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Round-up: Invest in housing for high fiscal, social return
July 27, 2016

By Kris Berggren  |  We know that when people have affordable, stable housing their health, financial independence, and happiness improve. Not having housing often means poor long-term prospects for financial independence, poor health, and lots of stress and anxiety. It's a national crisis, and even some of our most essential wage earners -- child care providers -- are on average paid so poorly that many live at or near the poverty level and certainly can't afford housing even with a full-time job. Something is wrong with this picture. These articles convey the urgency of the need and the potential for meeting it:

1. If We’re Serious About Tackling Poverty, Let’s Talk About Housing by Terri Ludwig, Huffington Post, April 5, 2016

Terri Ludwig of green housing developer Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., suggests that the increasing lack of affordable housing across America is a crisis that's "flying under the radar." But she says we have the means and knowledge to tackle it – and she offers some policy suggestions that could ameliorate the problem from taking a good look at the federal housing subsidies we support and making tough choices. (Can you say “mortgage interest tax deduction?”)

She also cites a new  book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City  by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, that depicts the the cost of housing and the benefits of investing in it to stem the dangerous disconnectedness and lack of opportunity plaguing our cities.

“Desmond’s vivid portraits of eight families cycling through economic disaster in Milwaukee make a powerful case for why stable affordable housing is central to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and creating opportunity nationwide.

It's on my reading list.

2. Investing in homeless young people can yield good human and financial return by Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune, April 16, 2016

RIght in our back yard, meticulous research on the effects of supportive housing on youth who have faced long term homelessness also points to the value of this public investment.

Caring about and for homeless youth by supporting them through housing and guidance to work, finish school and set goals has a huge social and fiscal impact on our state, according to new research conducted by economists Dr. Steven Foldes and Andrea Lubov in conjunction with YouthLink.

If only 89 of 1,451 youth included in the study earn enough to no longer need any public support starting at age 20, the state will break even on its investment.

And that’s just the fiscal savings. The real savings is to the youth whose lives are transformed by having stable housing and services and to society that would otherwise pay the price of tolerating their homelessness: likelihood of higher incarceration rates, emergency room visits, the cost of public benefit programs, reduced tax revenue.

Oh, and 91 percent of those studied are people of color. That compares with about 35 percent of all youth in Hennepin County.

Want to change the achievement, earning and racial gaps in our area? Investing in places like Nicollet Square, Prior Crossing and 66 West is a good beginning.

3. Half of America’s child care workers need food stamps, welfare or Medicaid by Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, July 11, 2016

This isn't directly about homelessness or housing but I am appalled to know that people who raise our nation's children are valued less than those who clean our offices.

“The people who are paid to watch America’s children tend to live in poverty. Nearly half receive some kind of government assistance: food stamps, welfare money, Medicaid. Their median hourly wage is $9.77 — about $3 below the average janitor’s.”

About 2 million adults care for about 12 million children from infancy through age 5. Of those, 46 percent were enrolled in one or more public safety net program compared with 26 percent of all workers.

The average child care worker's wage is $11.60 per hour in Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington . That is still below the state housing wage of $17.46, so a full-time child care worker at this hourly mean wage would not be able to afford market rate rent. This is a grave injustice to those we entrust with our children, and ultimately to our own families and our future. Housing subsidies for child care workers, anyone?