Housing Daily

Housing controls the overall inflation rate

Tobias Burns, 9-20, 23, The Hill, Fed faces risks as inflation fight runs into election, https://thehill.com/business/4212209-fed-faces-risks-as-inflation-fight-runs-into-election/

Another pressure point for the Fed is the housing market, where much of the inflation that remains in the economy is located. “Housing makes up the most significant and most enduring component of our measures of inflation. Unlike the price of gas or the price of toilet paper, housing costs are the biggest expense for most poor and working-class people,” Tara Raghuveer, housing activist and founding director of KC Tenants, a tenants’ rights organization in Kansas City, told The Hill. The cost of housing and specifically the rate of rent increase — the fact that the rent is too damn high — is an incredible stress point for the American people,” she said.

To reduce poverty, start with housing

Quigley, 9-10, 23, Fran Quigley directs the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, The Hill, Housing First is a proven solution to homelessness in America, https://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/4192890-housing-first-is-a-proven-solution-to-homelessness-in-america/

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates at least a half-million people are homeless each night. That estimate likely misses as many homeless people as it counts.

For most of us, evidence of this crisis comes from seeing the in-the-street struggles of people who are chronically homeless. But in our law school eviction clinic, we see first-hand what the data have shown for years: most unhoused people, especially families and children, are living like Barbara, Kevin, Samantha and Melissa.G

They, and most of our clients, endure homelessness for one simple reason: they cannot afford their rent.

They are not alone. A newly released comprehensive study of the homeless population of California by UC San Francisco researchers — the largest such sampling in the past 30 years — found that homeless persons’ median income the month before they became unhoused was only $960.

With income that low, it can quickly become impossible to afford market-rate rent. Research from the U.S. Government Accounting Office shows that for every $100 in average rent increases, there is a 9 percent spike in homelessness. Our clients and the millions of others lined up in eviction courts across the nation can attest to the truth of that.There is a response that is proven to work: Housing First.

Providing a safe, secure roof overhead immediately, then addressing other social service needs, is the most humane response to the needs of both our clients and the unhoused whose struggles play out in our cities’ streets. It is also the most effective response, as Housing First’s success in venues from Houston to Helsinki shows. Housing First sharply reduces the number of people who are unhoused and cuts the high cost of government interventions connected to homelessness.

Housing First also reflects the moral viewpoint that Americans have repeatedly expressed in surveys and is central to all religious and moral traditions: housing is a human right, and it is inhumane to place conditions on any person’s access to a safe, secure roof over their head.As the name suggests, the Housing First approach focuses on getting both unhoused persons and people who are at risk of homelessness into a stable living space, in lieu of forcing the person to first get employed, sober or comply with other requirements. But Housing First is decidedly not “Housing Only”: it includes wrap-around services that can include mental health and substance abuse treatment when needed.

Decades of studies verifying Housing First’s effectiveness have earned it bipartisan support from policymakers. President George W. Bush’s homelessness czar was a fan. President Donald Trump’s HUD secretary gushed that, because of Housing First, “we can say without hesitation that we know how to end homelessness.” And Housing First is the centerpiece of the Biden administration’s approach to homelessness.

But today, Housing First faces two significant challenges.First, it is being attacked by some right-wing politicians and commentators who label it as a failed liberal policy approach that makes cities more dangerous. Notable critics include activist Christopher Rufo, who also helped elevate critical race theory into a reliable political target, and Tucker Carlson. These attacks parrot the fallacy that homelessness is chiefly an addiction problem. Last month, the Pew Charitable Trusts became the latest in a long line of analysts to point out that research conclusively shows that homelessness is driven by housing costs, far more than any other factors such as mental health and substance use disorders.

The second challenge to Housing First comes from would-be supposed supporters within multiple levels of government. They undercut its effectiveness by watering down the program, reducing costs by not offering the wraparound services that have proven to be critical to many participants staying housed. Unfortunately, the Biden administration is among those who attempt to achieve Housing First success on the cheap, reducing federal spending on supportive services like drug treatment and health care. Half-baked Housing First efforts can produce underwhelming outcomes that both perpetuate cycles of homelessness and fuel the cynical criticism of the overall approach.

By comparison, perhaps the most compelling evidence of Housing First’s impact comes from its remarkable success reducing veteran’s homelessness by over half. It is an outcome made possible by the fact that the Veterans’ Administration does Housing First right, providing access to VA healthcare and other programs to buttress the housing provided.We can learn from this model and expand on it. Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who has herself experienced homelessness along with her children, has introduced “Housing Justice for All” legislation that would create a national-level Housing First program. Barbara, Kevin, Samantha, Melissa and millions of other “invisible” homeless people can tell you that a national expansion of Housing First would work — and is desperately needed.

