames zoning and not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) forces for skyrocketing land costs and gentrification in cities like Washington, D.C. The answer is allowing greater density where land prices are high and making walkable, mixed-use development legal in more places.
I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing – Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?
The pandemic should not stop us. There is little evidence that public transit is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in New York or elsewhere; some cities with heavily used transit systems, including Hong Kong, have been able to avoid terrible tolls from the virus. If riders wear face masks — and if there are enough subway cars, buses, bike lanes and pedestrian paths for people to avoid intense overcrowding — transit might be no less safe than cars, in terms of the risk of the spread of disease. In all other measures of safety, transit is far safer than cars.
Urban form and travel to completely change after COVID-19
The study reveals that one of the drastic blows of this pandemic shall be the ending of the inner city or central business district culture (CBD). Currently, most city forms have a dense central business district approach, with concentration of office spaces. Peak travel flows during the day are oriented towards these CBDs. But a strong 81 per cent respondents feel that in the future, companies will have less office spaces due to growing work-from-home activities. It will lead to reduced demand for office spaces and travel. This is supported by 62 per cent respondents. This will have implications for commercial real estate and office space in the post-COVID era.
Latest data indicates future may involve a split between home, workplace
According to a new survey by Morning Consult, 47% of those working remotely say that once it is safe to return to work, their ideal arrangement would be to continue working from home 1-4 days a week. Forty percent would work from home every day, and just 14% would return to the office every day. In the Survey of Business Uncertainty — by the Atlanta Fed, Stanford and the University of Chicago — employers predicted that post-pandemic, 27% of their full-time employees would continue working from home, most for a few days a week. Other surveys of firms have shown that they expect at least 40% of employees to keep working remotely.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay, But Office Footprints Likely Won’t Shrink
The report forecast that office space size will generally remain unchanged, even though companies have been successful overall with workers performing their jobs remotely. Going forward, companies will allow employees more flexibility to work remotely, but any savings in square footage will be offset by the need for greater space for social distancing.
The Car Is King Once More: Markets With Less Transit Could Be More Popular
While recent studies in Paris, Austria and Hong Kong dispute the notion that taking mass transit gives riders a high risk of contracting the coronavirus, the damage to its reputation has been severe. Transit systems across the country are suffering from a huge drop in ridership. Global transit ridership was down on average by more than 70% in April compared to pre-pandemic levels, as people sheltered in place and experts warned about exposure in trains and subways, according to data compiled by Transit, a transportation app provider. Ridership levels have slowly recovered since, but are still down by more than 50%.
The long, unhappy history of working from home
Tech companies proceeded to spend billions on ever more lavish campuses that employees need never leave. Facebook announced plans in 2018 for what were essentially dormitories. Amazon redeveloped an entire Seattle neighborhood. When Patrick Pichette, the former chief financial officer at Google, was asked, “How many people telecommute at Google?” he said he liked to answer, “As few as possible.” That calculus has abruptly changed. Facebook expects up to half its workers to be remote as soon as 2025. The chief executive of Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company that employs 5,000 people, tweeted in May that most of them “will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.” Walmart’s tech chief told his workers that “working virtually will be the new normal.”
Reclaiming the Built Environment
The trend of carving out pedestrian space from the road has rapidly picked up during the coronavirus pandemic. Many cities have closed streets and curbside parking for socially-distanced recreation and outdoor restaurant seating. Macklis is optimistic about how these new developments will impact the scope of what is possible in the future. “I think people will be more open, and I think the flexibility and revisioning that comes out of this necessity will definitely, in an exciting way, be kind of a silver lining and open up more flexible conversations for how to balance multimodal transportation and looking at the amount of space in our public realm that we’re allotting to each type of thing,” she said. In Seattle, nearly 20 miles of streets have now been permanently closed, with more on the way.