Home / Business / The crisis of affordable housing in the United States is driving its crisis of homeless people

The crisis of affordable housing in the United States is driving its crisis of homeless people



In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan in February to address the homeless crisis by opening 90 new shelters in all five boroughs. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to spend $ 138 million to end homelessness in his city at the end of fiscal year 2017. Earlier this year, a state senator in Hawaii introduced a bill that it would allow doctors to prescribe housing as a cure for homelessness, which would be classified as a medical condition. In San Francisco, often regarded as the epicenter of the homeless crisis, Mayor Ed Lee and a coalition of private partners have pledged $ 100 million to keep the population homeless in the next five years.

Across the country, city leaders and advocates are struggling to find a way to end, or at least reduce, homelessness. But their efforts have not met the need: a new federal study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development has found that, for the first time since the Great Recession, the homeless population of the United States has increased.

[Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images]

On a single night determined this year, 553,742 were sleeping on the streets, an increase of 0.7% since 2016. Those figures come from a mandatory count of homeless streets that cities perform every two years, and because of that the counting is done by hand, it probably does not capture the scope of the issue.

In part, post-recession economic recovery – and particularly the consequent increase in housing costs – is driving this increase in homelessness, reports The Guardian . "Improving the economy is a good thing, but it puts pressure on the rental market, which puts pressure on the poorest Angelenos," said Peter Lynn, head of the Los Angeles homeless agency. It is no coincidence that the crisis is more pronounced in cities such as Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, where the cost of housing has skyrocketed since the recession with the influx of major technology companies.

Despite Garcetti's multimillion-dollar promise of the end of homelessness, Los Angeles has seen the nation's most dramatic peak on the streets to sleep during the past year; only half of the $ 138 million that the city budgeted to spend on homeless services has actually been deployed, and the planned housing construction for that effort has not yet begun. The efforts of other city leaders have also fallen short. The city of New York, for example, has seen a 4.1% increase in homelessness; in October, de Blasio admitted not to address the problem holistically since the beginning of his term.

The increase in the rates of homeless people illustrates the devastating reality obscured by economic growth and a fall in national poverty levels. In 2016, 13.5% of Americans lived in poverty, a rate on par with pre-2008 recession levels. But it would be a mistake to look at the decline in poverty and assume that it means that people's lives return to poverty. The normality. The way we measure poverty in the US UU., As Vox has reported, unfortunately is outdated and is based on three times the "subsistence food budget" for a family. This measure was developed in 1961, using household consumption data from 1955. It does not capture the needs of a household in 2017.

The poverty measure does not capture the fact that the average hourly wage has remained stagnant since the 1970s, increasing only 0.2% per year when accounting for inflation, according to Harvard Business Review . Salaries have fallen so far below the cost of housing (in New York, for example, you would need at least one hourly wage of $ 27.29 to comfortably rent a room, but the median is just over $ 20) that many Americans are now forced to spend almost half of their income on rent, much more than 30% that is considered reasonable.

The solution is clear: cities must build affordable, truly affordable housing, not just below the market price, and they must do so quickly. . As noble as the efforts of mayors like De Blasio, Garcetti and Lee to channel more money into shelters and homeless service programs, they will not be real solutions until they also make investments to build and preserve more affordable units. San Francisco, for example, faces a deficit of affordable housing of at least 40,000 units. Cities should resort to alternative funding streams, such as Seattle's proposal to introduce an additional tax on corporations that will go towards housing for the homeless, and invest in permanently affordable housing options, such as community land trusts. Especially when the fiscal plan of the Republican Party threatens to disembowel the financial resources of the lower and middle classes for the benefit of the already rich, it is crucial that cities take more care to account for the reality of living in them and provide a path for them. all do it safely and securely.


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