Ending Homelessness Today — Affordable Housing
Damaging Effects of Sequestration Felt by the Most Vulnerable
May 02, 2013
While sequestration was only put in place two months ago, already the stories are piling up. Predictably, the news is bad. Take Roger in Fairfax, VA – after 10 years of being homeless, the light at the end of the tunnel was extinguished when the PHA canceled his interview for a Section 8 Voucher due to lack of funds. Or Steven, in Honolulu, HI who fears that this Section 8 Voucher will be taken away and he’ll be forced out on the street. Or a resident in El Paso, TX who is now required to make the choice between striking out on his own or moving to the city’s far less desirable Public Housing. These heartbreaking stories are not unique. In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg – there are, and will continue to be, hundreds of stories and thousands of people just like Roger and Steven.
We are already hearing stories from across the country about threats to individuals’ and families’ Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. From California to Connecticut, people are hearing that they may lose their current housing if their PHAs can’t find a way to keep them housed. Families in Iowa have had their recently-issued vouchers rescinded. Hundreds were taken back in New Orleans, too.
In some places, Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are being forced to raise rents on their residents in order to keep them housed. A housing authority in Indiana notes that even if it requires increased rents, it will likely have to scale back on basic services such as repairs and flood insurance due to sequestration cuts. The Worcester Housing Authority in Massachusetts will be forced to raise rents nearly 4-fold over two years, even after laying off staff people.
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Poor People Can’t Afford Housing. How Can We Fix That?
March 21, 2013
We over at the National Low Income Housing Coalition spend most of our time focused on solving one specific problem: the acute shortage of housing that is affordable and available to extremely low income (ELI) households. This shortage is a primary driver of homelessness, and closing the gap between the number of affordable housing units and ELI households will make a big difference in the ongoing effort to prevent and end homelessness.
Our latest numbers show that, for every 100 ELI households, there are just 30 affordable and available units. This number grows every year. In our annual report Out of Reach (released this month), the authors reveal that nationwide, a household must earn $18.79 an hour (working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year) in order to afford a decent two bedroom rental home. This number, which we call the “housing wage,” is even higher in many parts of the country. (You can get data on your own community at the NLIHC website.)
While federal programs exist to help make housing more affordable for ELI households, these programs are oversubscribed, and many eligible households go unassisted, even if they otherwise qualify. Low income households desperately in need of housing find themselves on years-long waiting lists, or find that waiting lists for affordable housing in their area are closed entirely. Households on waiting lists for housing assistance have an average wait time of two years.
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Data Points: Unaffordable Housing
March 19, 2013
We spend lots of time developing and evaluating program models and service and housing interventions, but, on a basic level, homelessness occurs because of a household’s inability to afford housing.
Here are some startling statistics from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s recent Out of Reach report: There are a total of 10.1 million extremely low income (ELI) renter households across the U.S. For every 100 ELI renter households, there are just 30 affordable housing units. Most newly constructed rental units are for high income households and older units are being swiftly upgraded to serve a higher income market. To afford a decent apartment at fair market rent, a household needs to make $18.79 per hour, but the average renter earns only $14.32 per hour.
So, what does this mean for families and individuals every day? It means that households don’t make enough money to afford decent housing.
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Obama Proposes Strengthening Working Class (No Mention of Homelessness)
February 13, 2013
When you live inside the beltway of our nation’s capital, like nearly all of us here at the Alliance, there are a few big events where the political buzz in the town grows a little louder and your inner politico comes out to play. The elections are one, inaugurals another, and of course, the State of the Union Address. Last night, President Barack Obama delivered the 223rd annual State of the Union (his 5th) to a joint session of Congress. The SOTU is an opportunity for the President to use his “bully pulpit” and lay out the Administration’s agenda for the upcoming year.
Some of these agenda items were unsurprising: gun control, immigration, climate change, and the budget. As one of the policy team members at the Alliance, I was watching the Address for some obvious specifics – will the President talk about homelessness? Low-income people? Housing? We know from past analysis, that the President was unlikely to mention homelessness directly, but housing did get a brief mention (couched in terms of refinancing mortgages and making it easier for Americans to afford their own homes).
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What Does It Mean To Improve Our Communities?
November 03, 2010
Today’s guest post comes from Alliance research associate Pete Witte: homelessness researcher, urban planner, and brand new dad.