Insecure housing worsens poverty

Marcia Chatelain, 8-21, 23, The Nation, Tens of Millions, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/poverty-by-america-matthew-desmond/

As for what else isn’t working in our contemporary economic system, Desmond is similarly blunt. Combining his earlier research on housing with a look at the shadow banking industry, he argues that—in addition to the way that many middle- and high-income people benefit from the exploitation of the poor via the rental housing market and the storefront—high-interest lenders are another reason that the poor stay poor and others get rich. Because low-income households, especially those in major urban areas, spend a large portion of their income on housing, loans, and credit, their landlords and lenders reap vast profits. In a study of rental apartments, Desmond found that by neglecting their units in low-income areas beyond the barest minimum of maintenance, landlords could enjoy high margins on those properties, a system made possible by the lack of housing options for their clientele. “After accounting for all their costs, they typically enjoy profits that are double those of landlords operating in affluent communities,” he writes. And in the neighborhoods where affordable housing is hard to find, banks are also largely absent. Thus, the shadow banking industry of payday loans and title lenders, coupled with the paradox of exorbitantly high rents in low-income areas, plays an especially insidious role in this game. “When you walk into a payday loan store,” Desmond writes, “you are focused on the present. Your rent is overdue, and you’re facing eviction.” According to his research, banks annually collect “$11 billion in overdraft fees, $1.6 billion in check cashing fees, and up to $9.8 billion in payday loan fees. That’s over $61 million in fees collected predominantly from low-income Americans each day.”

The researchers conducted this study to understand why adults who grew up in families with lower income tend to have lower educational attainment, more mental and physical health problems, and rely more on public assistance compared to those from higher income families. They wanted to explore whether certain factors, like the cost of living and the generosity of anti-poverty policies, influence the relationship between family income and brain development and mental health in children. “Kids growing up in lower income households tend to have more mental health problems, like depression and anxiety then kids from higher income households,” said study author David G. Weissman, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and an incoming assistant professor at California State University Dominguez Hills. “Many studies have also found poverty or lower family socioeconomic status to be associated with structural differences in the developing brain. The solutions that have the potential for the most widespread impact on these disparities are at the level of state and federal policy, but most neuroscience studies are conducted at a single place and time, where it is not possible to study the impacts of these types of policies. To conduct the study, the researchers used data from a large study called the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, which involved children from different states in the United States. They looked at family income, brain structure (specifically the size of the hippocampus), and mental health symptoms of children aged 9 to 11. “The hippocampus is central to memory and learning, and it’s also uniquely sensitive to chronic stress. Animal studies show that consistently elevated stress hormones such as cortisol can reduce the formation of new synapses (or connections between neurons) in this region of the brain,” Weissman told PsyPost. The study included a total of 11,864 youth with data on parent-reported psychopathology and 11,533 youth with brain structure data. The average monthly Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits in each state were used to measure the generosity of anti-poverty policies. Additionally, the researchers used a dichotomous variable to indicate whether each state had expanded Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act by the end of 2017. “Because the ABCD study collected data from 21 sites in 17 states across the country, we had a unique opportunity that has not been possible with previous studies on this topic,” Weissman explained. “We were able to look at if characteristics of those places, in particular government antipoverty programs, influenced the nature of the associations between poverty and both brain structure and mental health.” The researchers found that lower family income was associated with smaller hippocampal volume and more mental health symptoms in children. Additionally, they discovered that in states with a higher cost of living, the differences in brain structure and mental health between children from high- and low-income families were greater. However, in states with more generous anti-poverty programs, these differences were reduced, meaning that children from low-income families had better brain development and mental health outcomes when they lived in states with more supportive policies. “Many studies have shown that the impacts of poverty are observable in children’s brains,” Weissman told PsyPost. “These results suggest that government antipoverty programs work at reducing those impacts. Therefore, policy decisions on things like Medicaid Expansion and the generosity of cash assistance for families in poverty matter for the brain development and mental health of children from those families in a measurable and significant way.” The researchers suggest that factors like cost of living and anti-poverty policies can either amplify or reduce the impact of low income on brain development and mental health. For example, living in a high-cost-of-living state can put more strain on low-income families, but having access to generous anti-poverty programs can provide more financial resources and support, potentially reducing stress and its negative effects on brain development and mental health. “While the results were more or less what we expected, it is nonetheless striking how consistent the pattern of results were for both the effects of both cash assistant programs and Medicaid expansion on both hippocampal volume and internalizing problems,” Weissman said. The researchers controlled for other state-level social, economic, political, and educational factors that might influence the relationship between family income, brain structure, and mental health. These included population density, unemployment rate, political preferences, and state-funded preschool enrollment. But like all research, the study includes some caveats. “These findings are correlational, and there are other differences between these states that could explain these findings,” Weissman explained. “Experimental evidence, such as from randomized control trials of cash transfer programs like the Baby’s First Years Study at Columbia, can more firmly establish that these types of programs cause differences in brain structure and mental health.” “But we tried to rule as many alternative explanations out as we could by conducting supplemental analyses controlling for a wide array of state characteristics, from the racial and ethnic makeup of the sample within that state to its population density to measures of education equity in those states, and the results held consistently across these analyses.” The study, “State-level macro-economic factors moderate the association of low income with brain structure and mental health in U.S. children“, was authored by David G. Weissman, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Mina Cikara, Deanna M. Barch, and Katie A. McLaughlin.

