Tag Archives: Sightline Institute

Brave New U.S. Housing Policy

February 12, 2021- PlanGreen

To expedite building market rate housing, as well as more public housing, that is affordable to BIPOC communities and to young people, we need to lobby for TAX POLICY CHANGES that will shift our perceptions about “the American Dream”–away from homeownership and towards security, equity and legacy for all.  

HOUSING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A COMMODITY

For the last few years, as long as the issue was housing, I could be found on Fridays at the Q&A microphone at Portland City Club Friday Forum.  I would ask: How can you square promotion of homeownership as a means of wealth building and reform of our housing system?  

An example of a Portland City Club Friday Forum recent ad for a housing forum. This one was 11-15-19. Image from XRAY-FM.

An example of a Portland City Club Friday Forum ad for a housing forum 11-15-19. Image from XRAY-FM.

Wealth building depends upon housing being a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit.  Rather, don’t we need to see housing as a social good that all have the right to access? If I could get away with a few extra seconds, I might add: The Community Land Trust, as it was originally conceived, is a NEW MODEL OF LAND TENURE that provides security, equity and legacy, but doesn’t promote housing as a commodity. Isn’t that what we need to be moving quickly toward?

Young people at this 2016 Bernie rally showed
great enthusiasm to transform healthcare.
We need to repeat that for HOUSING in 2021-2022!
Photo by PlanGreen

Housing has NOT gone away as an issue, but you wouldn’t know it from the last two cycles of Presidential debates, which had almost no questions of any substance about housing.  As a supporter of Bernie Sanders in 2016, I became irritated with my candidate when he virtually sidestepped local Portland TV reporter Laurel Porter’s question to him about housing affordability and homelessness. I had been attempting to get him to awaken his Millennial base to the idea that we did not necessarily need to continue the current system of housing. I tried hard to get my blog Housing Affordability: Put a Bern on It  to members of his campaign and to the candidate himself, but seemingly without success.  Since Bernie was Mayor of Burlington, VT when the largest Community Land Trust in the nation was started, he understands the potential of this new system of land tenure. He even told the CLT at an annual meeting that helping to get them federal funding was the best thing he had ever done as Mayor. As Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, he can still mobilize that base.

NEW OPPORTUNITY WITH SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE

Sen Ron Wyden at Forest Grove Town Hall (with two reporters shown taking notes) lays out his tax reform priorities. They don't yet include HOUSING! Photo by Pamplin Media.

Sen Ron Wyden at Forest Grove Town Hall lays out his tax reform priorities. They don’t yet include HOUSING! Photo by Pamplin Media.

Now, young people through groups like Portland: Neighbors Welcome, Sunrise PDX, and NextUp now find that their Senior Senator, Ron Wyden, has become the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Peter Wong in a Jan. 21 article in the Portland Tribune lists the priorities for Tax Code reform that Senator Wyden laid out at a January Town Hall in Forest Grove. OR.  Corporate Taxes, Capital Gains, Energy, Health Care, and Infrastructure are priority areas, but HOUSING is not one of those priority areas—even though it is probably the largest expenditure in most Americans’ budget. (See comments for update.)

Image of front cover of Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing by Diane Lind.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we,, shouldn’t try to plant the seed for profound change to US housing policy while Wyden is up for re-election. I loved the suggestions from Diana Lind’s  Brave New Home:Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing because they match so nicely to my own.  Lind began her book after the birth of her son because she felt isolated  and disconnected in her own single family row house–and this was before COVID-19.  She is Executive Director for the Arts + Business Council for Greater Philadelphia which hardly makes her seem like a radical.

I’d seen other authors question the mortgage interest deduction (MID) before (e.g., Matthew Desmond in Evicted and Richard Florida in The New Urban Crisis), but I believe Lind goes further when she questions the entire assumption that homeownership does or should present  a path to wealth building for most Americans.  She wonders why the government would continue its subsidization of homeownership when so many homes have now been bought up by multinational companies like Blackstone and affiliates. She also questions such a subsidy even though the mortgage interest deduction is one of the country’s largest regressive tax loopholes and even though student debt has changed the landscape of housing choices for young people. Lind travels the country exploring what people are doing for alternatives.

