Housing

Strategies that expand options for high quality, affordable housing can help to mitigate the impacts of poverty and contribute to well-being, economic stability, and wealth creation for individuals, families and future generations.

  • Bolster supports for homeowners living on a fixed income, especially older adults.
  • Strengthen supports to address and prevent homelessness.
  • Expand options for quality affordable housing, including homeownership, in neighborhoods of high opportunity.
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    Nearly a third (32%) of homes in Buffalo Niagara were built before 1940. In urban areas where economic need is more concentrated, this share is much higher. People in or near poverty are more likely to live in older homes, since they tend to cost less to rent or own. But older homes are often more expensive to maintain, which can be a challenge for those on a fixed income, like older adults. Based on insights from residents, many do not have enough in savings to cover costly repairs when issues arise. This can lead to difficult decisions, like having to choose between repairing a furnace or keeping up with health care costs. Helping low income residents cover the costs of home repairs can lead to financial security and enable older adults to age in place.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Raise awareness of new and existing resources such as Eight Days of Hope and Erie County Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program offering zero-interest loans for major repairs that can be deferred until the home is sold or transferred.

    Explore the creation of an emergency housing fund.

    Consider a community solar project as a way to lower utility costs for low-income homeowners that typically face barriers to clean energy investments and utilization.

    Create or strengthen block clubs, which have helped homeowners with necessary repairs in some neighborhoods, and may be able to negotiate lower prices with handymen and contractors.

  • Potential Actors in the Community

    Housing service providers
    Financial education service providers
    Block clubs and community organizations
    Senior service providers
    Utility assistance providers

Models to Consider

  • Tiny Homes

    Rochester and Syracuse, NY and Chico, CA

    Tiny homes, or homes with around 200 to 500 square feet of livable space, are being used as a relatively inexpensive way to combat the lack of affordable housing and homelessness in several US cities. In some cases, villages of tiny homes are proposed to fight homelessness and restore communities. In Chico, CA, where the Camp Fire of 2018 destroyed thousands of homes, a local non-profit fundraised almost $800,000 to construct a tiny home village for those who lost their home in the fire, and other homeless residents. In Rochester, NY, a tiny home village was proposed by a community group that formed several years ago to aid the homeless. The organization won a grant through a participatory budgeting process at the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, but the city must approve zoning changes, and the organization needs to purchase land before construction can begin. A non-profit organization in Syracuse, NY, A Tiny Home for Good, constructed tiny homes on formerly vacant land for veterans at risk of homelessness. They built 11 homes since 2016, and received additional funding from Onondaga County through unused state Medicaid funds in 2019.

    atinyhomeforgood.org
  • Rebuilding Together

    Various Locations Across the U.S.

    Rebuilding Together, a national non-profit organization with a network of affiliates and partners in 39 states, rehabilitates homes and community spaces for those who cannot afford to do so on their own. Created in 1988, Rebuilding Together works with corporate and individual donors, skilled trades individuals and associations, and over 100,000 volunteers to provide critical repairs and renovations to almost 10,000 homes each year. In the thirty years since its inception, the organization has performed services for over 210,000 homes, nonprofit facilities, and community spaces with an estimated impact on more than 6.2 million people. Their work aims to create safer and more accessible homes, allowing residents to age in place longer, while also preserving affordable housing options and stabilizing neighborhoods. Rebuilding Together is funded through corporate contributions, individual and foundation donations, government contracts, affiliate dues, investments, and other fundraising activities.

    rebuildingtogether.org
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    As rents and home prices increase, so does the risk of homelessness. This is especially true for renters on a month-to-month lease just making ends meet. Insights from residents show renters often do not have enough savings or income to cover increasing rent, let alone the security deposits landlords require upfront, if they need to find a new place to rent. One local shelter reports that over a quarter of homelessness stems from evictions, foreclosures, and housing fires. In some neighborhoods where homelessness is most prevalent, based on insights from providers, more than 60% of renters are cost burdened, spending over 30% of their income on housing. Increasing access to affordable housing and providing financial assistance to cost burdened households can prevent the spread of homelessness.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Expand options for safe affordable housing, especially in communities where the cost of rental housing is high or growing.