Counterplan (Refugees): Work permits

Lisa Kashinsky, 8-8, 23, Politico,  NEW YORK,  Mass. governor slams White House for ‘federal crisis of inaction’ on migrants, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/08/08/massachusetts-new-york-asylum-seekers-biden-00110278

BOSTON — Maura Healey of Massachusetts is the latest Democratic governor to declare an emergency over the migrant surge as blue-state leaders ramp up pressure on the Biden administration to expedite work permits for asylum-seekers and support their overwhelmed shelter systems. On Tuesday, Healey declared a state of emergency that essentially puts the National Guard on speed dial and expedites the processes for creating or renting more migrant housing. The emergency declaration will allow the state to “utilize and operationalize all means necessary” to secure more accommodations and assist the more than 5,000 families currently in the state’s crowded shelters, Healey said during a press conference at the State House. It also provides an avenue for the governor to more directly pressure the Biden administration for additional assistance. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday, Healey called on the White House to expedite work permits for asylum-seekers, slamming the administration for what she described as “a federal crisis of inaction that is many years in the making.” A Biden administration spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. While the state is suffering workforce shortages, waiting times for work authorizations are stretching “from several months, to several years, to longer,” Healey said. The emergency declaration notably does not try to suspend or alter the state’s 1983 “right-to-shelter” law that requires Massachusetts to provide immediate housing to qualified families. Any attempts to alter the statute would likely have faced legal challenges, as New York City Mayor Eric Adams found when he tried to weaken a similar law in his city. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, right, delivers her inaugural address. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday, Maura Healey called on the White House to expedite work permits for asylum-seekers. | Steven Senne/AP Photo Healey’s emergency declaration comes as Democratic leaders from Massachusetts and New York have been increasingly calling on the Biden administration fast-track work permits to asylum-seekers. When asked about Healey’s announcement Tuesday, Adams was happy to have another partner pressing the White House for intervention. “Democratic governors and mayors, mayors in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, here in New York, El Paso, Brownsville, all of the mayors have been saying that this is a national problem and we need national leadership,” he said at an unrelated press conference in Manhattan. “We all should be talking about this in a very real way. And there was a moment that I felt, as though, was I the only one that was seeing this? … I was asking myself, are we the only ones that are seeing what’s happening to human beings?” Healey and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have made private entreaties and public pleas to Biden administration officials for faster work authorization. Massachusetts’ all-Democratic federal delegation sent a letter to top Biden immigration officials last week urging them to expedite processing employment authorization documents for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. In New York City, where asylum-seekers are sleeping on sidewalks outside a makeshift intake center, Adams is again blaming the White House for not sending enough federal aid to the city that’s seen more than 93,000 newcomers since last spring. So far, the Biden administration has barely budged on the politically thorny issue, saying the national immigration problem requires a congressional solution. Blue-state leaders including Healey, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson have been careful not to call out President Joe Biden by name even as they have acknowledged the migrant surge requires more federal attention. Newsom and Pritzker have instead trained their ire on the Republican governors who’ve flown and bused thousands of asylum-seekers to their states over the past year to protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent nearly 250 migrants to the Los Angeles region over the past two months, according to the Los Angeles Times. And a steady stream of migrants continues to arrive in Chicago from Texas. More than 12,000 migrants have come to the city since last August, with a busload of 40 to 50 migrants arriving every day in July, according to the city. In Massachusetts, Healey’s emergency declaration is the latest in a series of increasingly dire actions the governor has taken to deal with the influx of migrants that has grown exponentially in the past year and stretched state services to a breaking point. When Healey took office in January, there were less than 3,700 homeless families in the state’s emergency shelter system. As of Monday, there were more than 5,500, her administration said. (Massachusetts does not differentiate between migrants and others seeking shelter.) Shelters have hit capacity, and homeless families are flooding hospital emergency departments for refuge. The state has resorted to placing migrants and homeless families in motels and empty college dormitories, opened two “welcome centers” and stood up a temporary shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod, where the 49 migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration last September were also taken to receive emergency services. Healey has activated 44 Massachusetts National Guard members to support efforts at the military base. On Tuesday, Healey also announced the launch of the Massachusetts Migrant Families Relief Fund, a joint effort from United Way of Massachusetts Bay and The Boston Foundation to provide financial and community assistance to newcomers. Many of the migrants arriving in Massachusetts are from Haiti — the Boston metropolitan area is home to the third-largest Haitian population in this country. Others, like many of the migrants sent by DeSantis, are from Venezuela. But outside of the Martha’s Vineyard flights, Massachusetts has rarely been the direct recipient of the migrant transports DeSantis and Abbot have been organizing for over a year now. New York leaders also say the state’s at a breaking point. Hochul declared a state of emergency in May and sent hundreds of New York’s national guard members to the city to help handle the influx of newcomers. Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other members of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation met with DHS’s Mayorkas in Washington last week. Mayorkas committed to appointing a federal liaison to help New York triage the migrant crisis, but New York Democrats have said the White House must do more to help. “All we need is for the White House to give us that TPS status to allow the men and women to work,” Adams said on ABC’s Nightline on Tuesday. He was referring to Temporary Protected Status, a federal designation that allows migrants from certain countries to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. “The congressional delegation is calling for it, local leaders are calling for it, everyone is calling for it. It is something within our powers and there’s no reason we’re not doing it,” Adams said. The escalation from Democratic governors demanding their party leader in the White House act on asylum-seekers is particularly bad timing for Biden, who’s sure to face an onslaught of attacks from Republicans on the issue during his reelection campaign.

