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…”

Fuel Poverty – England

More than 2.3m families living in fuel poverty in England, By Jessica Elgot, December 30, 2016, The Guardian: “More than 2.3 million families are living in fuel poverty in England – the equivalent of 10% of households, according to government statistics. Almost 60,000 households in Birmingham alone cannot afford to heat their homes. The figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show the West Midlands city is worst affected, with Leeds, Cornwall, Manchester and Liverpool also in the top five local authorities where households face ‘eat or heat’ choices in winter…”

Affordable Housing – Minneapolis, MN

As Minneapolis gentrifies, some of the last neighborhoods for the poor are now getting squeezed, By Adam Belz, November 28, 2016, Star Tribune: “A light snow fell outside a brown apartment building on Pleasant Avenue, where tenants gathered to protest something that’s become inevitable in Minneapolis: rising rent.  The company that manages seven buildings just south of Lake Street told residents in a letter that their rent will rise by as much as $125 per month, to $775.  For many of the families there, that will be too much, and nearby options are limited. Only a handful of apartments in the area rent for less than $900 per month…”

Ex-Felons and Housing

‘Invisible punishment’ hits ex-felons for life; DOJ, HUD fight blanket rental bias, By Joe Davidson, October 27, 2016, Washington Post: “There’s been a lot of bipartisan talk lately about criminal justice reform. But action is slow.  Too slow for Pedro Collazo, dangling in a web of collateral consequences.  He did 12 years in New York’s Sing Sing prison on manslaughter charges after a beef went bad at a bar where he was a bouncer. He was 22. He has been home nine months and has a good job that allows him to care for his 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.  But “home” is an elusive concept for Collazo, who sleeps on a relative’s couch…”

Housing and Health

Zika could hit people in poverty hardest, By Liz Szabo, June 30, 2016, USA Today: “There’s no mystery about how the mosquitoes got into Shawanda Holmes’ former home. They flew through a gaping hole in the wall. One of the wooden boards on the side of the house is partly missing, covered only by a loose, blue plastic tarp that flows down the outside wall and crumples in a heap on the grass. Rainwater pools in its folds, providing an ideal site for mosquitoes to breed. Trash fills the backyard. Holmes’ home had no air conditioning, and she was afraid to plug in a fan, for fear that water had leaked into the electrical outlet. Mosquitoes repeatedly bit her children, ages 4, 6 and 14. ‘The mosquitoes were tearing us up, no matter what I did,’ said Holmes, 32, who lives in New Orleans’ Center City neighborhood.  If Zika spreads in the United States, Americans who live in substandard housing and neglected neighborhoods could face the greatest danger, particularly along the Gulf Coast – where steamy summers, high poverty rates and a dizzying array of mosquitoes could allow the virus to take hold, said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine…”

Affordable Housing

  • The financial pain of middle- and low-income renters, By Aimee Picchi, June 22, 2016, CBS News: “Even as home prices continue to recover from the last decade’s housing collapse, there’s another crisis developing: sky-high rent burdens. About 11.4 million American households are paying more than half of their incomes to afford their rent, a record high, according to a new report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies…”
  • 11 million Americans spend half their income on rent, By Kathryn Vasel, June 22, 2016, CNN Money: “More Americans are struggling to make rent.  The number of renters dedicating at least half of their income toward housing hit a record high of 11 million people in 2014, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.  A total of 21.3 million are spending 30% or more of their paycheck to cover the rent — also a record high…”

Section 8 Housing Vouchers – Pittsburgh, PA

For those with Section 8 vouchers, finding suitable housing difficult, By Kate Giammarise, June 20, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “It can take years to get a Section 8 voucher in Pittsburgh. But it takes just four months to lose it. Pittsburgh’s voucher waiting list has about 5,000 families on it, but once a family gets one, the clock starts ticking. The recipient must find a qualified residence within 120 days and, because of a shortage of units and willing landlords, that’s often very difficult. The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as Section 8, is the largest federal program for assisting low-income people to find affordable housing in the private rental market…”

Affordable Housing

Renting a Chicago apartment becoming less affordable, study says, By Gail MarksJarvis, May 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “The average renter in the Chicago area does not earn enough to comfortably afford a modest apartment, a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported Wednesday.  With rents climbing sharply since the housing bust, individuals — and especially families — are having to stretch further on rent. Consequently, higher housing costs are forcing people to skimp on other necessities such as food, child care and transportation, said Andrew Aurand, vice president of research for the coalition…”

Housing Discrimination

Denying housing over criminal record may be discrimination, feds say, By Camila Domonoske, April 4, 2016, National Public Radio: “The Department of Housing and Urban Development is making it easier for people with criminal records to find housing.  In new guidance, released Monday, HUD tells landlords and home sellers that turning down tenants or buyers based on their criminal records may violate the Fair Housing Act. People with criminal records aren’t a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, and the guidance from HUD’s general counsel says that in some cases, turning down an individual tenant because of his or her record can be legally justified.  But blanket policies of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record are de facto discrimination, the department says — because of the systemic disparities of the American criminal justice system…”

Evictions and Homelessness – New York City

NYC to target evictions in bid to curb homelessness, By Josh Dawsey, September 28, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “As Mayor Bill de Blasio struggles to control rising homelessness in New York, the city plans to hire more lawyers to help financially stressed residents avoid eviction—especially in neighborhoods that are quickly gentrifying. By mid-2017, the city will be spending $60 million annually—up from about $34 million now—on an expanded legal team to address the flow of homeless into an already overburdened shelter system and the number of people living on the streets. The city has found that about 32% of the families in its shelters were evicted from their homes…”