WE BUY UGLY HOUSES.COM HomeVestors: America's #1 Home Buyer. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen taken in east Portland, OR

WE BUY UGLY HOUSES.COM HomeVestors: America’s #1 Home Buyer. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen taken in east Portland, OR

Any system that pushes housing as an investment (hence a commodity) is bound to attract those who are ready to game the system. It should be no surprise that we see hedge funds, REITs and institutional investors buying up single-family housing and developing portfolios of thousands of properties. They comb sites like Zillow and the MLIS to find, renovate and flip undervalued properties. They buy billboards and post signs on lampposts.  Their size allows them to fix prices and this price-fixing becomes a primary reason for skyrocketing housing costs. Yet in Portland, and I believe elsewhere, these companies often face less resistance than new construction or redevelopment—even though they are likely to be bigger contributors to gentrification.

POTENTIAL ASKS TO SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE

I’ve come up with these broad directives (with a nod to Diana Lind) that will need to be further fleshed out to be actionable:

  1. Actively transition our policies away from homeownership and single-family homes. 
  2. Investigate how best to subsidize people, rather than their property. 
  3. Regulate landlords and buyers who own hundreds to thousands of properties, while finding ways to leverage their scale for good. 
  4. Rethink zoning that privileges single family homes 
  5. Rethink the variety of ways the federal government incentivizes and rewards single family housing—e.g., IRS, FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. 

I’We might also explore our connections to members of the coalition that got the “Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act” (H.R. 4351) passed in the US House in 2020 and help them to get an even stronger bill passed in the US Senate in 2021.  (See update in comments.)

SHIFTING PUBLIC OPINION

Evicted website https://www.evictedbook.com screen shot. Without a Home Everything Else Falls Apart.

Let’s team up with well-known authors such as: 

  • Matthew Desmond (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
  • Richard Florida (The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class-and What We Can Do About It
  • Diana Lind (Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing)

who can get media attention of all kinds: TV, radio, social media, newspapers, magazines, etc. Locally, we might team up with Sightline Institute Founder  Alan Durning who recently authored The Problem With US Housing Policy Is That It’s Not About Housing. Durning begins: Here, I sketch the hidden reality of federal US housing policies: they are about real estate appreciation, not housing. And I spell out how they polarize wealth, exacerbate racial inequality, cut productivity and job creation, speed climate change, and exaggerate the ups and the downs of the business cycle. He plans to next address how we might form a left-right coalition to shift federal policy.

THE BUDGET AS A MORAL DOCUMENT

Photo of US flag flying at US Capitol from Oregon Center for Public Policy blog. Pop-out says In 2021 Oregon can free up money to invest in Oregonians by disconnecting from wasteful federal tax breaks.

Image from OCPP.org/agenda links to their Disconnect from Wasteful Federal Tax Breaks blog.

Many of us–especially in my Boomer generation–find it difficult to rethink long-held assumptions and perhaps to give up some financial privileges. Some of the most introspective among us–such as those in Portland’s Interfaith Alliance on Poverty have been exploring the root cause of poverty and homelessness for the several years. 

Chair, Les Wardenaar, has an eloquent “Commentary On The Budget As A Moral Document” in the January 2021 issue of the Alliance newsletter showing that he has given some deep thought to the Alliance’s series on the topic over the last few months.. He especially cites OCPP Executive Director Alejandro Queral’s presentation (Oct 2020) on the Oregon tax structure and the benefits that many of us gain from it at the obvious expense of those with lower income. That prompted him to ask himself the question: “how much of my personal finance and with it my lifestyle am I willing to sacrifice to make the system more just?”  Wardenaar goes on to conclude:

As one of my Alliance friends put it, “The Budget as a Moral Document” ultimately demonstrates that we—as Portlanders, as Oregonians, as Americans– are deliberately choosing to perpetuate social and economic injustice. We choose to force people to live on the streets. We choose to provide a sub-standard education for many of our children, thus impacting their chances of lifting themselves up. We choose to put “people of color” into a chasm of inequity that only a small minority could ever climb out of. And we make those choices year after year after year. 

Many more in the Boomer generation are even more fearful–without being quite so introspective and soul searching as those in the Alliance. Some reinforce each others fears in neighborhood associations where they attempt to block change.

HOUSING JUSTICE: CLIMATE JUSTICE AND PUBLIC HEALTH

Housing Justice is Climate Justice is a meme embraced by BIPOC advocates in Oregon and many supporters such as those in Portland: Neighbors Welcome, Sunrise PDX, and NextUp 

What if, rather than bemoan the change to our single-family neighborhoods, we embraced it instead? Ever larger American homes have become a huge factor in climate change at the same time they have led to increased loneliness. And public health officials are recognizing that loneliness is the new smoking or worse–equivalent to 15 cigarettes a day! As homes have become bigger they have led to increased emissions from heating and cooling, more furniture and appliances to fill the space and more fossil fuel to travel further distances–all with a carbon cost. “Why isn’t there a more robust public conversation about how living differently–more affordably, more communally, and more simply–could strengthen our society, economy, and health?” asks Lind.