Last week I attended a meeting with the local D.C. chapter of the American Planning Association. Xavier Briggs - urban planner, academic, and current Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget - spoke to the group.
Briggs is most acclaimed for his work on the concept of “geography of opportunity,” the idea that race and class segregation affects the well-being and life potential of people with fewer means. As a former urban planner turned homelessness researcher, Briggs caught my attention when he dropped the h-word into the conversation:
“…and planning for low-income housing and for those who are homeless.”
One of the things that I quickly learned in my post at the Alliance is that there is plenty of overlap between my former role as an urban planner and my current role as a homelessness researcher. Namely, I still spend my time asking one central question: what does it mean to improve our communities?
As an urban planner, that meant considering the best way to incentivize “green space,” or deciphering what the zoning code had to say about “FAR,” pondering what it meant to “rethink the auto” and encourage “TOD.”
As a homelessness researcher, it means new and different things.
I’ve learned that one way to improve communities would be to increase the amount of permanent supportive housing options for persons w... Read More »
It's Election Day - Go Vote!
November 02, 2010
It’s election day, people.
When Congress comes back – whatever the election results – the men and women we elect will be facing appropriations season; they’ll be trying to determine how much money to spend on which programs. Ask any staffer on the Hill and they can tell you it’s always a rigorous and deliberate process – and passing a budget is one of the most important things that Congress does all year.
And that’s not all. We at the Alliance set policy priorities every year that we work toward with Congress and the Administration.
Right this very second, we're working hard on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and - as always - the McKinney-Vento. But this year, we also aim to:
Increase access to permanent, affordable housing for extremely low-income families by funding new Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers and supporting the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund.
Increase the capacity of the VA and HUD to prevent and end veterans homelessness by enacting S. 1547, the Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and supporting funding for additional HUD-VASH vouchers.
End youth homelessness through supportive housing, rental assistance, and services specific to unaccompanied youth by supporting a baseline youth count in 2011 community homeless counts and increasing funding of the Family Unification Program
And really, that’s not all. Remember the whole federal plan to end homelessness that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released last June? Remember the youth homel... Read More »
Next Generation Housing Policy: Convening on Rental Housing
October 25, 2010
Today's blog post comes from Steve Berg, Vice President for Programs and Policy at the Alliance.
As a member of the Alliance’s policy team, I have the privilege and responsibility of meeting with elected officials, members of President Obama’s administration, national advocacy groups, and other stakeholders in the world of homelessness and housing. We share ideas, challenges, strategies, and innovations to best meet our common goals.
Earlier this month I had the distinct honor of attending a White House-sponsored gathering called Next Generation Housing Policy: Convening on Rental Housing. A policy that could do more to help the lowest-income Americans afford decent housing would provide a powerful wind at the back of everyone who works to end homelessness - so the issue is key to our work.
The event took place in a building that looks like a small warehouse, planted in an internal courtyard of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), next door to the White House. Inside was a comfortable, well-appointed auditorium. About 200 people were there – federal officials, people from the development and financing industry, researchers who study housing, and advocates for low-income people.
Speakers included members of the Obama Administration: Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council; Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council. Academics, advocates, and practitioners from the affordable housing world also spoke, offering their ideas for change. Among them was our friend and c... Read More »
Call Congress today: Fund the National Housing Trust Fund!
