Housing News Roundup: June 1, 2017
Senior-Specific Voucher Program Could Help Older Residents Remain in Their Homes
Since 2005, the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Portland, Oregon, has exceeded a senior’s Social Security income, leaving many seniors with a gap between their income and housing costs. This has prompted Bobby Weinstock of the Northwest Pilot Project, which helps low-income seniors, to push for a $350,000 voucher pilot program for 50 seniors on fixed incomes so they can stay in their homes or move into one if the person is homeless. With the number of homeless seniors in Portland increasing 23 percent between 2013 and 2015, Weinstein argues the program’s cost will be cheaper than providing homeless services for seniors, many of whom have health difficulties that would require additional care. “If we’re not able to figure out how to close the gap, we’re going to see increased homelessness,” claimed Weinstock. But this proposed program has received mixed reactions from local leaders. Portland would join other cities in operating gap programs if this program receives funding, which will be decided when the city and county adopt their budgets by July 1.
Source: The Oregonian
San Francisco Makes Dramatic Court Reforms to Ease Burdens on the Homeless
San Francisco courts have stopped issuing warrants to people who commit quality-of-life crimes and fail to pay fines or show up in court, primarily people experiencing homelessness. Quality-of-life crimes include urinating in public, loitering, and sleeping in a park. The city has also thrown out an additional 65,000 warrants that were issued for similar infractions over the past five years. The policy changes are a direct result of the US Department of Justice’s criticism of Ferguson, Missouri, courts after the 2014 riots, when riot participants became debt-ridden following the surge of citations. San Francisco’s choice to implement the change has sparked much debate among homelessness advocates, city government, and law enforcement. “I’ve seen people who basically don’t make it to court, get the bench warrant, and it messes up the rest of their lives. Arresting these people does no good,” said Bay Area Legal Aid advocate Ken Theisen. By contrast, Martin Halloran of the San Francisco Police Officers Association denounced the city’s dramatic reform attempts, arguing, “With no consequence now, with none whatsoever, there’s no reason why anyone has to obey the law.”
Source: The Washington Post
Despite Holding One, Even Two, Jobs, Families Struggle to Pay Rent
The asset-limited, income-constrained, employed (ALICE) population in Louisiana struggles to afford housing because of low wages and increases in the cost of living, according to a new report by the United Way. In Caddo Parish, which includes Shreveport and where over 48 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, Sheila Moore helps support her adult children, who are all employed. “Every time you go to the grocery store or you get your water bill, everything is going up, and a lot of jobs around here only pay minimum wage,” she explained. To help create affordable housing for the ALICE population, leaders in Caddo Parrish have established a housing trust fund and an adjudicated property program, which will allow the parish to sell or donate land to nonprofit developers. Although the report focuses on Louisiana, Moore notes the larger extent of the problem for the ALICE population. “It’s not just Shreveport. It’s a national problem. People are struggling everywhere,” she said.
Source: Shreveport Times
Gas Station Closures are Early Signs of Gentrification in Harlem
The redevelopment of gas stations in Harlem is a harbinger of gentrification and displacement. In Manhattan, the number of public gas stations decreased from 117 in 2013 to 50, where it stands now. Many gas stations were bought for tens of millions of dollars and redeveloped into major residential and commercial projects. According to Wayne Bombardiere of the Gasoline Automotive Service Dealers Association, “This used to be more prevalent downtown, but it’s moved way uptown to places like 145th Street.” That is where three of the four gas stations on 145th street in the Bradhurst neighborhood of north Harlem were closed and sold to real estate investors. Although residents want affordable and workforce housing built on these sites, investors have plans for high-end developments. David Koptiev, whose company, Platinum Realty, bought one of the gas stations in Bradhurst, said of the site, “It’s situated beautifully. It should be better than what it is right now.” But Jack Simpson, a retired housekeeper, said of the redevelopment in Bradhurst and increased costs for living in the neighborhood, “As long as one station stays here, I’ll be all right.”
Source: New York Times
Affordability Crisis and Alleged Slow Investigation Forces Family to Remain in Lead-Contaminated Home
The Legal Aid Society sued the City of Cleveland last week over the city’s slow response to investigate elevated levels of lead in a toddler’s blood. Last October, a test revealed that a 2-year-old girl had 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead in her blood, which triggered an investigation by the city. Testing in November revealed 38 places in the girl’s home that had hazardous levels of lead, including her room. The toddler and her older sisters can no longer touch windowsills, play on the front porch, or bring in toys from the front yard because all these areas are contaminated, but the city has not, according to the lawsuit, taken steps to remediate the lead problem. This lawsuit comes amid a debate in Ohio over whether lead poisoning cases should be handled at the state or the local level. With the girl’s family unable to afford other homes in the area, they remain in their home. The goal of the lawsuit is simple, according to the girl’s mother: “I don’t want for her to grow up with all the problems they say lead can cause and forever be hindered by that.”
Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer