Atom / RSS Feed     Aggregator AGGREGATOR


5 minutes 54 seconds ago

Several issues have gone missing so far on the debate stage among the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, among them affordable housing and racial equity. This, despite the fact that living costs are going up while wages remain stagnant, and that the percentage of people—whites included—who believe that African Americans are getting fair housing opportunities, is at its lowest level in decades, according to Gallup.

So far, six presidential candidates have proposed policies that address both housing insecurity and historical racial discrimination in the housing market. Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders, along with South Bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg, and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, have all submitted plans that specifically take a crack at addressing racial housing injustices. Some of them aim to reverse the damage done by redlining—the system in which government and financial market forces conspired to keep black people trapped in segregated and under-invested neighborhoods.

Some of those plans that target redlining propose offering down-payment assistance for certain first-time home-buyers in neighborhoods that were historically labeled as “hazardous” in the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) risk maps of the 1930s—the blueprints for redlining policies. Warren, Buttigieg, and Harris all offer this in the name of redressing and hopefully reversing redlining’s legacy, which is still keeping black families from building wealth today, according to numerous studies.

“A policy by any other name might be called reparations,” CityLab wrote earlier this year in reference to Warren’s plan.

That is indeed the idea, according to Mehrsa Baradaran, the University of California, Irvine law professor whose research serves as the basis for several of the presidential candidates’ redlining-aimed proposals.

Wrote Baradaran in her study “Jim Crow Credit”:

Most of the neighborhoods that were initially redlined in 1934 have been perpetually denied credit and thus remain pockets of poverty. Racial ghettos, once created, have had remarkable staying power. Across the country, these black ghettos are still the territories where the wealth and well-being gap are most drastically highlighted. These are the districts where poverty is still concentrated, schools are segregated, and properties continue to be devalued. By focusing a reparations program on geography as opposed to identity, policymakers can not only avoid the sacred cow of colorblindness, but they can link reparations with integration.

However, a new report from the Brookings Institution says that those policies likely won’t have the effect that the candidates think they will. Brookings fellow Andre Perry and research analyst David Harshbarger examined the current demographics of the residents who live in city neighborhoods that were redlined as “hazardous” in the HOLC maps and found that most of the people who live within those boundaries today are not African Americans, unlike when those zones were first drawn in the 1930s. Overall, there are more white and Latino people living in the formerly redlined neighborhoods today. Meaning, according to their analysis, that any policy based on the redlining maps would fail to comprehensively benefit black families—the demographic the plans seek to remunerate in the first place.

Of course, when looking closely at redlined neighborhoods at the city and regional level, there are still some that have a majority-African-American population today—Detroit, Birmingham, Cleveland, and Baltimore are a few examples. Chicago and Philadelphia have sizable black populations in their formerly redlined neighborhoods, but they still don’t match the white and Latino residential demographics in those zones.

Still, there is no region in which most of the formerly redlined neighborhoods have black populations comparable to when those red lines were first drawn. In the Northeast, the city with the highest percentage of black people still living in formerly redlined neighborhoods is Pittsburgh, where 36 percent of African Americans fit the bill.

However, formerly redlined neighborhoods do, in fact, still carry on the hallmarks of concentrated poverty and lower home values, according to the report.

“Clearly, these areas have suffered from a legacy of divestment, and deserve attention from policymakers,” the Brookings Institution researchers write. “But a strategy to close the racial wealth gap that focuses mainly on these now-diversified locations risks overlooking Black neighborhoods elsewhere.”

Many African Americans, particularly those of low-income, are now living in the suburbs of these cities, not the inner city, where the redlining most frequently occurred. Not only that, but recent federal housing policies, such as the replacement of public housing with mixed-income developments and the expansion of Section 8 housing vouchers, has dispersed black families across metropolitan regions while infusing more white residents into neighborhoods once almost exclusively inhabited by black residents.

Sociologist William Darity, director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, anticipated this problem back in January when he told CityLab:

By avoiding making it a program that’s directed specifically at the families that either were living in neighborhoods subject to redlining, or families that indirectly lost income as a consequence of the impact of redlining given the existence of segregated residential areas, the bill is not designed to provide resources specifically to those families that were victimized. It actually gives resources to current residents.

The criteria for receiving down-payment assistance varies among the candidates’ plans. Warren’s housing plan is centered around the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act bill she introduced to the Senate last year. It would create a new HUD fund to help people buy homes in formerly redlined areas. This program would provide cash assistance for down payments to first-time homebuyers. To qualify, a buyer must have lived in the area for at least four years, and their earnings must fall within 120 percent of the area median income.