    Require developers to allocate a percentage of the development to affordable housing, or rent-to-own options for lower-income residents.

    Provide emergency financial assistance to individuals and families at high risk of homelessness.

    Make evictions data regularly available on a local and regional level to help target investments and resources and tailor solutions to community needs.

  • Potential Actors in the Community

    Housing and homeless service providers
    Elected officials and policymakers
    Private and not-for-profit developers

Models to Consider

  • Chicago Homeless Prevention Call Center

    Chicago, IL

    Chicago's Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS) offers a homeless prevention program to stabilize renters in their current home before their situation leads to homelessness. DFSS has six Community Service Centers across the city where residents can access Emergency Rental Assistance Program services, as well as a Homeless Prevention Call Center. Community Service Centers connect renters with short-term financial assistance for rent, utilities, and other housing costs. Residents can work directly with a housing stability case manager to help budget for the future and resolve existing financial issues that cause housing instability. At the Homelessness Prevention Call Center, staff assist qualified callers by helping them access emergency funds. Callers who are ineligible for emergency funds are referred to other agencies able to assist with each individual's situation. The city's Homeless Prevention Program and Call Center are part of a broader effort, Chicago's Plan 2.0, to end homelessness through housing and wraparound services. The effort appears to be working, as the total number of homeless in the city has declined steadily each year since 2015.

    chicago.gov/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/emerg/svcs/homeless_prevention
  • Broadway Housing Communities

    New York City, NY

    Located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, this non-profit housing developer provides permanent housing for individuals and families through a supportive housing model. This strategy combines low-income housing with services that enable residents to live independently, such as the integration of community-based arts and culture, medical and mental health care, vocational training, job placement, substance abuse treatment, benefits counseling, and assistance with independent living skill training. Families are also provided the added benefits of high-quality early childhood education, mentoring for school-age children, and educational advocacy for children and parents. Though Broadway Housing Communities is primarilly focused on housing, it serves as a model for mental health care in that it holistically addresses mental health alongside other needs.

    broadwayhousing.org
  • Geel Boarding Program

    Geel, Belgium

    The small town of Geel in Belgium has a centuries-long history of specialized care for individuals with mental health challenges. Alhough the model has evolved since it was first established in medieval times, the essence is still the same today: individuals with certain mental illnesses, instead of being treated in psychatric hospitals or other mental health care centers, are placed with families in the community. Referred to as boarders or guests, these individuals receive housing, emotional support, and above all, a sense of normalcy from their host family. In return, host families are given a small stipend to help offset the costs of supporting their guests and the honor of carrying on a tradition that dates back to the 15th century. Guests are fully integrated into the Geel community and do not face the stigma commonly associated with mental health challenges in other communities.

    opzgeel.be/en
  • Host Home

    Various location across North America and the UK

    The Host Home model has been used in cities across North America and the UK as a means to find temporary housing for the homeless. A pilot Host Home program in Los Angeles is managed by a small non-profit organization called Safe Place for Youth (SPY), which implemented the model in 2018 to help homeless young people age 18-25 find temporary housing. Host Home connects those who are homeless with local residents willing to share their home with someone in need for a 3-6 month period. The beneficiary of the program is given access to personal case management to help transition into permanent housing, while hosts are offered a $500/month stipend. In 2018, SPY housed six homeless young people through Host Home at a cost of $75,000. Although four of the six beneficiaries of the program graduated from the program in 2018, the long-term efficacy and scalability of the model is largely untested. Host Home programs also exist in the Bay Area and Minneapolis.

    safeplaceforyouth.org/host_home_program
  • Why This Strategy Matters

    Over 133,000 households in Buffalo Niagara spend over 30% of their income on housing. Well over half (57%) of these cost burdened households are renters. This problem is particularly pressing in communities with relatively high, and growing, rental costs. Although rents in Buffalo Niagara are much lower than the US overall, a minimum wage worker would need to spend nearly 40% of their gross monthly income (not including taxes) to afford the region's median rent of $772. Insights from residents and providers show that many households often forgo food, utilities, or health care to pay rent and are unable to build any savings. Providing financial and other assistance to cost burdened households can lead to economic security and enhanced opportunities.