Counterplan: Universal Basic Income

ELIZABETH MEISENZAHL AUGUST 8, 2023, https://prospect.org/economy/2023-08-07-guaranteed-income-gets-new-life/, Guaranteed Income Gets a New Life

Cities around the country are using federal funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to implement pilot universal basic income (UBI) and guaranteed basic income (GBI) programs. Under these programs, residents receive regular cash assistance with no strings attached or requirements for how they spend the money. UBI plans provide cash to all residents without means testing, while GBI programs are more targeted to particular groups in need. In Rochester, a midsized city in western New York, advocates hope that high demand for a new GBI pilot will mean the eventual establishment of a permanent program in a city with extreme need. The Rochester GBI pilot program will provide $500 each month for a year to 351 individuals living at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The number of individuals involved in the pilot is proportionally similar to those in programs offered by larger metropolitan areas, says Jeremy Rosen, director of economic justice at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. The demand for the program became clear as soon as the application went live on June 22. Within 45 minutes of the application going up, 2,000 city residents applied to be a part of the pilot. The winners will be selected randomly via a lottery. For residents of Rochester and its surrounding area, the immediate demand for the program was no surprise. The city had been a prosperous industrial boomtown along the banks of the Genesee River and Erie Canal, starting in the early 19th century. As mill work declined, it became a new hub of photography and xerography due to the founding of Eastman Kodak and Xerox, respectively. But since then, Rochester has experienced the kind of economic fall common to Rust Belt cities in the Northeast and Midwest. Starting in the 1950s, manufacturing jobs disappeared, and the city’s population started to shrink. By 2010, it was smaller than it had been a century earlier. Some of the economic damage was compensated by new jobs in higher education and health care, both of which have grown rapidly in the 21st century in Rochester. But unlike manufacturing, such jobs typically require lots of education and training. Cities like Rochester now have a widening gap between their highly educated “eds and meds” workers and those who perform low-paying care work, often in poor conditions—and that’s if they have jobs at all. Over the past decade, Rochester has had a significantly higher unemployment rate than the state and country, nearly half its children live in poverty, and the city consistently ranks among the most impoverished compared to similar-sized metropolitan areas. A guaranteed income program is a way to not only put money in the pockets of some of the people with the greatest needs but also to dispel myths about direct cash assistance. Discussions of a GBI program began in and around Rochester over a year before the ARP funding reached the city. In 2020, the city and Monroe County formed the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity to address systemic inequalities within the county. The commission recommended, among other policies, a basic income for pregnant women at risk of maternal mortality. Beginning in the summer of 2021, a new committee focused solely on reparations and UBI began seeking community input. From those discussions, the Rochester-based nonprofit Black Community Focus Fund was selected to work with the city to administer a GBI pilot, which will be the city’s first experiment with a guaranteed income. The required $2.2 million will come from a small portion of the city’s $202 million from ARP. And Rochester is not alone. At least 31 cities are currently undertaking guaranteed income pilot programs, many of them funded at least in part by ARP money. For Damon Wilson, a program director at BCFF who has worked closely with Rochester officials in support of the pilot, a guaranteed income program is a way to not only put money in the pockets of some of the people with the greatest needs in the city, but also to dispel myths about direct cash assistance. “No one has skepticism for people who have wealth and how they spend their money, but when it comes to people who are living in poverty, we want to question everything they do,” Wilson says. “We monitor their every movement because there’s a lack of trust. So I’m hoping that programs like these across the nation will start to dispel some of those fears and those anxieties around people living in poverty.” Wilson’s perspective on the importance of guaranteed income is part of a growing shift in thinking around social welfare benefits, especially on the local level. The COVID-19 pandemic created a window of opportunity for policymakers to push the boundaries of what government’s role is and what kind of assistance it can provide, says associate director of Stanford’s Basic Income Lab Sean Kline. After all, one of the signature features of the CARES Act pandemic relief was the famous $1,200 payment that most Americans received. Combined with the surge of federal funding for cities through ARP, the wave of bolder thinking about benefits in local government has led to a new wave of guaranteed income pilots. On one level, it’s odd to think of this as innovative research. Political philosophers proposed the concept in the 18th century, and theories around it developed throughout the 20th century from intellectuals across the political spectrum. More recently, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang popularized the idea of a federal UBI in his 2020 presidential campaign. But in terms of actual implementation on the city level in the United States, the history of guaranteed income programs is not long. Stockton, California, burst onto the guaranteed income scene in 2019 as an early proponent of local guaranteed income pilots. The program there was a resounding success, and led then-Mayor Michael Tubbs to found Mayors for a Guaranteed Income to spread the policy to cities across the country. The Stockton experiment found that recipients of guaranteed income had improved health outcomes by the end of the study. Rates of full-time employment also increased over the course of the first year. While critics of guaranteed income—or any kind of social welfare program with no-strings-attached cash—argue that aid disincentivizes working and encourages poor spending choices, the results in Stockton showed exactly the opposite. People, especially those living in poverty, knew their needs best, and direct aid allowed them to meet these. The long-term future of these programs, however, is currently unclear, in large part because many pilots are in place for one to two years, and are still under way. Cities like Rochester will use the pilots as a form of research into whether guaranteed income works to reduce poverty among its recipients, although long-term viability would likely require additional state and/or federal funding. Still, advocates are optimistic that the current wave of pilots will mean an expansion of guaranteed income programs—both to new cities and to higher levels of government. City governments are necessarily limited compared to states and especially the federal government, both of which have more money to spend on social welfare programs. Pilots like Rochester’s, Rosen says, have the possibility to show states and the federal government that direct cash assistance programs like UBI and GBI are successful at reducing poverty. “If we have all these pilot programs and we don’t go beyond that, we will have certainly helped people, and that will be great. But we’ll be minimizing our overall impact,” Rosen says. “We really want to see systems of delivering public benefits and cash assistance change in the long term so that we can help many, many more people for many, many years to come.”

