Housing News Roundup: July 26, 2018
More Homeless People Are Living in Cars Than Ever Before
Many major cities are experiencing a surge of people living in their cars. In Seattle, the number increased 46 percent from the previous year, and on the West Coast, 20,000 more homeless people than last year are not living in shelters. “The cost of housing is continually rising, but social service programs aren’t having any increase in funding—if anything, they are getting cut,” said Cassie Roach, program coordinator of a nonprofit that runs a safe-parking program to help this population in Santa Barbara. Other cities have criminalized or created ordinances that outlaw the behavior, which homeless advocates argue is not a long-term solution.
Proposed Bill Would Give Renters a Tax Break
Senator Kamala Harris has proposed the Rental Relief Act, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code to give a tax break to renters who spend more than 30 percent their gross annual income on housing. Credits would be limited to people making $100,000 per year or less or $125,000 per year or less in expensive markets. Oakland mayor Libby Schaff said, “Nearly every Oakland resident who pays rent will save money under this law.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times predicts that it’s unlikely the bill will pass in Congress.
Source: Curbed San Francisco
One Restaurant Takes a Unique Approach to Address California’s Severe Worker Shortage
Zareen Khan owns two popular restaurants in the Bay Area but struggled to keep her staff from leaving despite raising their wages and paying them overtime. That changed when she offered four full-time employees a place to live affordably: they each pay $500 a month. Amid a severe shortage of restaurant workers throughout California—as many have trouble affording rent without working multiple jobs—Sharokina Shams, a spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association, notes, “This is the first time I’ve heard of this. I’m not sure ‘unique’ goes far enough to say it.”
Source: The Mercury News
Charleston Housing Authority Anticipates Challenges to Going Smoke-Free
The Charleston Housing Authority anticipates it will struggle to enforce a smoking ban that will be applied in public housing nationwide beginning next week, despite the fact that it adopted a no-smoking policy last fall. “This is probably the biggest change we’ve had in the last decade that affects the entire public housing industry across the country. But if there’s somebody in a wheelchair sitting on their front porch smoking, I just don’t see us threatening to evict them,” said Don Cameron, executive director of the housing authority.
Source: The Post and Courier
Advocates Debate a Bill to Expand the Definition of Homelessness
A new bill seeks to amend the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) definition of homelessness to align with other federal agencies, which would allow more families to qualify for HUD services. For example, the executive director of a national youth homelessness organization says the bill could extend eligibility to a family with children staying in a motel or a family that is doubled up in someone’s house. But the National Alliance to End Homelessness disagrees about the bill’s effectiveness. “What this bill would do is expand assistance eligibility for people who are living in relatively stable situations, not in emergency crisis points,” said Steve Berg, the organization’s vice president for programs and policy.