Starting Small Brings Big Rewards
In Michigan, some organizations are coming up with creative approaches to teach the value of a dollar – a dollar saved, that is. Share Our Strength, an organization in Pontiac, offers free classes to encourage low-income families to save at least $10 a month by showing how spending less money on small items – like cable, fast-food, video rentals and lottery tickets – can add up to small, yet significant savings. Instructors advise saving money from each paycheck, no matter how small the amount, and opening a savings account. Other classes explain the importance of paying bills on time, how banks work, how to use credit, the down side to payday loans, costly tax preparation services and credit repair schemes. (Detroit Free Press, 12/9/03)
It can take years for parents with children in the New York City foster care system to regain custody. Not because they haven’t fulfilled their responsibilities but because they don’t have large enough apartments. The agency that determines whether parents and children are reunited and the agency that hands out housing vouchers have conflicting regulations. The Administration of Children’s Services won’t reunite parents and children if the family doesn’t have a large enough apartment. But the City Housing Authority won’t approve housing vouchers and down-payment assistance if the children are not already in the care of the parent. It’s another Catch-22 in the lives of the poor. (NY Times, 1/20/04)
The Waiting Game
Utah’s overwhelming demand for affordable housing has forced some of its city housing authorities to freeze their waiting lists. Meanwhile, those already on the list stand to wait three to four years before receiving any housing assistance. Salt Lake City’s Housing Authority provides 2,500 Section 8 vouchers while 7,000 families are on the waiting list. Ogden City provides 945 vouchers; 2,743 families wait. Salt Lake County provides 2,129 vouchers and has 5,330 families on the waiting list. Provo City provides 883 vouchers, for which 2,132 families wait. And since the waiting lists for rental vouchers are closed, it’s impossible to know the true number of families needing assistance. Who wants to hazard a guess? (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/29/04)
Here’s a Clue: Lower the Rent!
Apartment developers in Los Angeles have run the gamut – from offering free maid service to raffling off a BMW – all while trying to fill their increasing vacancies. With the bleak economic climate and rising number of home buyers, property managers find it difficult to bring in and retain tenants for their often over-priced apartments. But instead of the month’s free rent and gym membership, they should think about lowering the rent. As long as home mortgages are less than rent payments, the decision to rent or buy isn’t a hard one to make. (Commercial Property News, 1/1/04)
New York: The Community Service Society’s second annual survey of New Yorkers polled 753 residents who live on less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The survey showed that of those with full-time jobs, 44 percent are not provided health benefits, 63 percent were not given paid sick leave and 64 percent were not eligible for paid vacation. All that work and not a benefit to show for it. (City Limits, 11/24/03)
California: Locked Out 2004: California’s Affordable Housing Crisis survey reports that homeownership is out of reach for most of the state’s residents. (CA has the fourth lowest homeownership rate in the country.) Homeownership rates declined between 1979 and 2002 for all age groups except seniors: 14 percent for the twenty-somethings and 22 percent for those in their 30s. The survey also found that state spending for housing dropped from 0.5 percent of the general fund in 1989-90 to 0.08 percent in 2003-04. (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/04 and www.cbp.org)
Florida: A study of Martin County’s homeless, sponsored by the Children’s Services Council of Martin County, reported that of the 161 homeless persons surveyed, 25 percent were minor children and 25 percent were veterans. Nearly 16 percent had at least some form of college education. Twenty-nine percent said they were homeless because they could not find employment sufficient enough to afford rent. (Palm Beach Post, 1/28/04)
Sharing the Wealth?
A study conducted by the Foundation Center and the Boston Globe resulted in an astonishing finding – the rich just keep getting richer. The study looked at the giving patterns of 1,000 foundations and found that they mostly bestowed gifts to prestigious universities and other elite organizations. The findings reported that between 1992 and 2001, 14 of the top 20 award recipients were elite colleges or universities; and that one out of every four dollars given in 2001 went to elite institutions, while a mere one in 10 went to human service nonprofits. (City Limits, 1/19/04)
Saving for a Rainy Day
When a Sarasota, FL, homeless service center went to the City Commission with a rezoning request to build a new facility, not all of the commissioners thought the idea a good one. Commissioner Mary Anne Servian was concerned that placing the facility on the requested property, in a traditionally black community, might negatively affect future development. Such concern. I guess it could be reasonable to let Sarasota’s homeless do without, on the chance that something better would come along. Maybe a classy restaurant and some exquisite boutiques? Good thing not everyone agreed: The rezoning was approved. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/23/04)
A Step Backwards?
The Rhode Island Assembly approved a one-year moratorium on the state’s affordable housing legislation that allowed developers to override local zoning ordinances and get “fast-track” approvals to build low-income units in municipalities with less than 10 percent affordable housing. The moratorium is a result of widespread outrage over a deluge of proposals by for-profit developers. Nonprofit developers will be allowed to move forward with their projects. (Associated Press, 2/06/04)
Banking On It
The Navajo reservation in Window Rock, AZ, is making banking progress! Its 81,000 people in need of banking services now have two additional hours of banking time at the four Wells Fargo branches located there. Four banks, over 80,000 people. And…the banks will cash Social Security checks. Now people won’t have to use the payday lenders outside the reservation. Thanks Wells Fargo, that was a long time coming. (Indian Country Today, 1/28/04)