Poverty increasing,  the social safety net is being cut


DebSitarski, 8-8, 23, Register Herald, What decades of social work taught me about poverty, https://www.register-herald.com/opinion/what-decades-of-social-work-taught-me-about-poverty/article_60e49cf6-35fc-11ee-8f71-bbf9e77fd3f9.html

If my decades of work as a social worker taught me one great lesson, it’s this. Poverty is an entrenched system of political choices by self-serving lawmakers, not a personal failing of ordinary people. Poverty is not, and never has been, a crime. I’ve worked with many economically struggling people. I grew up in meager circumstances myself and well remember the stigma and shame of having to do without. And this I can tell you: Not one person I’ve ever met wants to be poor, sick, disabled, struggling, or on the receiving end of public assistance programs. These programs are vital but often inadequate and difficult to access. Behind each program recipient stands a caseworker responsible for determining eligibility — virtually no one puts themselves on a public program. As a caseworker I often tried to educate the public that taxpayer-supported benefits are earned, not “charity.” In 21st-century America, people have to be in extreme hardship to be eligible for help, even as they sometimes work multiple jobs. Not one mother relishes taking three buses in terrible weather to get to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office to prove her worthiness to get help buying cereal for her toddler’s breakfast. So I’m disgusted when I hear conservative politicians falling over themselves to cut food, health, housing, and disability services for people who are trying to survive in low-wage jobs — a challenge made even tougher by life’s unpredictable circumstances, trauma, and lack of generational wealth. In case that’s not cruel and cynical enough, these same politicians work even harder to get ever-increasing tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Right now, Republicans in Congress are trying to make Trump’s tax cuts for the rich permanent — even as they form a committee to push Social Security cuts for retirees, people on disability, and widows. No one on Social Security receives a benefit for which they do not qualify, yet Congress seems to treat these worker-funded programs as some sort of gift. They are funded by those who paid into them and who meet strict eligibility standards. Unfortunately, lawmakers in many states aren’t much better. Rather than making sure their citizens have good jobs, health care, or a path out of poverty, they focus on passing harsh laws to ban abortion, criminalize LGTBQ people, or flood their states with guns. Poverty is on the rise nationally since the end of pandemic relief programs. During the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan more robustly funded food assistance, provided direct cash assistance, gave small businesses grants, paused student loan payments, and expanded the Child Tax Credit. As a result, hunger fell, savings grew, unemployment dropped to historic lows, and child poverty was cut just about in half. Yet not only are these programs ending, reversing these gains, conservative lawmakers are now fighting hard to cut the safety net even more while passing more tax giveaways to the very wealthy. The explicit purpose of government is to promote the general welfare. This kind of legislating is unsustainable for a society that claims to believe in an American Dream in which hard work allows for a good life. And can’t we agree that should be the goal?

Counterplan/Floating PIC: “Disadvantage” instead of “Poverty”

Edin et all, 8-5, 23, Kathryn J. Edin is the William Church Osborn Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She is the co-author of The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America., The Atlantic, What the Best Places in America Have in Common, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/08/poverty-income-index-deep-disadvantage/674878/