Harris’s approach is similar. Her plan would give down-payment assistance to homebuyers who live in areas that were subject to redlining or legal racial segregation. Unlike Warren’s plan, though, under Harris’s program, buyers could use these HUD grants to purchase a home anywhere in the country. They don’t have to be first-time buyers, although the plans requires buyers to use the home as a principal residence. Only buyers who have lived in a formerly redlined community for at least 10 years would be eligible for Harris’s program. And her legislation is meant to work with other bills to make credit scores more inclusive.

Buttigieg’s program is even more geographically focused. His plan would tackle hyper-vacancy, a term that describes communities plagued by very high shares of vacant properties—cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit. Buttigieg’s plan would give vacant properties to homesteaders who would take full ownership over the houses as long as they occupied them for a decade. The homes would come with an extremely low-cost mortgage, payable directly into a homeownership fund, which would be used for improvement and maintenance for distressed properties.

Under the Buttigieg plan, only residents who have lived in designated pilot areas for three years and earn less than the area median income, or have lived in an historically redlined or segregated neighborhood for three years, can qualify for the program. Again, it’s a plan for building general wealth, not just redistributing cash: Homeownership is key. However, it is still subject to the same criticism that people who currently live in historically redlined areas are not necessarily the victims of decades of discriminatory lending policies.

There are other problems to plans based on homeownership in redlined communities. Many of the African American or Latinx families who live in formerly redlined communities don’t fit the profile of a first-time homebuyer, for example. They may own their homes now, or they may have owned homes previously. These residents may have been victims of predatory lending schemes or the foreclosure crisis. While a down-payment program targeted to residents from specific geographic areas might be a way to help some households build wealth (as opposed to a simple cash transfer), it is a near-sighted approach to making whole the victims of redlining, critics say.

There’s also the question of whether providing financial assistance for black families to purchase houses in formerly redlined districts would reinforce or even lock in the segregation that already exists—after all, it’s wealthy, white suburbs that need the integration and have the proximity to economic opportunities that black families could benefit from.

Baradaran addresses this unintended segregation problem by proposing housing vouchers for people looking to buy homes. Right now the federal government provides vouchers to low-income workers to rent apartments and houses on the private market. Baradaran proposes expanding the voucher system to allow people to purchase homes in any neighborhood, but helped along through a “shared equity mortgage,” wherein a private investor or government actor would jointly own the property with the voucher recipient. At the end of a loan term, the equity of the property would be evenly split between the homeowner and the investor, and in the event of a default, the investor would claim the property. But the vouchers would still be awarded to people who’ve lived in formerly redlined communities.

Baradaran also acknowledges that using the redlining maps of the 1930s might be suboptimal in capturing the black families intended for the benefit, because of changing demographics. But just because the players in these neighborhoods have changed doesn’t mean the game has.

“This does not mean that segregation patterns have been disrupted or that the same forces that created the racial wealth gap are still not in play,” Baradaran told CityLab. “What it means is that many communities have been re-segregated to new spaces and it’s usually not difficult to see how these formerly redlined populations have moved to different regions.”

Black people who once lived in redlined St. Louis have been priced out to suburbs like Ferguson; black folks in once-redlined, but now-gentrified Harlem were uprooted to places like the Bronx and Yonkers. Washington, D.C., was not covered by the HOLC maps of the 1930s, as the Brookings report points out. However, that doesn’t mean that no redlining occurred. As Greater Greater Washington reported in 2016, the organization Prologue DC created the Mapping Segregation in Washington D.C. project to show how certain neighborhoods, such as Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Park View, and Petworth, refused to sell houses to African Americans in the early 20th century. Neighborhoods in the southeastern quadrant of D.C., along the Anacostia River, became redlined for low-income African Americans by default.

“Some of the redlined areas are still intact, but many are not—that does not mean that we give up on a remedy; it just means we re-map these populations,” says Baradaran. “The Brooking authors are right that we need to look carefully at those borders, but I don’t think anyone that has proposed targeting these communities with housing subsidies has been under the impression that we would use the exact same maps. I helped several of the candidates with their policies and each one, we drafted the provision to help the people who were affected by housing segregation, not just the few redlined blocks.”

Whether the redlining maps of the 1930s align neatly with today’s maps of inequity or not, the problems and legacy of racist housing and investment discrimination still need to be addressed. A landmark survey released in August by The Groundwork Collaborative found that a majority of black adults believe that the economy is rigged against them in favor of the wealthy, and 50 percent of African Americans cited finding affordable housing near their jobs or family a challenge—a third said it was a “big challenge” in their lives. These are beliefs and attitudes that can’t be easily traced or shaded over. But this is also an issue that the nation can no longer afford to be colorblind toward.