May 20, 2010
It's time to act! Homelessness is complicated, but in the end, we believe that people are homeless because they can't find housing they can afford. Today, there is something YOU can do about it.The National Housing Trust Fund aims create 1.5 million units of affordable housing within ten years - and tomorrow, the House will debate H.R. 4213, which would fund NHTF with $1 billion. With your help, the bill will move on to the Senate next week. (H.R. 4213 also includes funding for a variety of programs that low-income Americans need, including the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. More info is available here).Here's what you can do:1. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.2. Ask for your Congressional Representative. If you're not sure who that is, you can find out here.3. Ask for the staffer who works on housing.4. Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213. Here's what you can say:I am deeply concerned about homelessness in my community, but I know the way to end homelessness is to house people. I'm calling to ask you to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.The National Housing Trust Fund is critical for efforts to prevent and end homelessness. The majority of the people who enter the homeless system have experienced some sort of crisis that causes them to lose their housing. At least 75% of NHT... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 10 great blogs about homelessness
May 14, 2010
As Catherine pointed out yesterday, many in the homelessness field have been slow to embrace using social media tools. As the New Media Intern at the Alliance, this hesitance has sometimes created challenges, but it has also made for some happy surprises.As I've explored the social media landscape, I've been impressed and inspired over and over again by the homelessness blogosphere. Advocates, policy organizations, service providers and concerned citizens are using this new medium to share stories and information, to engage supporters and investigate new ideas. So straight from my Google Reader, here's homelessness in headlines this week - from the blogopshere:1) Just this week I started reading the Housing for Families blog out of Massachusetts and Healthcare for the Homeless: both are super useful and informative. 2) for those who can't afford free speech, the blog of Portland's street newspaper Street Roots, consistently shares a wide variety of great content. This past week, they published an interview with Liesl Wendt, CEO of 211info in the Portland area. It serves as a handy introduction to 211 services, as well as the recession's impact on the people of Portland.3) The Homelessness Law blog is thoughtful and timely. This week, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty Human Rights Program Director Eric Tars shared a success story from Salt Lake City. 4) Unity of Greater New Orleans' Signs of Life. I've said it before and I'll say it again: read it!5) Inforumusa is updated... Read More »
Affordable Housing: For many Americans, it's Out of Reach
April 21, 2010
Today, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach, an annual analysis of the cost of rental housing in the United States. In order to understand the report, it’s important to establish two things: “Fair Market Rent” refers to the national average cost of a rental unit; it usually refers to a two-bedroom unit. ”Housing Wage” refers to the hourly wage a person must earn – working full-time – in order to afford Fair Market Rent. The report found that a family needs to earn $18.44 per hour in order to afford a modest rental, two-bedroom home in the United States. This amounts to $38,360 per year - $16,310 more than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Key findings of the report include: In 2010, the estimated average wage for renters in the United States is $14.44 – a decline from $14.69 in 2009;At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have top work 102 hours a week to afford the national average FMR;There is no county in the United States in which a full-time minimum wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at FMR.The report also found that the two-bedroom Housing Wage topped $20 in 10 states, including the District of Columbia, California, New York, Florida, and Hawaii. The five most expensive metro areas included San Francisco (CA), Honolulu (HI), Stamford-Norwalk (CT), San Cruz-Watsonville (CA), and Westchester County (NY) – the housing wage for each of those areas topped $30 per hour. In their report, the... Read More »
"Housing can save lives," says Martha Kegel, 2010 Nonprofit Achievement Award Winner
April 08, 2010
At our Annual Awards Ceremony on April 22, we'll honor Unity of Greater New Orleans, a nonprofit organization leading a collaborative of 63 agencies providing housing and services to the homeless in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. In 2009, UNITY provided housing or services to 19,468 homeless children and adults - nearly twice the number of people served annually before Hurricane Katrina.Executive Director Martha Kegel will accept our Nonprofit Achievement Award on behalf of UNITY. Read on to learn more about Martha's story and UNITY's work.1. What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?As climate change leads to more disasters of great severity here and around the globe, a sustained commitment is needed to ensuring permanent housing solutions for the poorest and most vulnerable victims of disasters. Here in New Orleans, nearly five years after poorly designed levees broke, several thousand of the most vulnerable victims of Hurricane Katrina – most of whom have serious disabilities but were stably housed before the disaster -- are living in Third World conditions, squatting in New Orleans’ 61,000 abandoned buildings filled with mold, rotting debris and gaping holes in the ceilings as though Katrina just happened. The Mississippi Gulf Coast too is seeing widespread homelessness as a result of massive loss of housing stock and dramatic increases in rents since Katrina. The lion’s share of attention is given to emergency relief when disasters happen, but a strong and sustained partnership is needed between nonprofits, government and phila... Read More »
Reoprt out today: Homelessness among the elderly to rise 33% by 2020
April 01, 2010
