Housing News Roundup: June 15, 2017
Unaffordable Rents for Minimum Wage Workers across US
As fewer American families are buying homes and demand for rentals skyrockets, wages are not keeping up. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s newly released Out of Reach report reveals that someone who makes the local minimum wage and works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, cannot afford fair market rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment in any state, county, or metropolitan area in the United States. Workers can afford modest one-bedroom apartments in just 12 counties in Washington State, Arizona, and Oregon—all states with minimum wages above the federal standard. This has severe consequences for Americans who earn median wages in growing professions, including nursing assistants and customer service agents, many of whom spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. As demand for rentals increases faster than wages, the future for low-income renters is unclear.
Source: City Lab
America’s Invisible Housing Crisis
Widespread evictions within the Yakama Nation, a sovereign tribe in Washington State, have created a housing emergency for tribe members. Last spring, 350 to 500 members of the Yakama Nation were evicted and displaced from 60 tribal-owned residences, leaving them homeless. Homelessness on reservations looks different than it does elsewhere because it means sharing crowded and unfit living conditions with tens of family members, rather than living on the streets. As many as 85,000 tribal members in the United States were living with friends and relatives a few years ago. “A lot of our families will go stay until they wear out their welcome and then go to another family member. It’s not uncommon to have three generations of family in one home,” said Tony Walters, executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council. Many hope to find a long-term solution to the housing crisis, but the future is uncertain, given that proposed federal budget cuts would slash funding to Native American tribes by more than $50 million.
Source: The Guardian
Sacramento’s Plan to Keep the Homeless out of Emergency Rooms
If the Sacramento City Council approves Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s proposal, the city would receive $32 million in federal funds over four years to keep homeless people out of emergency rooms. “We’re living with the consequences of untreated mental illness and the lack of a comprehensive way to alleviate homelessness in a significant way,” Steinberg said while highlighting the city’s proposals to address these issues. The initiative brings a new, holistic approach to getting people off the streets and reducing health care costs. The program would target people with the most severe problems who overuse services such as ambulances and emergency rooms and would include unprecedented mental health treatment availability. If granted the money, the program would reach 3,250 people over 3.5 years, and it would aim to provide these medical and social service with the goal of getting people secure housing and reliable treatment.
Source: The Sacramento Bee
Los Angeles Meets Opposition on Its Mission to Provide Supportive Housing
Los Angeles County is about to undertake a major multifaceted project to get homeless people off the streets and provide them quality services targeted toward their specific needs. Currently, 58,000 homeless people sleep on the streets in Los Angeles in a given night, while others who cannot find rentals or who have bad credit constantly move between motel rooms. The proposed initiative, which would use funds from the voter-approved Measure H tax increase, would pay for services ranging from new homeless shelters to prevention programs to apartments and low-income housing. It would focus on improving the quality of services and using data to determine who needs what help. Although many are on board for the initiative, residents who live near motels that will be converted to homeless shelters and apartments for the previously homeless are unhappy. “We need to make sure people understand the before and after,” says Ed Holder, a regional vice president for a nonprofit affordable housing developer.
Philadelphia’s Plan to Prevent Gentrification
With an influx of new young residents, Philadelphia is using public spaces to ensure urban revitalization does not mean displacement for current residents. Founded three years ago by local leaders, the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative has focused on strengthening five civic commons—shared places that belong to everyone—that are in or near disadvantaged communities. Projects have included creating an education resource center in Fairmont Park, converting an abandoned rail line to a trail that connects neighborhoods, and a library expansion. Shawn McCaney of the William Penn Foundation, one the two foundations that began this work, explained that these efforts are not done for the community, but rather, with the community. “The people living in these neighborhoods have been involved in this work. They own it, and they are the people who will protect and steward these projects.” The initiative recommends that other cities engaging in similar efforts should experiment, identify future leaders, ensure deep community involvement, and use the power of civic engagement.
Source: Yes! Magazine