Then president lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964, the nation didn’t have any method of counting the poor, or even a firm notion of how poverty should be defined. His administration scrambled to come up with a measure to chart progress. The gauge, it was later decided, would be the minimum income needed for a family of three or more to put food on the table multiplied by three (at the time, food constituted a third of the typical family budget). Income is one vital indicator of well-being, but it is not the only one: Things like health outcomes and social mobility matter too. That’s why we should shift our focus from poverty to disadvantage. Disadvantage is a more useful term than poverty because we aren’t just talking about income—we’re trying to capture the complexity of a person’s life chances being hindered by multiple circumstances. Disadvantage is more accurate because it implies an injustice. People are being held back—unfairly. Disadvantage cannot be understood at the individual or family level alone. Thanks to social-science research, we now know that children’s life chances are profoundly affected by their context—not only income and family circumstances but also their community—more so than by their genetic profile or the medical care they receive. With this in mind, we created what we call the Index of Deep Disadvantage, which reflects two traditional measures of income (the poverty rate and the “deep poverty rate,” meaning those with incomes below half the poverty line), two markers of health (birth weight and life expectancy), and the rate of social mobility for children who grow up in low-income families. We used this index to rank the roughly 3,100 counties in the United States along with the 500 most populous cities. Immediately, the rankings revealed a stark geographical pattern. The first surprise—especially for professors who have spent our careers studying urban poverty—was that the most disadvantaged places on our index were primarily rural. But they didn’t fit the stereotypical image of rural America. Though some of these were majority white, most were majority Black or Hispanic. We could see, too, that many places with large Native American populations ranked among the most disadvantaged in the nation. Considerable poverty exists in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. But in our apples-to-apples comparison, none of those cities ranked among even the 600 most disadvantaged places in the nation. The only cities on that list were a relatively small number of industrial municipalities such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Rochester. Some might say we should have taken into account the high cost of living in many cities, but this is more complicated than it appears. Although people pay more for housing in some places, they also benefit from good health-care systems, a more generous safety net, public transportation, and higher-quality schools. Those living in the 200 most disadvantaged places on our index were just as likely to have major difficulties paying for housing as those in America’s 500 largest cities. The places that our index identified as the 200 most disadvantaged are concentrated in three regions—Appalachia, South Texas, and the southern Cotton Belt. (Not one county in the West, apart from those with disproportionately large Native American communities, showed up on the list.) These places share a history of intensive resource extraction and human exploitation not seen to the same degree elsewhere in the United States. In each place, this economic pattern emerged (or, in the case of the Cotton Belt, fully flourished) in the late 19th or early 20th century. In each place, one industry came to dominate the economy, a pattern that held, broadly, until the 1960s, when King Cotton, King Tobacco, King Coal, and South Texas agriculture, would bow to the twin forces of automation and global competition. We would have had to be exceedingly dull or stubborn to have missed the fact that these places resembled, well, colonies—internal colonies within the U.S. Using terminology such as nation within a nation or colony to describe the exploitation of communities of color within the United States has a long history among Black scholars and activists. While visiting many of the nation’s most disadvantaged places, we set out to build on this work through historical research, ethnographic observations, and in-depth interviews. In central Appalachia, we drove through the remnants of company towns, many only one or two streets wide, and the hollows—narrow valleys that can stretch for miles between the mountains. We came to Clay County, Kentucky, which before the Civil War was home to both mighty salt barons and a tapestry of subsistence farms. Big Timber and Big Coal took over after the Civil War. Today, the opioid crisis is ravaging the region. Locals in Manchester, the county seat, lament the decline of the movie theater—now a Pentecostal church—and the loss of the bowling alley; numerous bars, cafés, and beauty salons; and a park that has been plowed over for a highway-construction project. People blame the rise of opioid use on the fact that there is now “nothing to do but drugs.” In South Texas, spinach and onion fields were once so enormous that they met the sky’s vanishing point in almost every direction, yielding fabulous profits for those who owned the land. Yet the landless laborers who planted and harvested those crops faced unimaginable hardship. For generations, the appearance of towns in South Texas followed a pattern of social hierarchy: sturdy wood-frame houses, paved streets, and enclosed sewers in the white neighborhoods; shacks, dirt roads, and privies in the Mexican parts of town. Forced to migrate to find work during the off-season, generations of Mexican American children lost their right to a decent education. Even today, adult-illiteracy rates in these places are among the highest in the nation. When we hit the outskirts of the typical Cotton Belt town, fields gave way to a string of gleaming white antebellum homes with large lawns, old-growth trees, and grand entrances framed by columns reaching two or three stories high. These places seem serene on their face, yet in Leflore County, Mississippi, for example, Black residents told us that violence was the No. 1 problem they face. The rate of death due to interpersonal violence there was nearly four times the national average, and well above that of Cook County, Illinois, home to Chicago. As we would soon learn, Leflore County and the larger region it represents—the sprawling Cotton Belt stretching from the Carolinas to eastern Arkansas and Louisiana—are indeed among the most dangerous in the nation. These places have a long tradition of violence, both accepted and sponsored by government. For generations it was the greatest tool at the disposal of the white elite to oppress Black Americans into labor. Throughout these regions, we saw the same themes emerge again and again—unequal schooling, the collapse of social infrastructure, violence, entrenched public corruption, and structural racism embedded in government programs. Exploring the other end of our Index of Deep Disadvantage—the places identified as those of greatest advantage—was also vital to our research. Once again, we were surprised by where the index took us. It was not Manhattan or tech-rich Seattle. Instead, the list pointed us to the upper Midwest: Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa. Overall, poverty rates in these places are very low, babies are born healthy, people live to a ripe old age, and a low-income child usually has a similar chance of making it into the middle class as any other kid. Counties that rank among those of greatest advantage began as agricultural communities with modestly sized farms, many originally secured through the 1862 Homestead Act that made landownership widely available. Many of these places have built on this history of broad-based wealth by making significant investments in schools, which has contributed to high graduation and college enrollment rates over generations. Using the best data available, we found that they have enjoyed the lowest rates of violent crime, income inequality, and public corruption in the nation. These counties are unusually rich in social capital: Residents are connected to one another through volunteerism, membership in civic organizations, and participation in other community activities. These places are not without their challenges. Local job opportunities for young college graduates are sometimes limited. Yet these communities have been more successful than most in preventing poverty, promoting health, and ensuring a level playing field for their children. One cannot fully understand the benefits enjoyed in America’s most advantaged places without considering the historic (and ongoing) exploitation of migrant labor that has gone on in them, mostly drawn from the U.S. border regions. What’s more, many of these most advantaged places neighbor Native nations, places that often rank among the least advantaged. The histories of these places are deeply and irrevocably intertwined. We visited the Crow Creek reservation in Buffalo County, South Dakota, which ranks as the fourth most disadvantaged place on our index. In 1863, its population was exiled from the rich land of southwestern Minnesota after the bloody U.S.–Dakota War. Native Americans also lost their lives by the hundreds, some in the war but most to starvation after they were forcibly relocated onto land mostly inhospitable to human habitation. The upper Midwest is also overwhelmingly white. When we examined the relationship between whiteness and rank on the index, we found that a higher percentage of white residents is a significant predictor of a place’s rank, which is not at all surprising when one considers that the good schools and the good jobs have long been bestowed liberally on whites while being denied to Hispanic and Black Americans. But race is not as predictive as the level of inequality, the unemployment rate, or the degree of educational attainment. Furthermore, many places that are disproportionately white, in states such as Ohio, Maine, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Michigan, and Idaho, do not rank even among the top half of advantaged places in America. What makes the communities that are most advantaged unique is their histories as places of broad-based wealth. How different would conditions be in other parts of the country had they followed a similar, equitable course? The lesson is that people seem to thrive—not always in high salaries but in health and life chances—when inequality is low; when landownership is widespread; when social connection is high; and when corruption and violence are rare. The social leveling that is characteristic of communities in the upper Midwest is more than just a quaint cultural feature. It is the foundation of a community’s well-being. Until these regions’ virtues are shared nationwide, poverty and disadvantage will continue to haunt America.

