blog by CSH President & CEO, Deb De Santis
Two recent developments have produced a wave of advocacy pushing for more supportive housing and affordable housing in general.
The first in California, where a just released independent analysis by the State Legislature indicates very high housing costs and lack of affordable options are hindering economic growth, and increasing poverty and homelessness there.
California has some of the most expensive housing in the country. The average home price is about 2½ times the national norm, while the average monthly rent is about 50% higher. Rents are increasing across the state while incomes are decreasing.
We know the largest cause of homelessness is the inability of people living in poverty to afford housing. Nothing bares this fact out more than the crisis in California.
Over 114,000 Californians are homeless on any given night. With 28,200 Californians experiencing chronic homelessness, California has the highest number of chronically homeless families and individuals in the nation.
Today, those who care about individuals and families struggling with homelessness and others facing housing insecurity, gathered in Sacramento to speak out loudly for more supportive housing, access to affordable rental apartments and services addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Some residents who thrive in supportive housing joined the chorus of affordable housing supporters, meeting with legislators to share their personal stories and press for immediate action.
Organized by CSH, this kind of story sharing builds a connection between formerly homeless - now residents of supportive housing - and decision-makers.
Those who have seen their lives transformed by supportive housing are speaking up because efforts to create more affordable housing options have taken a real hit over the past four years. Cuts of 79% in major state and federal sources of housing funds - due to withering bond financing, the elimination of redevelopment agencies, and sequestration - have stopped many viable projects in their tracks.
CSH and our supportive housing resident-advocates are urging California lawmakers to endorse Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins’ package of bills to create more affordable housing in the Golden State by:
- Establishing a “California Building Homes & Jobs Fund,” a permanent source of funding for affordable housing
- Increasing the state’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit
- Using a portion of existing funds to reduce recidivism through investment in housing and supports for formerly incarcerated Californians
Other key proposals championed by advocates would:
- Incorporate “Bringing Families Home” into the State budget, providing grants to counties to house child-welfare-involved families experiencing homelessness
- Strengthen the CalWORKS Housing Support Program
California’s current predicament should send a stark message to other parts of the nation, but not everyone seems to be getting it.
In Illinois last week, those who care about homeless individuals and families joined with providers of supportive housing (for the homeless and disabled) to warn officials of “unprecedented and costly increases” in homelessness unless they reverse plans to slash the state’s successful safety-net programs.
According to Mike Bach, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Providers Association in Illinois, the proposed budget eliminates all funding for supportive housing services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness; withholds funds for projects to serve the mentally ill; jeopardizes housing for the most vulnerable; and discontinues or severely reduces related human services. Mike points out the cuts would reduce funding for supportive housing for those exiting homelessness by over 80%, denying homes and services not delivered by Medicaid to nearly 13,000 Illinoisans.
What concerns all of us is the reductions could drive very vulnerable people into the streets, jails, nursing homes or state institutions – expensive alternatives they have no choice but to turn to when they cannot access supportive housing. The result will be higher costs to taxpayers for emergency room visits, incarcerations and other expensive crisis response measures.
Whether it’s the housing crisis in California or the potential one in Illinois, our leaders must take action now to ensure there are more, not less, opportunities for Americans to access affordable housing and community-based services crucial to ending and preventing homelessness.