There are major new research efforts ongoing that focus on evictions. I see this becoming the next social justice issue. Some people claim the volume of evictions is greater than ever. I don’t know how that claim can be made.
Evictions are bad for both the tenant and landlord. Focusing on eviction as the problem would be like focusing on stopping death or some terrible illness. Most evictions are justified. The problem is poverty and poor life choices rather than focusing on some mechanical solution to evictions like mediation etc. By the time a case gets to eviction it is a lost cause.
Poverty plays a major role in evictions but not always the way one would think. If poverty was the sole cause, public housing where tenants pay almost no rent would have a lower rate of eviction. In fact the rate is higher. Families that are traumatized, poor, and who make poor choices have the greatest chance of losing their unit. Anything that creates restrictions for landlords will simply drive up the rent for other tenants. Written by Paul Dribin
I read an article in the Washington Post over the weekend which provided data that poverty is increasing faster in the suburbs than in central cities. I have heard reports of this nature for some time. Maybe this will make suburban voters a little more sensitive to the concerns of their counterparts in the city. Written by Paul Dribin
I reviewed two Brookings reports today that should be of major interest to the St. Louis region and all communities.
First a report was issued entitled The Inheritance of Black Poverty. The report showed that African American men are severely impoverished and often hold their families back. Their absence in family life often causes more poverty for the wife.
The second report is titled How Life Outside of a School Affects Performance in School. Once again this article shows that children who are severely impoverished, or suffer from abuse, neglect, or lack of stable housing suffer in school. Their performance is often behind grade leading eventually to dropping out.
The answer I believe to both these problems is to provide an intense mentoring program to both the parents and children of impoverished families. These programs have been shown to work, there are just not enough of them. Written by Paul Dribin
The St. Louis Post Dispatch carried an interesting article this weekend about crime. It showed that crime is more than ever concentrated in smaller areas, but in those areas the amount of crime is high. The disparity between the high and low crime areas is greater than ever. This certainly seems to be the case in St. Louis, but it is important to point out that there is not a complete correlation between crime and poverty. Some low income neighborhoods have less crime than others. Most people who live in low income neighborhoods do not commit crime. We need more research on the particular causes of crime and focus our policies on those situations. Written by Paul Dribin
Housing and healthcare are one and the same. I don’t need to restate the obvious; people with poor housing options tend to be less healthy, and people who are less healthy tend to live in substandard housing.
I am putting some ideas together to address this. Think of this scenario which often happens. A patient cannot be released from the hospital in a timely manner because they are homeless. The daily cost in the hospital is $3000. Wouldn’t it make sense for hospitals to subsidize the rent for these individuals and get supportive services for them? A second issue. Many readmissions to hospitals could be avoided if people lived in decent housing. As I said, I will be putting a project together to address this. Paul Dribin
The answer to this question is how you structure the problem. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has done the most work of any organization on this issue on a national level. They pose the problem by taking the median rental rate in the community and factoring in the minimum wage income. Not surprisingly they concluded that virtually now where in the United States is housing affordable.
There are several problems with this approach. The minimum wage is not a good indication of a community's earning capacity. Many minimum wage workers are students, part time workers, and those new to the work force. Many live with parents or double or triple up. Also most minimum wage workers don't remain at that pay level for a long time, as they move up the ladder. The minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage, rather just a starter for low skilled workers. Many minimum wage workers also work 2 or more jobs.
A better gauge of housing affordability is the relationship between the median income and the median rent. This gives us kind of an average, not perfect, but much better. Let's look at some numbers as a point of comparison:
St. Louis Metro Area
Median Income- $52243 for a family of 4 in the City of St. Louis
Median Rent -2 bedroom- $1291
Therefore the monthly median income of $4354 can afford a monthly rent of $1306 at the 30% threshold. This represents 100.01% of the median rent.
One may conclude that on the whole rent is affordable in the St Louis area for the median household.
Median rent-2 bedroom-$3166
Therefore the monthly income of $5654 can support a monthly rent of $1696 at the 30% threshold. This represents 54% of the median rent.
The Boston market on the whole is not affordable.
This approach seems to be useful in making comparisons among communities. It also does not relieve our community of our responsibility to provide affordable housing. After all, median income is a statistic. There are thousands of people in our metro area who cannot afford the median rent and do not have access to adequate rental housing.
Written by Paul Dribin
Much of course has been written about poverty, racism, etc. Nothing has worked very well in addressing these problems. Let me propose a very simple idea, mentoring of students.
I have been a mentor at various times in my life and found it a great experience. More important, the young person being mentored and their families seemed to appreciate it.
I am proposing a mentoring program that would address the needs of all the at risk students in the St. Louis metro area. Volunteers need to be sought and programs established. The cost if huge but on a per student basis, quite inexpensive. Furthermore data shows it works.
I am working on starting a program at one school. Anyone else interested?
Two stories regarding Ferguson Missouri are in the news. The first is that a new Empowerment Center has opened which has promised job training and related services. The second story is that businesses along Florissant Avenue that were burned out as a result of the riots are still empty.
There is only one conclusion. Things in Ferguson have not improved. What was a viable community has now deteriorated. Starting a job training program is a great idea. Unfortunately I have seen such efforts in inner city neighborhoods my whole life, usually without significant results. Do any of you know if people who want job training who have not been able to receive it.? The crowd who burned the stores in a Ferguson are not employable. We will not get anywhere unless we face facts. Written by Paul Dribin
I am repeating an idea I have expressed in previous blogs because I believe it is so important. The idea is that low income people would be significantly better served by a guaranteed income rather than construction of affordable housing. I am writing this for the following reasons:
1. Too much of the money spent on affordable housing is siphoned off to third party people and does not directly benefit the low income resident.
2. Construction is just too hard to get right. Studies have shown that very little affordable housing is build outside areas of concentration of poverty. Research again shows that low income people concentrated in poverty stricken areas have much less chance to improve their lives.
3. Income supplements largely eliminate the stigma attached to affordable housing. People could rent where they liked, use funds for a downpayment on a house, or make the normal market choices that other people do.
4. Desegregation would be easier.
5. The program would benefit more people than a construction program.
6. The program would provide benefits to more landlords and developers. Why? Because if implemented on a full scale the funds generated would provide tremendous demand for an increased number of apartment units. Apartment developers could feel confident there units could be leased.
I have a couple qualifiers to go along with the positive points:
1. These funds should not discourage employment. I would see them as a supplement to low wage jobs and not a substitute for employment. Someone who worked would actually be better off.
2. There still need to be construction programs to target special needs populations-persons with disabilities,elderly, and homeless people.
3. There needs to be a strong mortgage program in place to support the increased housing development. The FHA multifamily programs are potentially excellent, they need to be streamlined and simplified.
I am not confident that my concept will be enacted any time soon. I do think it is one of those rare ideas that can unite progressives and conservatives.