Fair Housing

  • Pursuing desegregation in the Trump era, By Teresa Wiltz, April 11, 2018, Stateline: “Fifty years ago, just a week after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and cities went up in flames — President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act. For the first time, housing discrimination was illegal. The law also did something else: It required cities to ‘affirmatively further fair housing’ — that is, to actively eliminate segregation in their communities. Civil rights advocates hoped the law would be the key to finally ending the extreme racial segregation around the country. But enforcement of the law was sporadic at best, and a half-century later, segregation remains deeply entrenched in the United States. In fact, some of the nation’s most diverse cities — those with large non-white populations — are among the most segregated…”
  • A house you can buy, but never own, By Alana Semuels, April 10, 2018, The Atlantic: “It was not until a few years after he moved in that Zachary Anderson realized that he was not, in fact, the owner of the house he thought he’d purchased. Anderson had already spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing a hole in the roof, replacing a cracked sidewalk, and fixing the ceilings of the small two-bedroom home where he lives in southwest Atlanta. He was trying to get a reduction in his property taxes when his brother, who was helping him with his taxes, looked up the property in public records and found that the owner of the home was actually listed as Harbour Portfolio VII LP…”

Eviction in US Cities

In 83 million eviction records, a sweeping and intimate new look at housing in America, By Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, April 7, 2018, New York Times: “Before the first hearings on the morning docket, the line starts to clog the lobby of the John Marshall Courthouse. No cellphones are allowed inside, but many of the people who’ve been summoned don’t learn that until they arrive. “Put it in your car,” the sheriff’s deputies suggest at the metal detector. That advice is no help to renters who have come by bus. To make it inside, some tuck their phones in the bushes nearby.  This courthouse handles every eviction in Richmond, a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to new data covering dozens of states and compiled by a team led by the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond…”

Home Loan Discrimination

Redlining was banned 50 years ago. It’s still hurting minorities today., By Tracy Jan, March 28, 2018, Washington Post: “Racial discrimination in mortgage lending in the 1930s shaped the demographic and wealth patterns of American communities today, a new study shows, with 3 out of 4 neighborhoods ‘redlined’ on government maps 80 years ago continuing to struggle economically. The study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, released Wednesday, shows that the vast majority of neighborhoods marked ‘hazardous’ in red ink on maps drawn by the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corp. from 1935 to 1939 are today much more likely than other areas to comprise lower-income, minority residents…”

Housing Discrimination – Rhode Island

R.I. bill seeks to end Section 8 stigma, By Christine Dunn, March 19, 2018, Providence Journal: “The federal Housing Choice Voucher program was created during the Reagan administration to give low-income tenants a way to find housing of their own choosing in the private market, instead of being limited to Section 8-financed projects. But in Rhode Island, that intended choice and mobility are often pre-empted by landlords who say: ‘No Section 8…’”

Housing Discrimination – Washington

Lawmakers move to protect Section 8 recipients, homeless veterans, others on aid, By Ahmed Namatalla (AP), March 6, 2018, Kitsap Sun: “Mindy Woods fought her way out of homelessness. It’s a success story state lawmakers and advocacy groups are trying to replicate by targeting perhaps the biggest challenge faced by the homeless: rejection. Woods, 52, slept on friends’ couches for eight months and had eight property owners turn her down before she found a landlord willing to accept her Section 8 voucher, a federal subsidy that helps low-income people pay their rent…”

Racial Inequality and Discrimination

  • Modern redlining: Racial disparities in lending persist in Dayton, By Katie Wedell, February 24, 2018, Dayton Daily News: “Dayton is one of 61 metro areas in the U.S. where minorities are denied mortgage loans at higher rates than their white counterparts — a modern-day system of redlining that keeps minority neighborhoods from recovery, officials say…”
  • Report: No progress for African Americans on homeownership, unemployment and incarceration in 50 years, By Tracy Jan, February 26, 2018, Washington Post: “Convened to examine the causes of civil unrest in black communities, the presidential commission issued a 1968 report with a stark conclusion: America was moving toward two societies, ‘one black, one white — separate and unequal.’ Fifty years after the historic Kerner Commission identified ‘white racism’ as the key cause of ‘pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing,’ there has been no progress in how African Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration, according to a report released Monday by the Economic Policy Institute…”

Los Angeles Times Series on Homelessness

Without a Home, series homepage, Los Angeles Times: “They’re part of the Los Angeles streetscape, as familiar as the swaying palm trees and idling traffic, living under freeways, alongside riverbeds and on canyon hillsides. The mentally ill, the drug addicts, the economically disadvantaged, many with their life belongings in a backpack or shopping cart. In this ongoing series, Without a Home, The Times is examining the crisis of homelessness in our region…”