5 minutes 54 seconds ago

It is unimaginable to think that today we could live our lives without electricity being a part of it. Just about every part of our lives is dependent on electricity, from our homes, office, recreational facilities, healthcare centers, and travel and communication. For most of us, our reliance on the grid is absolute. However, there are situations when the grid fails. This is where a generator comes in use, provided you have one.

Homeowners, who tend to buy generators during an emergency, generally end up with the wrong one. Setting up a gen-set in darkness, with a flashlight, is not a very good idea. You could end up missing on some crucial safety steps, endangering yourself and your loved ones. A generator is an essential part of your home and needs to be researched and looked into before making a purchase.  

What do you Need to Look for?

Buying a generator is a long-term investment. The first things to consider when deciding on buying a generator are usage, size and where will it be located. You need to make a very careful evaluation of all the factors to ensure that you pick up the right generator for your needs. 

Generators come in different types and sizes. Unless you know about them, it can be confusing to decide on the right one. Electric generators, powered by batteries that are charged conventionally are best when the power requirement does not exceed 4000 watts. Portable and standby generators run on fuel such as diesel, gasoline, LPG, natural gas, biofuel, and propane. More rugged, these generators can be run for long periods. Ranging from 500 watts to 50,000 watts, these generators are extremely popular for residential and commercial use. 

You also need to consider where the generator will be located. Is it going to be inside a room/garage or will it be standing in the open, exposed to the elements? Are grid outages frequent and long in your area? Would you be running the generator for extended periods? Is your requirement for running the generator a regular affair or will you be operating it intermittently? The answers to these questions will help you choose the correct generator for your requirements.

What is your Power Requirement?

Generators need to be purchased based on your total load requirement. While the rating of the generator determines the total power that can be delivered, the consistency and quality of that power will determine how well your appliances will run. Start by making a list of all the appliances that you wish to operate when the grid power is down. Find out their load requirements and add them all to get the total load requirement. A typical home should not be requiring more than 5000 watts to cover the basic appliance requirements. Just to get an idea, window air conditioners would need around 1000 watts, the refrigerator around 600 watts, a portable heater around 1500 watts; sump pump would range from 750 to 1000 watts, lights from 60 to 600 watts and computers from 60 to 600 watts. 

The Cost Factor

Prices will depend on the rating, type, and fuel option. While an electric generator would not be very expensive, a standby generator will cost you much more. However, you need to remember that an electric generator cannot power too many appliances and cannot be run for extended periods. If you are looking at running your home essentials, a portable or standby generator would be a better option. Your dealer will be able to help you choose the right generator based on your requirements. Brett Patterson from Able Sales warns that if you buy a cheap generator, you will often be buying from someone who knows little to nothing about generators. One word of caution, you will get what you pay for. Buying such a critical piece of equipment should not become a bargain-hunting exercise. 

Different Types of Generators

There are four options in generators for residential purposes. Portable power stations store electricity in large batteries and are a good option for people living in apartments. Available in varying sizes, inverter and portable generators can be moved from one place to another. Standby generators need to be permanently installed in one place. Let us take a look at all four types in a little more detail.

Portable Power Stations – Powered by batteries that can be charged through a socket when the grid is up and running, portable power stations nowadays are also available with solar charging panels. Relatively a new entrant to the generator market, these are extremely quiet devices. Another advantage of portable power stations is that unlike other fuel consuming generators, they do not emit any noxious gasses or carbon monoxide, making them safe to use indoors. However, these cannot be used to power too many appliances nor can they run for too long a period, as the batteries need recharging. The maximum power generated by them is 5,000 watts. 

Inverter Generators – Costing more than a portable generator of similar rating, inverter generators produce less noise than portable generators. Featuring a very sophisticated exhaust system, these generators increase or decrease the throttle to match the power demand instead of operating at full power constantly. While the emissions produced are less, safety precautions need to be taken similar to portable generators. Inverter generators are available with power output from 1,000 to 4,000 watts. 

Portable Generators – Costing less than standby generators, portable generators usually run on gasoline. If you are living in a rural area, this may mean storing gasoline in large quantities. Since gasoline is volatile, safety factors have to be taken into consideration along with the addition of stabilizers for prolonged storage. As the name suggests, you can use this generator anywhere, other than in a closed environment. Since portable generators are known to produce very high levels of carbon monoxide, it is advisable to keep them at least twenty feet away from the walls of your home, as also direct the exhaust in the opposite direction from windows and air conditioners. Some of the new portable generators feature a built-in sensor that triggers automatic shut down in case of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide build-up when operated in a closed environment. However, it is still advisable to follow the safety norms as stated above. You will need to protect the unit from rain and snow. Portable generators are available with ratings from 3,000 to 8,500 watts.

