Housing News Roundup: April 6, 2017
Lack of Affordable Housing Fuels Increases of Homeless Seniors
Seniors compose the fastest-growing segment of Minnesota’s homeless population, according to the Wilder Foundation homeless survey. Affordable housing would be $400 a month for many low-income seniors. But rents in much of the state are two or three times higher, leaving many seniors homeless. Betty Hanson, who relies on Social Security for income, could not find an affordable apartment before participating in a subsidized housing program for homeless seniors, causing her to live out of a suitcase while living with her adult children. Experiencing homelessness for the first time at age 73, Hanson’s situation is similar to that of many other seniors. The problem’s severity is hidden, as many homeless seniors do not live in shelters but couch-surf or find other accommodations. “I think we’re starting to see the beginning of the wave,” explains Sue Koseterman of Churches United for the Homeless. Despite estimates from Maxfield Research showing that by 2020, the state will need 23,000 new affordable housing units for seniors, there is skepticism that the government will find policy solutions to help projects pencil out.
Source: MPR News
Environmental Displacement Could Cost Low-Income Residents Their Jobs
Residents remaining in the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana, may experience severe consequences from displacement because of lead contamination. Last summer, officials started relocating residents because of findings that some children had high levels of lead in their blood from contaminated soil. Although some residents remaining in the complex may be relocated across state lines, fewer than 10 families will be relocated to Chicago, according to US Department of Housing and Urban Development officials. Moving families to Illinois because of limited rental options in the East Chicago area and landlords’ unwillingness to accept housing vouchers could cause families to lose their jobs and Medicaid coverage and force children to change schools late in the year. Emily Coffey of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law says of the last-minute moves, “If there are emergency relocations, it’s going to be pretty unlikely that those families are going to be able to move to healthy communities where they’ll have access to good education, good health care, and good jobs.”
Source: New York Times
To Combat Poverty, Housing Authority and Workforce Development Department Partner
As the first group of participants terms out of its five-year lease assistance program, the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino is reporting success with its Moving to Work demonstration project. Started in 2012, the county’s housing authority and Workforce Development Department partnered to provide participants rental assistance and career counseling, employment services workshops, job referrals, and job skills enhancement services. Elizabeth Pryor, who lived in her mother’s house with her five children and her sister’s family, was provided half the rent for a home large enough for each of her children to have a room of their own and employment and training opportunities that gave her the skills to work as a certified nursing assistant. She expects to be one of the roughly one-third of participants who finish the program by year 3. Almost 40 percent of participants in the first cohort graduated from the program before the final year, and by the start of 2016, participants’ income increased 21.5 percent, on average. “As we help families transition of our programs…we are helping change their mind-set and breaking down the generational cycle of poverty,” said Maria Razo of the housing authority.
Source: The Press Enterprise
Task Force Calls for $600 Million to Create and Preserve Affordable Housing for Minorities
A task force to evaluate institutional racism in Austin, Texas, recommends that the city create a fund to raise $600 million to buy and preserve affordable housing for minorities, especially those displaced because of gentrification. In the wake of high-profile incidents where police used force against African Americans, Mayor Adler convened a 49-member task force, which developed 237 recommendations for addressing institutional economic and racial segregation related to education, real estate, and criminal justice. The final report, released this week, calls for implementing a $2 per square foot linkage fee to finance this affordable housing fund. Other recommendations include using public-owned properties to create housing for displaced minorities and zoning code changes to increase density to reduce displacement. Only some of the recommendations in the report are expected be implemented, but Colette Pierce Burnette, chairwoman of the task force, described this report as “one step in the journey” to address issues of inequality.
Source: Austin American-Statesman
Homeless People Receive Free Housing to Improve Health Outcomes
To improve the health outcomes of homeless people, the EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless (ECOH) and partner organizations provide free housing and comprehensive care to some of the most at-risk members of the homeless population in Escambia and Santa Rosa, Florida. Through the use of a Department of Children and Families Challenge Grant, ECOH is paying 90 days of rent and utilities for 12 homeless people selected for this program. Additionally, partner health organizations are providing case management to these participants. “We’re trying to leverage as many community resources as possible,” explained John Johnson of ECOH. While ECOH and its partners attempt to overcome challenges with the program, such as ensuring that participants have income to remain housed after the grant money is depleted, they believe that housing combined with health services will improve health outcomes for the homeless, especially with the reduction in the use of emergency medical services among participants. “We’re going to spend $20,000, at most, to help 12 clients who, if we had not helped, would cost us millions,” said Johnson.
Source: Pensacola News Journal