Public Utilities

  • Same lake, unequal rates, By Ted Gregory, Cecilia Reyes, Patrick M. O’Connell and Angela Caputo, October 25, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse, a Tribune analysis shows. In this tangled network that delivers water to the vast majority of the region’s residents, the Tribune found an upside-down world, one where people in the poorest communities pay more for a basic life necessity than those in the wealthiest. And the financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed…”
  • No Social Security Number? No lights, By Teresa Wiltz, October 17, 2017, Stateline: “In the city of LaGrange, Georgia, an immigrant from Mexico lives with his young family. He’s been living there for 10 years. He’s a homeowner. He doesn’t have a green card, so he doesn’t have a Social Security number. Without the Social Security number, the homeowner can’t get utility services in his name, even though he has a Mexican passport and an individual taxpayer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. (To protect him, his lawyer does not want to disclose his immigration status.) The city, which is the sole provider of utilities, requires that anyone opening an account have two things: a Social Security number and a government-issued photo ID…”

Aging Out of Foster Care – Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee advances tiny homes plan for young adults leaving foster care, By Mary Spicuzza, September 11, 2017,  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Three dozen ‘tiny homes’ would be built for — and with the help of — teens aging out of foster care, under a plan that advanced Monday at City Hall. As many as 36 tiny homes would be built near E. Capitol Drive and N. Humboldt Blvd. through a partnership with developer Gorman & Co., Pathfinders Milwaukee Inc. and the Milwaukee County Housing Division…”

Public Housing – Cairo, IL

Their public housing at the end of its life, residents ask: What now?, By Monica Davey, May 17, 2017, New York Times: “Residents hear mice rustling in the walls at night. Some occupants leave ovens on in the winter, their doors perched open, because furnaces fail. Ceilings droop from water damage, mold creeps across walls, and roaches scramble out of refrigerators. So when federal authorities finally deemed two public housing developments here in the southernmost tip of Illinois unacceptable and uninhabitable, it felt like vindication of what residents had been saying for ages. But then came the solution: an order that everyone must vacate…”

Affordable Housing

  • Affordable housing program costs more, shelters fewer, By Laura Sullivan, May 9, 2017, National Public Radio: “On the south side of Dallas, Nena Eldridge lives in a sparse but spotless bungalow on a dusty lot. At $550 each month, her rent is just about the cheapest she could find in the city. After an injury left her unable to work, the only income she receives is a $780 monthly disability check. So she has to make tough financial choices, like living without running water…”
  • Section 8 vouchers help the poor — but only if housing is available, By Laura Sullivan, May 10, 2017, National Public Radio: “Farryn Giles and her 6-year-old son Isaiah have been living in a crumbling apartment building with her ex-husband, who’s letting her stay for a couple months. Pigeons have infested the walls of the courtyard. Before she lived here, she was sleeping on and off in her car. But Giles, 26, says she recently felt like she hit the jackpot. She was awarded a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, which will pay the difference between her rent and what she can afford…”

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Federal home heating assistance program is safe, for now, Associated Press, May 8, 2017, CBS News: “The federal program that helps low-income people heat their homes in the winter and, in some areas, cool them in the summer has been saved from elimination in the just-passed federal budget. While that’s good news for people who used the program in the just-finished heating season, next year’s funding will have to be negotiated by Congress as part of next year’s federal spending…”

Lead Poisoning in Children – Los Angeles, CA

Lead poisons children in L.A. neighborhoods rich and poor, By Joshua Schneyer, April 21, 2017, Bangor Daily News: “With its century-old Spanish-style homes tucked behind immaculately trimmed hedges, San Marino, California, is among the most coveted spots to live in the Los Angeles area. Its public schools rank top in the state, attracting families affiliated with CalTech, the elite university blocks away. The city’s zoning rules promote a healthy lifestyle, barring fast food chains. Home values in L.A. County census tract 4641, in the heart of San Marino and 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, can rival those in Beverly Hills. The current average listing price: $2.9 million. But the area has another, unsettling distinction, unknown to residents and city leaders until now: More than 17 percent of small children tested here have shown elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to previously undisclosed L.A. County health data…”

Homelessness in Wisconsin

GOP lawmakers offer legislation to address homelessness, including key council, By Dean Mosiman, April 12, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “Following spending initiatives in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, Republican state lawmakers are offering a series of bills intended to reduce homelessness in Wisconsin, including a high-powered council that’s at or near the top of a key state advocate’s wishlist.  State Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, on Wednesday will offer a legislative package of four bills that would provide new structure to state efforts to reduce and end homelessness, adjust some current programs and test new approaches…”

Housing and Eviction – Milwaukee, WI

  • Tenants caught in legal tangle get evicted, By Cary Spivak, February 24, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Briana Shipp is caught in a legal whirlpool that won’t stop swirling. Shipp, a 29-year-old single mother, says in the past year she lost her home and possessions when she was evicted on the orders of Elijah Mohammad Rashaed, long one of Milwaukee’s most notorious central-city landlords. Her possessions, she said, were either thrown out or stolen when she was locked out of her house on N. 41st St.  The August eviction — which Shipp argues was illegal — stems from a bedazzling set of circumstances that left Shipp and a group of other Rashaed tenants unsure of whom to pay their rent. As a result, several ended up in eviction court, which has hampered their ability to find new places because many landlords won’t rent to people with evictions on their record…”
  • No title? No worry. LLC that no longer owns house files to evict Milwaukee family, By Cary Spivak, March 3, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The eviction suit filed against Jesse White last month stands out from the nearly 900 other evictions filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court last month. The difference: Kaja Holdings 2 LLC  — the company seeking to throw the 79-year-old man and his two teenage sons out — does not own the house on N. 26th St. where the family lives. The company lost title to the property on Oct. 31 in a tax foreclosure…”
  • Watchdog Report: Landlord Games, series homepage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With little consequence in the courts, Milwaukee landlords have learned how to play the system, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill…”