Standby Generators for Home – You may require to get municipal permits to install a standby generator in your property. Your dealer should be able to help you with this along with checking on noise restrictions and finding the best location in your property for installation. By far the most expensive of the lot, standby generators supply more power and feature automatic start-up in the event of grid failure. Offered in different fuel choices like propane, gasoline, diesel and natural gas; these generators range from 5,000 to 20,000 watts. Highly advanced, they conduct self-diagnosis to let you know when they require maintenance.  

Other Features

Low-CO Engine – Some portable generators feature engines that produce less carbon monoxide. 

Automatic CO Shut down – NA new feature, some portable generators feature sensors that will shut down the engine when it detects the level of carbon monoxide exceeding certain preset limits. This happens when you run a portable generator within a closed or poorly ventilated environment. Marketed with terms like CO Protect, CO Detect, or CO Sense, you can confirm if the generator meets any of the two standards set for them. 

Automatic Start – A boon, if your generator is located away from the house, this feature allows the generator to start automatically once the grid fails. Trying to find your way in the dark to start the generator is not very exciting or safe. 

Electric Start – available as an extra on some portable generators, the electric start does away with the pull start system. However, they need a battery to function. 

Alternative Fuel – Although the majority of portable generators run on gasoline as a fuel, some models are equipped to run on natural gas or propane. Most can be converted to operate on alternative fuels with the appropriate kit.

Fuel Gauge – This is a better option than having to open the fuel tank lid to check the level of fuel remaining in the generator. 

Low-Oil Shut Off – While common on standby generators, this option is also available on portable generators. In the case of low oil levels, the generator shuts down to prevent damage to the engine.

Do You Need a Transfer Switch?

The answer in one word is –Yes. A transfer switch connects your generator via a single cable to the circuit panel. The absence of this could damage the generator, your appliance and endanger the utility workers. Standby generators generally have a transfer switch that turns on and off automatically. However, for portable models, you will be required to do the change over manually. Since the majority of transfer switches are designed for a 220-volt input, you can use it with generators rated 5,000 watts and above. 

The Last Word

Always remember that safety is the priority when dealing with electrical appliances. Get a qualified technician to help you install the generator and run you through the safety measures. 

5 minutes 54 seconds ago

It is true that many people refrain from traveling because of the high stress associated with it. If you have children, you need to understand how difficult it is to pack all the necessary supplies, keep your kids entertained while traveling, and find suitable restaurants and activities for the right kids. If you have never thought about taking family vacations because of stress, then these five tips are sure to help you have a successful vacation. If you need more travel destinations tips and tricks so visit here to grab easily.

Tip # 1-

You will also want your children to feel involved as you plan your next family trip. If each one of your children has chosen a particular place they will see on the trip, then your child is likely to be happier and more excited about the trip.

Tip # 2-

Make sure you are choosing a family travel destination that is really for your family. Make sure there is some activity for each person to enjoy each day. If there is no fit for all of your children, then they are likely to get bored and have problems with boredom behavior.

Tip # 3-

You will want to learn more about your destination before traveling. Find photos and information about your destination online so you can show your kids. If it’s not available, you can probably select some appropriate children’s books that are relevant to your destination and show them to your children.

Hint # 4-

There are many more tips that can help make your family travel plans more enjoyable. You want to make sure it is not over-packed. You can easily find the appropriate gear and clothes for your travel destination ahead of time. Then you’ll make sure you keep your kids busy every day. Bring some things. Sometimes it’s a new idea to bring some new toys that you can break into unexpected times while traveling.

Tip # 5-

The tip of the last family trip is to make sure you consider the essentials and remember to pack them. You will want to make sure you have a first aid kit, any medication you need or need, and any other items that are appropriate to make your trip more comfortable.

Tip # 6

Check your flight in advance to confirm your departure, as well as departure. If you do not know the time and your flight is delayed, you may be at the airport. Sit for hours

Tip # 7

Research travel insurance companies choose to let domestic travelers choose whether your insurance plan covers you outside the state.

Tip # 8

If you are planning a family travel trip with family and relatives, call the airline in advance to decide if you can choose your seats. Otherwise, you will be separated from your family members on a flight. Weather conditions can be very different to your destination when it comes to the climate of your home. America is such a big country that domestic travel can take you to a whole new dimension to the United States that you have never before. For example, if you fly home from Los Angeles, CA, USA to Miami, FL – the conditions will be slightly different and you will need to pack accordingly.