Home Act/Rent Stabilization

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando authored the Housing Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act that would protect tenants through rent stabilization, provide predictable housing costs, and help them stay in their homes over time, just like homeowners. The County Council approved renter regulations that balance the need to protect tenants with providing landlords with economic tools to maintain and build housing. Montgomery County is the first county in Maryland to establish permanent rent stabilization at a maximum cap of 6%.

The compromise bill that passed, Rent Stabilization, prevents rent gouging, reduces displacement, and creates cost predictability for tenants and landlords by:

 – Setting an annual rental increase allowance of CPI-U plus three percent, capped at a maximum of six percent;

 – Establish guidelines for fees and fee increases for regulated rental units;

 – Establishing provisions for the landlord to increase the rent above the cap and apply a surcharge for renovations; and

 – Defining a process for landlords to bank unused rental increase allowances.

Impact:

The bill is already having an impact, sending a clear message that the county cares for renters and believes they should have sustainable housing with predictable costs. 

As the bill goes into effect, the county will monitor its implementation to ensure that it balances the need to protect tenants with providing landlords with economic tools to maintain and build housing. A protection or right is also only as good as it is known by the public, particularly those most impacted, and the next steps will include raising awareness among tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities.

Free School Meals for Eligible Kids

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Little Rock State Senator Clarke Tucker’s bill to offer free school meals for low-income students was signed into law. The USDA provides income eligibility guidelines for public school students throughout the United States to qualify for either free or reduced-price school meals. Tucker’s Act 656 eliminates the cost of all school meals for students who come from families that qualify for reduced-priced meals. This will have a huge impact on families who rely on school meals for their kids to eat and who need their dollars to stretch a little further.

The law creates a tiered system of funding. The Arkansas Department of Education will utilize any available federal funds to pay for these meals, and then the state will cover any remaining costs (including dedicated funding from medical marijuana tax revenue).

Impact:

Students who qualify for reduced-priced meals come from families with limited means and are still required to make some payment to receive their school meals. The price of those families’ school meals, even when reduced, can add up and even create debt. As part of the legislation, the state auditing entity will audit the Arkansas Department of Education Child Nutrition Unit and provide a report to the Senate and House Committees on Education every year to monitor the program, ensure that every eligible child in Arkansas is receiving these meals, and help the legislature budget appropriately.

Reducing Emissions Across the Colorado Economy

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Colorado State Senator Chris Hansen introduced Senate Bill 23-016 which will help the state achieve emission reduction goals through a comprehensive approach addressing many sectors of the climate crisis. The bill activates every part of the economy to mitigate the climate crisis, incentivizing action from individuals, businesses, and state regulators. 

The bill advances bold greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals and provides incentives to reach them, such as a 33% tax incentive for individuals to transition to electric lawn equipment and a new authority of the energy and carbon management commission to promote carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Colorado. 

The bill also establishes a requirement of the Air Quality Control Commission to establish a first-of-its-kind fee/ton on GHGs, a requirement of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to consider and prioritize transmission line upgrades, and a requirement of the Public Employees Retirement Association to describe its climate-related investment risks, impacts, and strategies.

In addition, the legislation promotes renewable energy, including the recovery of wastewater thermal energy by allowing it to be included in utilities clean heat plans, a clause to prevent Home Owner Associations (HOAs) from disallowing heat pump systems, and a new fee for utilities if they are slow to interconnect distributed generation sources (e.g., rooftop solar systems).

Impact:

The bill will be successful if Colorado is on track to meet its emission reduction targets measured against its next interim target (26% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025). Also, if the state reaches its EPA ozone attainment levels, if there is additional transmission capacity added to existing lines to create a more resilient grid, and if we see geothermal, heat pump, and CCS projects built throughout the state.

Middle Income Housing Authority (MIHA)

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Colorado Senator Jeff Bridges’ advanced legislation to created the Middle Income Housing Authority (MIHA), an innovative tool to drive the development of affordable housing for middle-income folks. Colorado faces an acute shortage of “missing middle” housing, housing that is many working families, such as nurses, teachers, and firefighters. The program provides market-based incentives to leverage private capital and minimizes government investments. 

By treating middle-income housing like the infrastructure investment it is, MIHA represents a significant shift in addressing affordable housing by using a market-oriented approach driven by public-private partnerships. By leveraging tax-free municipal bonds and social impact investors, MIHA reduces reliance on government financing and creates a sustainable and scalable model that reinvests all profits into additional affordable housing. 

MIHA aims to increase the supply of rental housing. While developers may get a higher return by building market-rate housing, they pay significant taxes on those returns. By allowing access to the same kinds of tax-free bonds used to finance other infrastructure investments, developers using tax-free bonds for MIHA projects will see roughly equal returns. This drives investment in middle-income housing without competing for government dollars that should go toward low-income housing subsidies.

Impact:

Success will be measured by the number of affordable housing units built for middle-income earners, especially in our mountain resort communities and in gentrifying neighborhoods where long-established communities are being pushed out by increased housing costs. While currently focused on rental housing, the success of this unique financial model should allow for the construction of for-sale MIHA housing as well. Over the next two years the initial six projects representing several hundred new housing units will demonstrate what works best, where it works, and why it works. The long term goal is to show a measurable decrease in the number of middle-income individuals and families across Colorado who are cost burdened, alongside a measurable increase in the supply of housing units that are affordable for those families.