Many homeless asylum seekers

Simon Hankinson, 8-3, 23, Simon is a Senior Research Fellow in the Border Security and Immigration Center at The Heritage Foundation, Open Borders Creating Bidenvilles of Homelessness. Who Saw That Coming? https://www.heritage.org/immigration/commentary/open-borders-creating-bidenvilles-homelessness-who-saw-coming

year ago, I wrote about the obvious connection between illegal immigration and homelessness in U.S. cities.

Since then, encounters with inadmissible aliens at the border have remained at more than 150,000 a month, often over 200,000. Of these, perhaps half are being released into the country, either under the charade of a “removal process” under U.S. immigration law or one of President Joe Biden’s many made-up parole-a-palooza programs. In July 2022, I predicted that some of the released illegal immigrants would “end up on the streets, compounding already dire problems of homelessness.” Without a federal commitment to enforcing immigration law at the border, I argued, “more Bidenvilles are coming to a city near you.” So, how are things going a year later? “Eventually, this is going to come to a neighborhood near you,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams told reporters on July 29 after visiting a makeshift migrant shelter at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. Sounds familiar. Adams was apparently surprised to see people sleeping on the sidewalk because there were no beds inside—“people lined up around the block, hurting the businesses there.” The inadmissible aliens he saw had likely been processed hastily at the border and then released by the Department of Homeland Security before being bused or flown to New York by charities using federal grants. New York’s dense population and high rents make it harder to hide the homeless than in cities more spread out. With his city’s shelters full, Adams has rented hundreds of hotels and opened dozens of emergency facilities, from churches to parking lots, to house supposed asylum-seekers. He’s even tried to pay private homeowners to put them up. It’ll never be enough, as he now seems to understand. In Massachusetts, a liberal state with the same “sanctuary” philosophy on illegal immigration, “makeshift hotels and motels being used as emergency shelters continue to fill up.” At least one Massachusetts state representative figured it out, observing: “Either we have had a massive spike of homelessness, or the vast majority of these people are illegal immigrants.” Just as in New York, the Massachusetts governor is also hoping that locals will put inadmissible aliens in immigration limbo up in their homes. Meanwhile, in Chicago, locals have complained of migrants in one high-capacity shelter “loitering, engaging in late-night partying, prostitution, littering, and even fighting with community members.” Residents are organizing to block a former school from being repurposed as a migrant “respite center,” saying they “are extremely dismayed by the city of Chicago’s inability to control and develop safe parameters around housing migrants that have been transported here from the border.” Los Angeles, another sanctuary city, is also discovering the costs of open borders. “We do not have infinite resources,” said Mayor Karen Bass’ spokesman. “The city will continue to work with our county, nonprofit and faith partners in the case that Texas continues to send buses.” California would like to blame Texas for sending a few buses, but the truth is that many of the illegal immigrants being hastily processed and released at the border are from Latin America and the Caribbean, and they want to go where they have networks of countrymen, family, or job prospects. That means they make it to places like New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles, one way or another. Like most blue state sanctuary city officials, Bass would obviously prefer that Texas keep all the people being released into the country under Biden’s policies, but that’s not how it works. With no idea what to do now, Adams and other city and state politicians are demanding federal bailouts to pay for the costs of housing the illegal immigrants that Biden has allowed in. They also want them to have employment authorization right away. But while he can command DHS to instantly release aliens on their own recognizance in a Potemkin removal process, Biden can’t give them instant work authorization without the due process of several months. And while Biden can abuse parole authority to let illegal immigrants in, and use Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to buy them bus and plane tickets, he can’t magically produce the money to house them all over the country out of thin air. He needs Congress for that. Those pesky laws! Until they figure out a way to make us all pay, cities and states have to soak local—rather than federal—taxpayers. Even without federal money for housing, cities and states can still pass some of the buck to national taxpayers through health programs. New York state’s Medicaid program will cost 10% more this year than last year—a whopping $108 billion—partly because the program will begin covering illegal immigrants over 65 in 2024. Though state bean counters estimate this will cost $171 million, they should look at the cautionary tale of Illinois, where the initial estimates of providing Medicaid for seniors—a couple of million dollars a year—have ballooned to nearly $1 billion in reality, causing Gov. J.B. Pritzker to cap new enrollments. On his sidewalk visit, New York’s Adams told reporters, “We need to control the border.” On that, I agree entirely. What took him so long to get there?