An equitable housing policy at the federal level needs to be a policy that will expedite building market rate and public housing that is affordable and available to BIPOC communities and to young people. That will happen only when we shift our perceptions about “the American Dream” away from homeownership and towards security, equity and legacy for all.  

Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing could be around the corner–we first need to permit it, fund it and build it! And the fearful may then want to get on board.

Screen capture  of Twitter site by PlanGreen

UPDATE May 19:  While preparing a slide presentation for the PLACE Initiative Climate Summit, I found out that the Senate Finance Committee held a Tax Inequality Hearing on April 20, 2021. The first person to testify was Dorothy A. Brown, author of  The Whiteness of Wealth and tax law professor at Emory University. 

Also see my slide show embedded in my post of May 20. I’m working on including the text that goes with the slides.

48 Million Americans have significant hearing loss

Accommodation and Regeneration

Nov. 26, 2020 Thanksgiving Day – PlanGreen

ACCOMMODATION

Most of my blogs these days focus on the main purpose of my business: achieving CLIMATE JUSTICE.  And I’m ever so thankful to friends in the myriad organizations I support who do that work (with or without me,).  Instead, I’m going to spend this blog on what I am (or would be) most grateful for with regard to my mental health.  I’m asking for your help!

Covid-19 restrictions have made most of us more aware how important connection with others is for our mental and emotional health. I thought that the pandemic might be a boon to my mine because large gatherings—especially happy hours with lots of background noise—were no longer any fun for me.  In fact, I often came home feeling depressed.

Image of the small rechargeable microphone that pairs with my hearing aid. The buttons on the side turn it up or down.

ReSound Multi Mic pairs with ReSound hearing aid

Despite my fabulous ReSound Multi Mic that I, or someone else in the meeting, would run around from speaker to speaker allowing me to get something out of some gatherings, I was beginning to feel less and less connected. But it was important to stay in touch by more than email, Facebook, Google Groups, Slack, MapApp  or listservs,

So I started out enthusiastically with virtual or online meetings!  But now I discover that I’m having trouble with those as well. I try to practice what I preach below so I have some really great headphones with an external mic to listen and talk to you.  (Those of you who give me feedback tell me that you can hear me clear as a bell.)  The problem is, with most of you, I don’t UNDERSTAND you!  My online hearing difficulty extends to public meetings too– both those who testify at them–and often city staff and/or Commissioners.

I’m deeply grateful to those few of you who are using best practices for virtual meetings—practices like:

  • USE AN EXTERNAL MICROPHONE close to your mouth
  • Use a front light and avoid backlighting–it’s important to those of us with hearing loss to see your face, even if we don’t read lips
  • Open your mouth and enunciate and keep your hands away from your mouth
  • Fill the screen with your face—as opposed to your ceiling, your ceiling fan, your window(s), your garden, your bed, your bookshelf, your kitchen, whatever. . .
  • Project your voice. Pretend like you are going to an interview for a radio sports announcer!

Editors Keys demonstrates what a difference good lighting, close positioning and an external mic can make in his 3 minute video. It was one of the first and most succinct of the many available.

Editors Keys answers numerous questions w/that name. His 3 minute video was one of the first and most succinct.

I’m one of those 48 Million Americans who have a significant level of hearing loss. You can better accommodate me–and a few others in your circles–by following the suggestions in this 3 minute video: How To Improve Your Zoom Video And Audio Quality .  There are hundreds more videos on the topic, but this was one of the first and most succinct .

Such practices will get you more than gold stars in my book, they will make you look and sound more professional and credible–maybe to your next employer.

Perhaps these facts from the Center for Hearing and Communication may inspire you Hearing loss: Prevalence 48 million Americans have a significant hearing loss; 1 out of 3 people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss; 2 out of 3 people over 75 have a hearing loss; 14% of those ages 45-64 have some type of hearing loss; Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) affects 50 million people in the United States.

