David A. Smith Author Archives

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When the Exactions Go Too Far

5 min read

Are you an affordable housing developer in search of a local building permit and feeling helpless as popup financial exactions materialize as fast as you vanquish the previous ones? Now there’s one weird trick you can use to get relief: say “sheetz.”

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Neither Fair, Nor Market, Nor Rent

6 min read

Names can outlive their purpose and their original meaning. Though the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, a cluster of mutually distrustful principalities with a largely symbolic head of state known as the Holy Roman Emperor maneuvered under that rubric for a thousand years after its 800 AD founding by Charlemagne before it was put to sleep by the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Such may yet be the fate of two venerable concepts, Fair Market Rent (FMR) and the Area Median Income (AMI). 

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Algorithmic Morality

5 min read

Those who say you can’t put a price on virtue have never worked in the capital markets. Although people say they value many things, what they actually pay for is what they truly value. Increasingly, that is virtue, or the appearance of virtue, now manifesting itself in the availability, terms, security and risk-adjusted yield of debt or equity instruments.

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Disrupting Public Housing Out of Faircloth

7 min read

In 1998, when North Carolina Democrat-turned-Republican Lauch Faircloth added the amendment for which he became infamous, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) were in a protracted bureaucratic standoff combining the worst features of medieval sieges and the First World War.   

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Poor Souls’ Invisible Mortgages

5 min read

With all the time that affordable housing property managers spend scrutinizing resident households’ income, owners and managers who want to avoid the quicksand of eviction should invest similar insight into understanding households’ expenses.

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Powerful New Housing Tools for Politically Courageous Local Governments

4 min read

What’s a big-city mayor facing an affordable housing crisis to do? 

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Family Storefront Housing

5 min read

Across America, the anti-exclusionary zoning rebellion is in full swing, and like many localized revolutions, it takes revolutionary thinking – like rediscovering the asset class that built 19th-century urban America, which over the last 50 years has become a capital backwater: the family storefront dwelling.

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The Guru Is In:The Wrong Way to Address Homelessness

5 min read

Of the brutal realities of American urban homelessness, there can be no doubt: the problem is out of control, the cities are its front lines, and they are desperate for any action.

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In Lieu of the Cliff

5 min read

For most Americans, the accommodation we all want most to vacate is the hospital: no privacy, noisy with sounds one would rather not hear, hard to sleep, food bland or worse and hideously expensive.

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Emerging From the Nuclear Shelter

5 min read

If you work in affordable rent housing, you know from personal experience that some (many?) of your tenants have unreported side hustles—flexible work or overnight guests—the revenue from which helps them pay the bills and keeps them out of eviction.

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Homelessness is Misdiagnosed and Mistreated

9 min read

Homelessness is not a housing problem; homelessness is a symptom and byproduct of a larger underlying problem—the loss of ability to live independently—whose escalating scale exposes the collapse of an overloaded and anachronistic urban behavioral-health infrastructure.

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The Partner-Ship of Theseus

6 min read

In 1602, clever Amsterdam burghers invented the ancestor of today’s limited partnerships, the Dutch East India Company.

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