Lead Poisoning in Children – Indiana

Indiana bill aims to increase lead testing for children in low-income families, By Ted Booker, February 9, 2017, South Bend Tribune: “Only a small fraction of Indiana’s children in low-income families are tested for lead poisoning, but a proposed state bill aims to change that.  Senate Bill 491 — co-authored by Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, and Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend — calls for doubling the number of Medicaid-eligible children tested statewide for the toxic metal, which can cause permanent damage to kids’ developing brains and organs…”

Housing Conditions and Health

  • Philly study finds house calls could help asthma patients living in poverty, By Stacey Burling, January 3, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Tyra Bryant-Stephens, a doctor who is medical director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, thinks doctors and researchers need to think more about an often unseen factor in patients’ asthma: their housing.  When doctors see poor patients in clinics, she said, they may not have time to ask about their living conditions.  Even if they did, patients might be too embarrassed to tell them…”
  • Seller-financed deals are putting poor people in lead-tainted homes, By Alexandra Stevenson and Matthew Goldstein, December 26, 2016, New York Times: “A year after Tiffany Bennett moved into a two-story red brick house at 524 Loudon Avenue here, she received alarming news.  Two children, both younger than 6, for whom Ms. Bennett was guardian, were found to have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. Lead paint throughout the nearly 100-year-old home had poisoned them.  Who was responsible for the dangerous conditions in the home?  Baltimore health officials say it was an out-of-state investment company that entered into a rent-to-own lease with the unemployed Ms. Bennett to take the home in 2014 ‘as is’ — chipping, peeling lead paint and all.  Ms. Bennett, 46, and the children moved out, but they should never have been in the house at all. City officials had declared the house ‘unfit for human habitation’ in 2013…”

Homelessness and Hunger in U.S. Cities

  • Homelessness declining in nation’s cities, but hunger is on the rise, By Octavio Blanco, December 14, 2016, CNN Money: “Even though homelessness in America’s cities continues to decline, food banks and pantries are still being stretched thin as the number of people seeking emergency food assistance climbs, according to a survey of mayors from 38 of the nation’s cities.  The number of people seeking emergency food assistance increased by an average of 2% in 2016, the United States Conference of Mayors said in its annual report Wednesday…”
  • Charleston’s homeless and hunger problems ranked against other cities, By Robert Behre, December 15, 2016, Post and Courier: “Charleston saw a 6 percent increase in requests for emergency food assistance last year — more than the national average — and local governments and nonprofits distributed almost 1,500 tons of food.  Those statistics are from the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Annual 2016 Hunger and Homelessness Report released Wednesday…”
  • D.C. has the highest homeless rate of 32 U.S. cities, a new survey finds, By Justin Wm. Moyer, December 14, 2016, Washington Post: “The District had the highest rate of homelessness in a new survey that looked at the problem in 32 U.S. cities. The ‘Hunger and Homelessness’ survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that D.C. has 124.2 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the general population. The city also had one of the fastest increases in homelessness between 2009 and 2016, with a 34.1 percent gain. By comparison, New York had the largest increase during that period, at 49 percent…”

Homelessness in the US

  • US homelessness declines: What’s working?, By Amanda Hoover, November 17, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Chester Ross may soon be a rarity on the sidewalks of Boston.  ‘There’s too many homeless people out here,’ says Mr. Ross, bundled in a winter jacket on Boston’s Newbury Street, holding out an emptied plastic cup from 7-Eleven where coins and crumpled dollar bills gather. Sitting with his back against a fence, he’s propped a cardboard sign against his knees that reads: ‘I believe people help people in need and I am in need of help. Thank you, God Bless.’  As he looks down the tree-lined street in Back Bay, one of the city’s wealthiest downtown neighborhoods, he adds: ‘The housing is too expensive.’  But Boston may yet hold some lessons for solving homelessness…”
  • Homelessness in the U.S. was down slightly over the past year, By Pam Fessler, November 17, 2016, National Public Radio: “Homelessness in the U.S. declined over the past year. Even so, there were large increases in several cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle.  Overall, almost 550,000 individuals were homeless on a single night earlier this year, according to a new report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development…”
  • Homelessness drops across nation, but California count rises, By Steve Rubenstein, Jenna Lyons and Kevin Fagan, November 17, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle: “Homelessness across the United States fell slightly last year but increased in California and other West Coast states, largely due to a shortage of affordable housing, federal officials said Thursday.  Around the nation, homelessness was down 3 percent amid growing scrutiny of the problem. In California, however, homelessness climbed 3 percent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual snapshot assessment of homelessness in America…”