According to The Rising Elderly Population, the latest report from our own Homelessness Research Institute, homelessness among the elderly is set to increase 33% between 2010 and 2010.I sat down with MWilliam Sermons, director of HRI, to talk about the report, specifically our recommended solutions to the increasingly urgent problem of elderly homelessness.Liz: These projections are pretty dire. What can we do to start curbing elderly homelessness now?Bill: I think the primary thing that can be done right now is to trying shore up affordable housing programs on which elderly persons rely.There's a mix between project-based Section 8, housing choice vouchers, Section 202, Section 515. Because elderly persons have a diverse range of needs, they utilize a diverse range of federal programs and local programs. So I think it’s really critical that the housing stock in these programs be preserved.Bill: It’s also critical that new housing units be created moving forward. Federal policy definitely has to move in a direction such that we’re dramatically expanding the availability of affordable housing that elderly persons rely on.I also think that one of the things that’s critical from a homelessness perspective is that the job of ending chronic homelessness be completed. The projection is that there will be a 33% increase in elderly homelessness between 2010 and 2020 and a lot of the people that are chronically homeless now are in the "older adult but not yet elderly" category.So the success that we... Read More »
New NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar on the past, present and future of affordable housing
March 30, 2010
Today's guest post is from Maureen Friar, the new President and CEO of the National Housing Conference. We asked her some of the most pressing questions in the field. Here's what she said:Where do we – as a national community – stand on the issue of affordable housing? Where should we go from here? Our country still faces a huge affordable housing problem. Housing is not affordable for many segments of our society, including low-income households and working families. In addition, when the cost of transportation is combined with the cost of housing, households are finding it even harder to make ends meet. With the recent downturn in economy, collapse of the financial markets, and the overextension of credit, the number of foreclosures continues to rise, affecting millions in our communities. According to our research affiliate the Center on Housing Policy’s newest Paycheck to Paycheck study, between 2008 and 2009, home prices rose or held steady in 90 (44 percent) out of 207 metropolitan areas. Over the same time period, the income needed to purchase a median-priced home decreased in 193 of these metro areas (93 percent). As well known to NAEH, we have made great strides in ending chronic homelessness, but many still are without a home. People are also living in substandard housing and families often are doubled- and tripled- up, which adds to the affordable housing crisis.We must work with the Administration and Congress as one national community to implement measures to halt forec... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 38 percent drop in homelessness in Los Angeles, California
October 30, 2009
Without question, the news of the day is the reported 38 percent drop in Los Angeles, CA.
In a year when everything seemed to present endless challenges for the homeless and homeless advocacy community – rising unemployment, stifled state budgets, increasing homeless counts, reduction of public services, and the rest – it seemed incredible that the city with the largest homeless population in the country saw such a pronounced decrease in their numbers. The Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC) is a solid ten percent of the entire homeless population in the country – so any significant movement in their number would represent a notable change in the nation’s homeless population.
All to say – we definitely noticed.
And the inevitable question that rises from such a report is this: how?
Alliance staff has ruminated about the data for the last couple days. Together, we discussed the drop in the sheltered count (down by 19 percent), rental unit vacancy rates for the last five years (up by 3 percent), the unemployment rate (up by 5 percent), the Consumer Price Index (down by 4 percent), and – of course – methodology. We compared Los Angeles to New York and the nation, comparing numbers and rates and population, noting the general difficulties in counting homelessness people – especially the unsheltered (67 percent of the homeless population in LA is unsheltered.)
Of course, all these variables could play a role in determining how and why the count went down as significantly as it did. The rate of rental ... Read More »
Congratulations to New Jersey!
September 09, 2009
Congratulations to our friends in New Jersey, who have been working to pass state legislation that would allow them to create housing trust funds for the homeless in their state. Governor John Corzine signed that legislation in to law yesterday.
Governor Corzine was joined by state Senator Dana Redd (D-Camden, Gloucester), Assemblymembers Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer), Elease Evans (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Camden Mayor Gwedolyn Faison as he signed the County Homeless Trust Fund into law in a ceremony held on September 8, 2009, at the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.
An article by the Associated Press briefly outlines the stipulations and ramifications of this bill.
Advocates in New Jersey celebrate the passing of the bill, calling it a signficant step in their efforts to fight homelessness. More information about the Trust Fund legislation and other efforts to fight homelessness in New Jersey can be found below.
Homeless Trust Fund Bill Becomes Law
Photos from the Trust Fund Signing
Video from the Trust Fund Signing
Appreciation for the Trust Fund!... Read More »
News Brief - Affordable Housing
September 03, 2009
While cruising for news today - noticed three articles from three different states about struggles in affordable housing.
Thought I'd share.
Oregon: City affordable housing plan delayed
California: San Jose transitional housing back open
New York: Turning Stalled Projects Into Moderate-Income Housing
Anyone else seeing recession + housing troubles in the neighborhood? ... Read More »
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessnessc
August 13, 2009
Okay, I'm a little excited! Yesterday, our friends at The Nation published an editorial we wrote for the "Ten Things" series. You can access the article, "Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness," on the Nation website but - if you're feeling lazy - you can just read it below!
