The discourse around proposed changes to the federal tax system, especially between talk show pundits and economists and politicians—each with their own allegiances—is devoid of some simple, transparent facts. A first step toward public understanding of who benefits and who loses from proposed changes to the Mortgage Interest Deduction is to examine current data on home mortgages.
Since 2014, Reinvestment Fund has been working with cities and organizations around the country to accelerate the creation of new healthy food options in underserved communities. This partnership, called ReFresh (https://www.reinvestment.com/initiatives/refresh/), has led to the creation of new data tools and market reports designed to help communities target healthy food investments. The most popular of these is the Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) analysis, which identifies areas with inequitable and inadequate access to food retail. Related to the LSA is our leakage analysis which estimates the financial capacity of an area and its residents to support a new or expanded supermarket.
Mortgage application data, released under reporting requirements in the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), are a fascinating source of information for cities and communities. These data help us understand where residents are applying for mortgages to purchase new homes or refinance their existing home.
Policymakers often struggle with the fact that policy options are seldom visualized on a map. Indeed policy decisions depend upon a multitude of variables that are rarely tied to geographical boundaries. Yet, it is often at the geographic level that policymakers want to see an impact. Thanks to the Market Value Analysis (MVA), it is possible to identify the housing market intervention policies that will be the most effective based on geographic characteristics.
In 2015, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) created a new requirement that jurisdictions conduct an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) planning process in support of the Fair Housing Act’s mandate to “affirmatively further fair housing.” Policy Solutions—along with Enterprise Community Partners, Abt Associates, and PolicyMap—was part of the technical assistance team that aided the City of Philadelphia with data and analysis to inform the local AFH. The MVA was a critical tool in this effort and I wanted to share just a few of the ways that the City incorporated the MVA into the AFH: https://goo.gl/lmkMnL
A reflection on St. Louis’ journey to embed neighborhood market types into our private sector community development practice and a summary of our journey to date, while unfinished, is at the following link: https://goo.gl/NWRFnn.
One commonly held view among housing practitioners and policymakers is that building homeownership is essential to building strong communities. Home equity has historically helped build wealth, and homeowners are stabilizing forces, who are more likely to invest in home maintenance. However, our experience building MVAs suggests that rental markets can also be sources of opportunity and strength, especially when they are near job centers, transportation hubs, or other amenities.
“Middle Neighborhoods” or middle markets are an important focus for many of the cities in which we have conducted MVAs. These areas fall somewhere on the MVA spectrum from relatively strong to showing only modest levels of distress. They are home to many city residents, oftentimes the majority of a city’s population, and they tend to be more racially integrated than other parts of cities. But they are generally not places where federal programs or philanthropic attention is focused.