New Requirements for Flood Resilient Infrastructure Investments

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Florida Representative Christine Hunschofsky’s Sea Level Rise Impact Projection legislation requires that public entities using state funding conduct sea level rise studies for any construction projects in areas threatened by sea level rise. This policy aims to give communities a better understanding of how flooding affects them and will empower them to take appropriate steps to prepare. The policy will lead to smart investments, saving communities money down the line and protecting residents and communities for future generations.

Impact:

Hunschofsky hopes this program will help raise awareness of the threat of sea level rise in vulnerable communities prone to flooding and sea level rise. Ultimately, the program aims to incentivize more investments in infrastructure planning and to build more resilient communities to flooding and sea level rise.

Community Co-Design

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

The City of Rochester’s Mayor Kim Norton has taken steps to ensure the authentic and meaningful use of community engagement to drive decision-making at the policy, program, and community design levels. Involving people directly impacted by decisions from the start and utilizing their experiences, ideas, and input alongside the expertise of professionals helps optimize the city’s development. 

Rochester used the co-design methodology on issues such as housing, workforce, sustainability, and street design. The program is bringing together community members and industry professionals to address cultural, economic, and other barriers to create an equitable, just, and sustainable city. Norton aims to ensure the city takes action with people and not to them as the city grows and changes in size and demographics.

Impact:

The program has resulted in more diverse representation on committees and community boards. Including: local artists working on street design in the downtown redevelopment effort, secured a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies focused on Equity in the Built Environment, which helped to diversify the city’s construction and trades, and in their sustainability and resiliency planning. Additionally, the city hopes to see growing diversity at their community events and are pleased to see Mayor Norton invited to many cultural events.

Small Business Wage Boost

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti’s Small Business Wage Boost program is an employee retention program designed to address the gap between the current working wage and a livable wage, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Small businesses throughout the City of Scranton can apply for up to $50,000, disbursed over two years, to raise their employees’ wages closer to the state average.

In the program’s first year, Scranton used ARPA funding to fully fund the gap between the current wage and elevated wage. In year two, the City and business will share the responsibility of funding the higher wage. By the third year, the goal is for businesses to fully support their employees’ new wages. The Wage Boost program is an innovative approach to address a minimum wage in Pennsylvania that lags behind the needs of 21st century workers. By helping small businesses raise employees’ wages, it’s a win-win-win for the city: businesses can retain employees who might leave for other better paying jobs, employees can keep up with the cost of living, and the city retains tax-paying businesses.

Impact:

The program was announced to the community in October 2022. Across two rounds of funding announcements, nine businesses have received between $25,000 and $50,000 in wage boost grants to be used over the course of the next two years. A third round of applications opens late summer 2023. The program’s impact is seen in the potential economic mobility of the employees receiving higher wages, a reduction in turnover for employers, and the ongoing success of the businesses that have tapped into the program.

Connecticut Pension Reform

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

The Connecticut State Comptroller, Sean Scanlon, oversees the municipal pension plan covering workers in 107 of Connecticut’s 169 towns. To address major financial challenges that resulted in costs going up for towns and cities in the plan by 75% in the previous 5 years, the office convened a working group of Democrats, Republicans, labor, and management to tackle the issues. Over six weeks of in-person collaboration, the working group developed and reached an agreement on a series of win-win reforms that both labor and management could support and that would save millions this year and $740 million over the next 30 years.

Impact:

Scanlon believes that the data and numbers will demonstrate the effort’s impact. Towns began realizing some savings on July 1, 2023 but the bulk of savings will begin in 2025 and happen over the next 30 years.

Community Safety Housing Subsidy

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi championed the Community Safety Housing Subsidy program to address the rising cost of living in Atlanta and the challenge of attracting and retaining police and fire first responders. He hopes to combat these obstacles by setting aside $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to offset the cost of first-responder personnel living within the city limits. Moreover, the program seeks to facilitate neighborly and voluntary interactions between first responders and those they protect for the purpose of reducing crime, building trust, and increasing public safety.

Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are intended for monthly rent assistance. Recipients are required to be on active duty and complete 1 hour of unpaid community service per month. The amount of rental assistance will be on a sliding scale from $250 to $850 based on yearly income.

Impact:

The program started accepting applications in 2023 and will measure its impact on several metrics including:

 1) More first responders choosing to live in the City

 2) Reduced attrition among first responders who are in year 1-10 of their service

 3) An increase in applications to public safety positions

 4) Increased trust in public safety officials and departments

 5) Reduction in crime.

Anti-Doxxing Legislation to Protect Privacy and Free Speech

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

New legislation, sponsored by Oregon Representative Janelle Bynum will provide a cause of action to recover damages for disclosure of private information such as personal contact data or social security numbers. Known as Doxxing, or publicly sharing information with the intent to intimidate or silence an individual or organization, this nefarious tool can stem public discourse and threatens individual privacy. With the support of a broad coalition of stakeholders ranging from journalists, constituents, to law enforcement personnel, Btnym narrowly tailored the bill to provide effective deterrence against doxing without chilling free exercise or other first amendment rights.

Impact:

The cause of the action is novel, and lawyers are just learning how to use this as a tool to protect privacy rights. Bynum hopes the doxxing cases that are just now being filed will strike a balance to ameliorate the impact of aggressive doxxing activity while also protecting free speech.