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness
In July 2009, The Nation published a "Ten Things" piece titled "Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets." The provocative and thoughtful piece elicited quite a response. We, however, respectfully disagree with the premise of the piece. Before submitting to the idea that there are things you need to know to live on the streets, we suggest that you consider whether living on the streets is necessary at all.
We're no strangers to the issue of homelessness--rather, we're quite well-versed in the subject. Homelessness, as we know it, began in the 1980s and has persisted through the decades. Some see it as an inevitable byproduct of a diminishing affordable housing supply, a lack of well-paying jobs, tumult in the economic sector, and both globalization and urbanization. Many see it as an unavoidable social nuisance. Some don't see it at all. But here, at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we see it as a problem with a solution.
The causes of homelessness are many and complex--but the solution to homelessness heads toward one straight goal: housing.
... Read More »
What to do about tent cities?
August 12, 2009
Meghan, a co-worker of mine (you might remember her from Geography of Homelessness sent me a Wall Street Journal article about tent cities.
I thought I’d share this article because we get this question a lot: Do we support tent cities? What can we do about them? Are there any good ideas/best practices to deal with these communities?
Writer Jennifer Levitz writes about cities’ responses to the ever-rising number of tent cities. According to Levitz, some are not only allowing tent cities to form and persist, but are furnishing these makeshift areas with portable toilets, security, and social services. Nashville, TN is one such city.
In fact, Levitz writes that even cities that had previously had ordinances against tent cities or sleeping in cars are changing their mind. City officials in Lacey, WA allowed a tent city in the parking lot of church; the city council in Ventura, CA revised a law allowing people to sleep in their cars overnight.
But this doesn’t mean that all cities are hopping on this bandwagon.
New York – with its ever-precarious relationship with homeless people – is staying steadfast. New York City recently shut down a tent city in Harlem, the article notes.
Here at the Alliance, we know what the landscape looks like – and we know that between the recession and state budget cuts, resources are scarcer and scarcer as need rises higher and higher.
It seems that any way you slice it – ... Read More »
Grant Opportunities from our Development Team
August 05, 2009
It's pretty crazy. Just now, I'm typing up some of the usability results from the Alliance's Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness, and I'm remembering that a handful of users suggested that we share fundraising ideas on our website.
And then, I get this email from our Development Director, Beth Roche: Here are some new grant opportunities that do not seem to be a good fit for the Alliance, but that I thought some folks might be interested in knowing more about to pass along to other nonprofits and colleagues.
Well, Beth! I'm sure there are some people who might be interested! Here you go, folks:
The 14th Annual MetLife Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing is open for entries. Enterprise Community Partners and the MetLife Foundation have focused this year's competition on best practices in the area of affordable independent senior living and environmentally responsive housing.
A program of Civic Ventures, the Purpose Prize annually provides five awards of $100,000 each to people over 60 who are working to address society's biggest challenges.
The SEVEN (Social Equity Venture) Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to promote enterprise-based solutions to poverty, has published its second annual open Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty Request for Proposals. The fund's Request for Proposals is limited to research in economics, government policy, and business strategy, insofar as the research bears directly on questions in enterprise-based solutions to poverty.
Best of luck if you choose to pursue these funding... Read More »
Annual Conference - Day Two
July 30, 2009
The Secretary's entourage and his security detail came by at 7 a.m. today. Herds of the 1200+ attendees of the conference mingled around the doors of the ballroom for a half hour to get a peek of the Secretary. The day began in a VERY exciting way!
And just after 8 a.m. - Secretary Shaun Donovan himself.
His remarks were inspiring and thoughtful: an emphasis on creating more affordable housing, the relationship between health care reform and the homeless, a persistent theme of the moral responsibility of our country to care for the least among us. The necessity of cooperation between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's Department of Health and Human Services in providing services + housing for the homeless. It was everything that the audience needed to hear: a federal promise to keep investing in preventing and ending homelessness.
It's no wonder he got a standing ovation.
We'll be posting the Secretary's remarks shortly, keep an eye out on our blog and website. But for the time being, a few pics.
Next up - in under an hour! - new White House Director of Urban Affairs Policy: Adolfo Carrion.
... Read More »