Housing News Roundup: October 13, 2016
The Benefits of Rental Assistance for Children
Children who live in public housing will have higher future earnings and a lower risk of imprisonment than if their parents hadn’t received housing assistance, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Researchers measured the benefits of public housing using records from the Census and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine outcomes for 26-year-olds who had grown up in public housing. Comparing these observations among individuals from the same family, assuming that older siblings spent less time in public housing but lived in the same environment as younger siblings, the researchers found improved earnings and reduced imprisonment risks for each year spent in public housing. The results were stronger for girls than for boys. In contrast with other studies that show additional benefits of a voucher, the researchers found no difference in the benefits of a voucher compared with rental assistance through public housing.
Source: Washington Post
New York City’s Homeless Students
Approximately 81,400 students in New York City’s public, noncharter schools were homeless during the 2014–15 school year, according to a new report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. The number has dipped slightly from the prior year, but remains well above the student homelessness count in 2010–11. More than half the city’s homeless students live doubled up with other families rather than in the shelter system or on the streets. Homeless students experience several educational challenges, including a high risk of absenteeism. Thirty-four percent of students living in a homeless shelter missed more than 40 days of school, compared with just 10 percent of housed students. In addition to providing buses to transport children in the shelter system to their school of origin, New York City has budgeted nearly $30 million to support the educational needs of homeless children, including more social workers and health clinics in high-risk schools and more teachers and after-school literacy programs in shelters. Coordination between city agencies may remain a challenge. “If everyone is doing it, who is actually doing it?” asked Liza Pappas, author of the Independent Budget Office report. “It lends itself to passing the buck.”
Source: Wall Street Journal
Are School Ratings a Proxy for Racial Steering?
The quality of neighborhood schools affects homebuyers’ interest and purchase price, but school ratings can also be an indicator of a neighborhood’s racial and ethnic composition. While racial steering is illegal, a 2006 report from the National Fair Housing Alliance found steering in 87 percent of their “mystery shopper” tests for housing discrimination. “Instead of making blatant comments about the racial composition of neighborhoods, many real estate agents told whites to avoid certain areas because of the schools,” according to the report. The National Association of Realtors recommends directing homebuyers to objective sources of information rather than expressing opinions on school quality. This still may be a “legal gray area” according to Morgan Williams, general counsel for the National Fair Housing Alliance. Michael P. Seng, a professor at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, expressed similar concerns. “It would take a lot of statistical studies, but I think it’s possible [to prove that school ratings are a method of racial steering],” says Seng.
Opinion: The Next Administration Should Expand Effective Rental Programs
The next presidential administration needs to increase evidence-based rental assistance programs, according to op-eds in the Washington Post by Edgar Olsen of the University of Virginia and Erika Poethig of the Urban Institute. Citing the Family Options Study, Olsen recommends a shift away from building and operating place-based affordable housing and focusing on housing voucher programs to provide assistance “to millions of additional people.” Poethig’s case for more rental assistance focuses on the cost-effectiveness of rental assistance for vulnerable households, including homeless families, people with disabilities, and extremely low income households. “Housing is both a cost-saving safety net and a platform for individuals and families to improve their health, education, and economic outcomes,” writes Poethig. Yet, only a quarter of the nearly 20 million rental households who qualify for federal rental assistance receive it.
Low-Income Households Face the Worst Effects of Hurricane Matthew
Low-income residents in North Carolina will experience the worst of Hurricane Matthew’s effects. After inundating the state with rain, the hurricane will likely lead to rising rivers that will wash out roads and flood homes in low-income downstream communities. Almost 25 percent of Lenoir County’s low-income residents live in the Neuse River’s flood plain. Many residents in the flood-prone area are less likely to evacuate or have flood insurance. The river could also become contaminated as flood waters pass through hog lagoons and compromise private septic tanks. A water treatment plant could also be flooded if the river rises more than expected. Governor Pat McCrory said, “Hurricane Matthew is off the map, but it’s still with us….It’s going to be with us for a long-time.”