Amount of affordable housing collapsing

NPR, July 12, 2023, Why can’t we stop homelessness? 4 reasons why there’s no end in sight, https://www.npr.org/2023/07/12/1186856463/homelessness-rent-affordable-housing-encampments

When Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass campaigned last year on reining in homelessness, she laid out bold proposals with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. In April, she told NPR she hoped for a “very significant reduction” this year, especially of people living on the street. But on Monday, Bass said it’s become clear that there’s simply no end in sight. “We really need to normalize the fact, unfortunately, that we’re living in a crisis,” she said at a press conference announcing a renewal of her emergency declaration on homelessness. The shift in tone comes after both LA and New York City recently declared a record level of homelessness, and other cities have also seen their numbers continue to climb despite considerable attention and spending to give people shelter. It’s part of a steady rise around the country since 2016, after years of successfully driving down the number of people without housing. So what’s going on? Advocacy groups and researchers say a big driving force is the decline of affordable housing, a problem decades in the making but one that has grown significantly worse in the past few years. Here are a few ways it’s playing out. 1. More people than ever are being housed — but an even higher number are falling into homelessness About a third of the U.S. homeless population is in California, and the state faces mounting questions about why billions of dollars spent in recent years hasn’t reduced the number of people living in cars and encampments. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has asked the state auditor to investigate. A key program in Los Angeles to move people from hotels into permanent housing appears to be struggling. CalMatters reports that officials across the state are asking how they can do better, even traveling to Texas for guidance. And yet, those in California and other places around the country can also argue they are helping more people than ever. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority says it has placed more than 20,000 into permanent housing for five years in a row — a significant boost from a decade ago — and that it’s doing this faster than it has in the past. Nationally over that time, the inventory of permanent housing available has increased 26% — and it’s more than doubled since 2007. “We’ve done a lot” to improve how people are placed into housing, says Steve Berg, chief policy officer at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. But he says that’s only half the equation. “The other half is people losing their housing … and we have not had any kind of extensive or organized effort on that,” he says. The upshot is that, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, even as record numbers of people are being housed, a greater number of them are falling into homelessness. Berg says one key reason is that only 1 in 4 Americans who qualify for a federal housing subsidy actually get it, and that’s been the case since he was in law school decades ago. The vast majority of low-income renters must rely on market-rate housing, but the U.S. hasn’t built enough housing for more than a decade, since the market crash of 2008. And the shortage is most acute for the lowest income renters — by more than 7 million units, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That tight market, combined with the worst inflation in a generation last year, has led to double-digit rent spikes in many places around the U.S. 2. Rents are out of reach for many, and millions of affordable places have disappeared A landmark new report surveyed thousands of people in California about how they came to be without housing, and researchers conducted in-depth interviews with hundreds of them. For most, high rental costs were crucial. “People just ran out of the ability to pay, whether it happened quickly or slowly,” says lead investigator Margot Kushel of the University of California, San Francisco. Some said they’d had their work hours cut. Others lost a job because of a health crisis. Many crowded in with relatives or friends, who were also likely to be poor and struggling. “And we found that those relationships, when they fell apart, fell apart quickly,” Kushel says. “People only had one day’s warning” to leave. Even those with their own lease had on average just 10 days to move out. More renters facing eviction have a right to a lawyer. Finding one can be hard NATIONAL More renters facing eviction have a right to a lawyer. Finding one can be hard Their median monthly household income in the six months before they became homeless was $960, she says. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in California is $1,700. Around the country, Kushel says, homelessness rates are highest in places where there is both poverty and high housing costs. That gap has been growing for decades, as rents have risen faster than wages. Nationally last year, the share of renters spending at least 30% or 50% of their income on housing reached a record high. And some markets have seen a major share of their low-cost rentals disappear. Sponsor Message Over the past decade, the number of rentals under $600 fell by nearly 4 million, according to an analysis by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The losses happened in every state, because either rents increased, the units were taken off the rental market or buildings were condemned and demolished. Among slightly higher priced rentals, up to $1,000 a month, some 2.5 million more units were lost.

There just isn’t enough housing

NPR, July 12, 2023, Why can’t we stop homelessness? 4 reasons why there’s no end in sight, https://www.npr.org/2023/07/12/1186856463/homelessness-rent-affordable-housing-encampments

  1. Zoning laws and local opposition make it hard to build housing for low-income renters

Voters around the country approved spending for more affordable housing last year, and a record number of apartments are under construction. More places are also loosening zoning laws — some of which date back to segregation — to allow more multifamily buildings in residential neighborhoods. Housing experts say all this is needed to help ease the tight market and bring down prices over time. With a shortage in the millions of units, though, that could take a very long time. And in most places it’s still a major challenge to build affordable housing. “Neighbors will say, ‘We don’t want low-income people living here,’ and they’ll stop the housing from being built,” says Berg, with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Even housing that does get built and is billed as affordable, he says, isn’t always cheap enough for those who need it most. “It’s really about having enough deeply affordable housing so that people with the lowest incomes can move into the housing,” Berg says. “And if they lose that housing, they can find another place to live.” 4. Pandemic aid programs that helped keep many people housed are winding dow An annual count last year did find a pause in the relentless rise of homelessness. Biden administration officials, among others, credit the sweeping array of pandemic aid programs that limited evictions, helped people pay rent and boosted other financial supports. Princeton’s Eviction Lab calculates such policies cut eviction filings in half. Those programs have largely ended in many places and are winding down in others. Beyond having to pay current rent, it means some people also may be expected to pay down rental debt that accumulated during the COVID-19 emergency. Many link the end of such protections to a recent rise in evictions, well above pre-pandemic levels in some places. Of course, there are other reasons. Some 19% of those surveyed in the UCSF study became homeless after leaving institutions such as prison, and finding employment and housing with a criminal record is difficult. Advocates say there’s also need for more addiction and mental health treatment, though it’s most effective once someone is safely housed. But again, the overriding problem, they say, is the dire lack of places low-income people can afford to live. “There’s really no way to solve homelessness without seriously addressing this,” says Kushel, the UCSF researcher. “Otherwise, we’re going to be compelled to continue to spend huge amounts of money managing an increasingly out of control crisis.”