  • Potential Action Steps

    Strengthen pathways to home ownership for low-income families while removing barriers to loans.

    Expand access to financial literacy programs, savings incentives, and affordable home supports.

    Increase access to land for food growing, especially in residential areas that are food insecure.

    Promote weatherization and housing rehabilitation programs.

    Explore partnerships that may enable PUSH Green to expand energy efficiency programs for homeowners to new communities beyond Buffalo.

    Increase safety and neighborhood livability through the promotion and strengthening of block clubs.

  • Potential Actors in the Community

    Housing and homeless service providers
    Elected officials and policymakers
    Private and not-for-profit developers
    Block clubs
    Food and agriculture service providers
    Financial education service providers
    Financial institutions

Models to Consider

  • Tiny Homes

    Rochester and Syracuse, NY and Chico, CA

    Tiny homes, or homes with around 200 to 500 square feet of livable space, are being used as a relatively inexpensive way to combat the lack of affordable housing and homelessness in several US cities. In some cases, villages of tiny homes are proposed to fight homelessness and restore communities. In Chico, CA, where the Camp Fire of 2018 destroyed thousands of homes, a local non-profit fundraised almost $800,000 to construct a tiny home village for those who lost their home in the fire, and other homeless residents. In Rochester, NY, a tiny home village was proposed by a community group that formed several years ago to aid the homeless. The organization won a grant through a participatory budgeting process at the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, but the city must approve zoning changes, and the organization needs to purchase land before construction can begin. A non-profit organization in Syracuse, NY, A Tiny Home for Good, constructed tiny homes on formerly vacant land for veterans at risk of homelessness. They built 11 homes since 2016, and received additional funding from Onondaga County through unused state Medicaid funds in 2019.

    atinyhomeforgood.org
  • Vacant to Value

    Baltimore, MD

    Vacants to Value (V2V) is an initiative of the Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development aimed at improving quality of life and growing Baltimore's population by restoring disinvested neighborhoods. V2V employs a number of strategies to clean up abandoned properties. The program simplified the sale of city-owned properties, and streamlined code enforcement in more stable neighborhoods to prevent the spread of blighted properties. V2V partnered with committed developers to facilitate targeted investment in high-vacancy areas near stronger markets. V2V also leveraged local, state, and federal programs to incentivize the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant homes. V2V also supports programs to help low-income homeowners weatherize and rehabilitate their homes for energy efficiency and cost savings. A 2017 report found that V2V was largely successful in targeting stronger markets ripe for revitalization, but less effective at finding solutions to the challenges that cause neighborhood decline, such as crime, drugs, and foreclosures.

    vacantstovalue.org
  • Duvall Riverside Village

    Duvall, WA

    Duvall Riverside Village is a resident-owned community (ROC) in Duvall, WA. In 2012, the residents of this manufactured home community formed a cooperative and bought the land from the previous landlord with the help of the Northwest Cooperative Development Center and ROC USA. Since then, Duvall Riverside Village has been managed by a democratically elected board of directors. The annual budget and any changes to lot rent are voted on by all member households of the cooperative, which results in greater housing security for residents in comparison to commercially-owned manufactured home communities, where rapidly escalating lot rents are common. Before the cooperative bought Duvall Riverside Village, monthly lot rent increased by approximately $25 every year. Since the cooperative took over ownership, lot rent has not increased at all, despite improvements made to the roads and the water, electric, and wastewater systems.

    duvallriversidevillage.coop

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