This struggle with online gatherings for me has been going on ever since Portland’s Mayor Wheeler told those of us who showed up at City Hall to testify in person on Portland’s Residential Infill Project on March 12 to go home.  It has caused me extreme frustration, alienating me from organizations I have long supported–organizations that have been an important part of my identity and sense of community. One example is expressed in my May 29, 2020 communication with Abigail Sheridan, VP of the Congress for the New Urbanism:

Abby,
After participating in each of the On the Park Bench sessions, I’m beginning to rethink my registration as there were many speakers that I could not understand–even with Bosch noise-canceling headphones on. I know I’m not the only one as I watched Marcela struggle to hear in the last session too. She was the best of that group–with a good microphone, front lighting and close so you could see her face well and hear her clearly.
Too many speakers are backlit, so that you cannot see their faces. They stand too far from their computer microphones and cameras besides.  That makes it hell for those of us with hearing loss–and probably some who don’t even know they have hearing loss.  . . .
Otherwise, I will need to take advantage of one of the other options for my registration money–requesting a medical exemption from your May 25 deadline.
Thanks,
Mary

For better of for worse, I didn’t  take advantage of one of the other options for my CNU 28.A Virtual Gathering registration money. Instead, I opted to try to get word out to speakers ahead of time via various social media. Nevertheless, I spent 5-6 exhausting days struggling to hear speakers at CNU28–only to be told at the end that my type of registration did not cover the ability to review any parts I may have missed! That would cost me another $50!!!

Before moving on from Accommodation, I do want to call out one organization that has demonstrated excellent online practices.  In a Sightline Institute webinar this summer, every speaker had headphones with an external mic and used the other best practices that I suggested above.  I understand that this was largely due to their Operations Manager, Riley Kent.  Their professionalism showed them to be highly worthy of my small monthly contribution.

BEYOND ACCOMMODATION

For more than ten years now, I have known about the research into hearing regeneration. With due consideration of their precious time, I’ve been seeking, hoping, cajoling, pestering researchers ever since.  I did get into one clinical trial on the hormone aldosterone–and that was somewhat effective in my case. But it became harder and harder to obtain supplemental aldosterone after the study. After a couple years, when the Canadian pharmacy in BC discontinued it, I stopped looking.

Until today, I did NOT know that 43 companies have therapeutics for restoring the inner ear under development–as reported in this issue of the Journal of Otology & Neurotology. I was only aware of 3-4 of them in the US and acupuncture with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in China. (I’m getting  at least one LAc here to try some of the techniques and to prescribe Er Long Zuo Xi Wan) but my hope of getting into a clinical trial in China has been put on a back burner!)

HEARING RESTORATION PROJECT CONSORTIUM

The Hearing Restoration Project Consortium is composed of 14 senior scientists working collaboratively on scientific research towards inner ear hair cell regeneration to accelerate the time frame for developing a cure for hearing loss. The HRP brings together researchers from Harvard UniversityStanford University, Oregon Health & Science University the University of Washington and elsewhere with the goal of researching and developing a genuine cure for most forms of acquired hearing loss. They seek to do this by regenerating the inner ear hair cells that enable hearing.

I started out corresponding with Ed Rubel at the University of Washington about UW’s research, but then Ed told me there was a whole consortium of researchers and that its director was here in Portland!  I then switched the focus of my correspondence to Peter Barr-Gillespie Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Consortium and Professor of Otolaryngology at OHSU.

Screen shot of Hearing Restoration Project's YouTube video: A Cross S[ecies Approach to Hair Cell Regeneration. It reads "Learn more about our work hhf.org/hrp. Donate to advance hearing loss cures uhf.org/donate. Thank you!

Donate to advance hearing loss cures uhf.org/donate

 

PRIVATE COMPANIES

Until recently, Dr. Barr-Gillespie was on the Scientific Advisory board for one of the private companies currently doing clinical trials: Decibel Therapeutics. Another company that may be a step ahead of Decibel is Frequency Therapeutics. They are both in the Boston-area. I follow both companies on Twitter (@DecibelTx  and @frequencytx) and have learned a great deal about hearing loss through them.

Screen shot of Decibel Therapeutics @DecibelTx Twitter home page. "Pioneering inner ear research to deliver life-changing medicines for hearing and balance. Boston, MA decibeltx.com

 

Screen shot of Frequency Therapeutics @frequencytx Twitter home page. "Working to advance regenerative medicine and develop a therapeutic to restore hearing for those with the most common form of hearing loss. Cambridge, MA frequencytx.com

I am not a frequent Twitter user, so, for those of you on Twitter, I would deeply appreciate your help in keeping up with the above.  And I would appreciate information on the 41 other companies who are developing therapies for inner ear disorders. Writing this blog post has already helped me learn a great deal by searching different topics and/or following links.  BTW, most of my images link to the URL where I “grabbed” them .  I hope you will check them out–and share them with your friends and relatives who just might have hearing loss themselves. I’m thankful for your attention–and I hope you will follow  PlanGreen on Facebook, connect on Linked In and follow it on Twitter.