Housing News Roundup: May 18, 2017
Miami’s Affordability Crisis Creates Long Commutes for Workers
High rents and stagnant wages force 80 percent of workers in Miami Beach to live elsewhere. Odelie Paret, a hotel housekeeper, must travels 13.5 miles to her job in Miami Beach at the Foutainebleau Hotel. On a good day, this commute takes one hour, double the average commute in Miami-Dade County, but other times, it can take closer to three hours. Earning $15 an hour, Paret cannot afford to live in Miami Beach, where the average rent ($1,700 a month) would force her to spend almost all her paycheck on housing. With the number of severely cost burdened renters growing 45 percent since 2010 in Miami Beach, industry leaders and public officials are working together to find housing and transportation solutions for these workers, because as Jodi Weinhofer of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West explains, “If you don’t have someplace for your employees, you’re going to have a hard time finding employees.” Solutions include express buses, free parking and carpools, and onsite housing for hotel employees, but efforts to increase wages, which only increased 82 cents between 2011 and 2016 for hotel housekeepers like Paret, have stalled.
Source: Miami Herald
Closure of Public Housing Developments Could Devastate Town
With infestations, unreliable heating, and water damage, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) deemed the McBride and Elmwood public housing developments uninhabitable, forcing residents to vacate. Located in Cairo, Illinois, the two public housing developments would cost 10 times more to renovate than to provide housing assistance to residents who vacate. But residents of these developments will likely have to leave the town because of a lack of nearby affordable housing. McBride resident Nena Ellis explained, “There’s really nowhere else for us to go around here—even with a housing voucher, there just aren’t other places.” In addition to the effects of displacement felt by the 400 residents, 200 of whom are children, the town is concerned about losing so many residents, which will decrease school enrollment and may cause job cuts in the schools, the town’s largest employer. “We’re talking about a big ripple effect,” said Andrea Evers, superintendent of the town’s schools. Although residents of the public housing complexes are provided special “tenant protection” vouchers that can be used across the country and relocation services, the town’s mayor and officials hope that many will stay.
Source: New York Times
Temporary Funding Measure Attempts to Continue Voucher Program in Houston
Last month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ordered Houston to stop issuing new Housing Choice Vouchers as a cost-cutting measure, but by using other federal grants and local funds, the city hopes to resume the program. With 33,000 households on the waiting list for vouchers, the freeze threatens several of the city’s initiatives, specifically around addressing chronic homeless and moving families with young children to low-poverty neighborhoods. In January 2017, the city’s homeless population reached a multiyear low, and the temporary funding measure will allow the city to house about 250 more homeless people. The freeze also hinders the city’s plan to assist 350 families with children in kindergarten through third grade move to low-poverty neighborhoods and attend better schools. The funding proposal will need to be approved by city council and HUD, but the proposal isn’t expected to come before the city council until mid-June.
Source: Houston Chronicle
San Diego Struggles to Move Its Homeless Population Indoors
With one of the nation’s largest (and growing) homeless populations, San Diego struggles to move residents off the streets. High rents and the removal of 5,000 residential hotel units since 2003, which were often used for housing as a last resort, have forced many to live in makeshift shelters outside. A recent count revealed a 104 percent increase in tents and hand-built structures in the city’s downtown since 2016. This increase in makeshift shelters has coincided with a decrease in shelter use. To combat this problem, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has dedicated $3.3 million to fund homelessness programs in addition to federal funds given to the city, and he has proposed a hotel-room tax to help fund these programs. Alpha Project, a homeless service provider in the city, submitted plans to create an intake center that includes a courtyard for 150 people and space for 25 tents, eventually expanding the facility to include 700 units of permanent housing. Lawell Brooks, who uses a blue tarp as shelter, notes, “I could probably have gotten a job by now, but I don’t want to leave my stuff.”
Source: The Guardian
San Francisco Moves Forward with Affordable Housing Development for Teachers
Last week, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee picked a site for the construction of a $44 million, 130- to 150-unit affordable housing development for teachers. This announcement came after publication of an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that profiled a math teacher who was homeless despite earning $65,000 a year. If the school district and board of education support this project, the units could be move-in ready by 2022, adding San Francisco to the list of US cities providing affordable housing for teachers. Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Asheville, North Carolina, have already built similar developments. A project in Newark, New Jersey, went one step further by placing the housing for teachers in a development that contains three charter schools. Although San Francisco’s proposed teacher housing is still years away from completion, Mayor Lee explains, “I am disturbed as anyone to have a teacher who’s homeless.”
Source: Business Insider