Affordable Housing – New Orleans, LA

Where will working poor live in future New Orleans, if gentrification continues?, By Robert McClendon, July 30, 2015, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Twenty-year-old Jonquille Floyd is on the hunt for an apartment. Like many New Orleanians without much of a formal education, he works in the hospitality industry, washing dishes at a touristy French Quarter restaurant. It’s minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, plus some lagniappe from the wait staff who share tips with him for fetching water and the like. It’s not his long-term plan. He’s going to school in the fall to study welding. In the meantime, he has to find a place to live. At his pay, he thinks he can afford something in the realm of $650, with some help from Covenant House, the shelter where he lives now…”

Affordable Housing

Report: Rental housing supply lags behind demand, By Talia Richman, June 20, 2015, Baltimore Sun: “For families that earn less than 30 percent of the median area income, buying a house is often out of the question. And for these low-income households, finding a place to rent can also be a struggle, the Urban Institute has reported.  Not a single county in the nation offered enough affordable housing to keep up with its extremely low-income renters, the organization said. In the Baltimore region, some counties have fewer available units than the national average of 28 units available for every 100 renter households…”

Low-Wage Workers and Affordable Housing – New York City

For New York City’s working poor, new help in getting out of homeless shelters, By Corinne Ramey, May 18, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “Last summer, a pipe burst in the Bronx apartment where Ayra Garcia lived with her 15-year-old niece. The water damage was so bad that they couldn’t live there anymore. But despite the $31,243 a year that Ms. Garcia then made as a teacher, she didn’t have the savings to pay the three months of rent and a security deposit on a new apartment. With no other options, she and her niece spent five months in homeless shelters…”

Affordable Housing

More Americans spending at least half their pay on housing, May 1, 2015, Chicago Tribune: “The surging cost of rental housing has squeezed a rising proportion of U.S. families since the Great Recession struck in 2007.  For more than one in four renters, housing and utilities consume at least half their family income, according to an analysis of Census data by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps finance affordable housing. The number of such households has jumped 26 percent to 11.25 million since 2007, a sign that the 6½-year-old recovery from the recession has given scant relief to much of the country…”

Section 8 Housing – St. Louis, MO

St. Louis passes bills to reduce Section 8 concentration in poor neighborhoods, By Walker Moskop, February 26, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The Section 8 housing voucher program is designed to avoid the challenges of concentrated poverty typically associated with traditional public housing. Tenants receive rent subsidy vouchers from a local housing authority and can redeem them anywhere landlords accept them, so long as properties meet certain standards.  In the end, though, most voucher recipients in St. Louis still end up clustered in lower-income communities.  In an attempt to alleviate that concentration, St. Louis passed two measures last week aimed at making it easier for landlords to participate in the program while also banning the practice of rejecting tenants because they have vouchers…”

Section 8 Housing – Oregon

Locked out: Some landlords still turn away Section 8 tenants despite a new anti-discrimination law, By Bennett Hall, October 12, 2014, Corvallis Gazette-Times: “Elizabeth Prevish knew it could be tough to find a house to rent in Corvallis, but she had no idea just how hard it would be when she decided to relocate from Redmond in May. A single mom, Prevish has two sons, ages 3 and 13. The older boy struggles with a serious emotional disorder, and Prevish was thrilled when she got him placed in the Children’s Farm Home for inpatient treatment in January. After months of making the three-hour drive across the mountains to visit her son, she got approval to transfer her federal housing benefits from Deschutes County to the mid-valley — but ran into a brick wall when she tried to use them in Corvallis. So far, she says, half a dozen local landlords have refused to accept her Section 8 voucher — even though such discrimination is illegal under Oregon fair housing laws…”

Public Housing – New York City

Public housing in New York reaches a fiscal crisis, By Mireya Navarro, August 11, 2014, New York Times: “Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of New York City public housing. Advocates for homeless people are demanding more apartments for families living in shelters. School officials want space in public housing for new prekindergarten classes. Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to use open land in the projects for new affordable housing. And just over a quarter of a million households sit on the waiting list for an apartment in one of the New York City Housing Authority’s 334 developments. But the demands on Nycha, as the housing authority is known, clash with a grave financial reality. After years of shrinking government investment in public housing, the agency has a $77 million budget deficit this year and unfunded capital needs totaling $18 billion, its officials say…”

Affordable Housing

Obama administration expands affordable housing plan, By Elvina Nawaguna, June 26, 2014, Reuters: “The Obama administration said on Thursday it would tap Treasury funds to bolster the construction of affordable rental housing and extend the life of a program aimed at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. The announcement by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Making Home Affordable program, an Obama administration initiative launched at the height of the economic crisis in 2009 to revitalize the housing sector and curb runaway foreclosures. He said the program would be extended through December 2016. ‘We need to continue to be there for homeowners who are facing foreclosure, those who are struggling with increasing interest rates on their modified mortgages, and those whose homes are caught underwater. . .”

Affordable Housing – Los Angeles

Los Angeles needs half a million more affordable housing units, By Karen Weise, May 29, 2014, Businessweek: “California’s housing market has long been among the most expensive in the country, and the economic downturn has only made the situation worse. That’s one of the findings in a new report (pdf) from the California Housing Partnership Corporation, a nonprofit group set up by the state, that determined that Los Angeles County needs at least 490,340 more affordable homes to ease the housing burden on the state’s poorest residents. The county-level results echo the group’s February report (pdf) that found Californians need almost 1 million additional affordable housing units statewide. The CHPC’s reports are, frankly, devastating. The problem they lay out is that the financial crisis turned owners into renters . . .”