Housing News Roundup: June 22, 2017
A School Designed for Homeless Students
Positive Tomorrows, a private school in Oklahoma City, educates and addresses the most basic needs of its students, all of whom are homeless. In Oklahoma City, the number of homeless students increased from 3,600 in 2016 to 5,400 this year. These students face educational challenges associated with housing instability, such as coming to school hungry, tired, and stressed. Amy Brewer, Positive Tomorrows’ education director, puts the significance of these challenges in context. “It’s sort of like trying to change your tire on I-35 and I am trying to teach you how to read while that is happening. Obviously that doesn’t go very well,” she said. Serving 74 prekindergarten through fifth grade students, Positive Tomorrows provides additional support services for students and their families, such as parent job-training programs and support groups, and teaches social skill development for children to help them manage the psychological difficulties associated with homelessness. At least three other US schools use a similar model to help homeless students.
A Gap in Chicago’s Senior Housing Options
Because of a mismatch in the types of housing Chicago’s seniors need and what is being built, moderate-income seniors are left with few housing options. In 2014, 24 percent of the city’s population was over age 65, compared with 18 percent in 1970. Although developers have increased the supply of senior housing, much of what has been built is for high-income people. In Chicago’s northern suburbs, new assisted-living buildings cost residents approximately $6,000 a month, providing them with luxury amenities, like pools and movie theatres. Additionally, while there is a shortage of low-income housing, the Chicago Housing Authority has plans to build two affordable senior buildings above libraries. Middle-income seniors earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year are left with few options, causing some aging baby boomers to live in unsafe houses. Kathleen Webb considers herself lucky that she could move from a dilapidated house with electrical problems to a brand-new, $800-a-month apartment designed for seniors, but as moderate-income baby boomers age and increase the demand for units, many won’t have the same luck as Webb.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Location-Efficient Affordable Housing Is Needed for Supercommuters
The increase in the number of supercommuters—Americans who travel over 90 minutes to work each way—highlights the growing need for affordable housing near where people work. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of supercommuters increased 23 percent, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. The consequences of these long commutes are seen most clearly among low-income workers. While rising housing costs force these workers to live farther from their workplaces, transportation costs become a significant factor in their monthly budgets. The Center for Housing Policy examined workers’ combined housing and transportation costs in 2012. Their report found that affordability and transport become burdensome for low- and moderate-income workers in areas with high housing costs, low average incomes, and limited accessible transportation. According to Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution, “[Commuting] costs are so high that it’s actually changing the calculus of where people are willing to live.”
Dallas’s Plan to Desegregate Schools
Ninety percent of students in Dallas schools are low income, which prompted Superintendent Michael Hinojosa to expand economic desegregation efforts. “When you have a mix of kids, the affluent kids don’t suffer and the children of intergenerational poverty do better,” explained Hinojosa. Two strategies that the district has employed to help further desegregation, in less than 10 percent of the city’s schools, are “innovation schools,” or neighborhood schools that now have such programs as the International Baccalaureate curriculum to make them more attractive, and “transformation schools,” or schools that focus around popular themes, like single-sex education or the arts, and admit students based on a lottery. Both programs aim to attract middle- and high-income students who live in the suburbs or attend private schools by setting aside seats for those who do not qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. With efforts producing mixed results, some have criticized the efforts because of factors such as cost. But Richard D. Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation sees these efforts as starting points. “You can begin with a small subset of schools and try over time to build the reputation of the school district among middle-class people,” he said.
Source: The New York Times
New Recommendations to Prevent Lead Poisoning among Children
The Philadelphia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group issued recommendations on Tuesday to prevent children from being exposed to lead. An investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News last year found that landlords ignored the current law that requires them to certify their rentals as lead-safe if children under age 6 live in the unit, contributing to 2,700 children in the city having harmful levels of lead in their blood in 2015. This prompted Mayor Jim Kenney to form the advisory group, and among its recommendations, the group’s report calls for all Philadelphia landlords with rentals built before 1978—the year of the city’s lead paint ban—to prove that their properties are safe from lead. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown explained the importance of this recommendation and others in the report, such as new financing mechanisms to help pay for remediation: “Healthy children learn better, and we don’t get a do-over.”
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer