Biden’s housing plan will be transformative for homeless people

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President Joe Biden has just been announced to plan to solve the housing affordability crisis has given homeless advocates a reason to celebrate. Slow-down national rent increase and increasing the supply of affordable housing will help low-income families stay in their homes, make housing more accessible to people who are currently homeless, and provide substantial savings to taxpayers.

Biden’s goal is to fight inflation, and increasing the housing stock is the perfect starting point. Across the country, it is estimated housing supply deficit of 3.8 million houses, which has serious economic consequences, in particular drive inflation and the worsening homelessness crisis. Homelessness creates massive social and economic costs for American cities, families, individuals, and the federal government itself; a 2017 study found that a chronically homeless person costs the average taxpayer more than $35,000 per year.

Whatever political will exists to alleviate the economic pressures on prices caused by inflation should be used to secure investments in affordable housing. Ensuring quality, safe and affordable housing while preventing and reducing homelessness is not just the right thing to do; it will save Americans money by preventing vulnerable people from losing their homes in the first place.

Houston demonstrates the benefit of this approach. The city has decrease in homelessness by approximately 63% since 2011 and has saved taxpayers millions of dollars by putting people in permanent housing and providing them with the support they need to stay there. The cost of allowing people to remain on the streets – the costs associated with community programs, health care, child welfare, public health, mental health care and criminal justice – is enormous. .

Conversely, through permanent housing programs and support services, Houston houses people for about $18,000 per person per year – the average cost of renting a one-bedroom unit plus a portion of a case manager’s salary. This cost-effective approach was expanded with the first phase of the $65 million program Covid Community Housing Program (CCHP), when the City of Houston and Harris County invested federal COVID relief funds to permanently house homeless people. The program housed – or provided homelessness referral services to – more than 7,000 people between October 2020 and January 2022. Phase two was announced in January 2022 with the goal of serving an additional 7,000 people experiencing homelessness by December 2024.

According to a annual national survey, similar nationwide programs funded by the American Rescue Plan and the House America initiative have also been effective in reducing homelessness. However, the success of these programs depends on a city’s housing stock. Houston currently faces high occupancy rates – 93% occupancy for Class C properties – which limits the number of apartments available both to the general public and to those trying to avoid or get out of homelessness. In the long term, solving this problem requires building affordable housing and dedicating a portion of those units to a community’s homeless response system. Houston’s goal is to secure between 20 and 30 percent of the units in an affordable housing project for those coming out of homelessness.

Based on Houston’s success, we know that permanent housing with supportive services is the solution, but only if we have the housing stock to support the approach. President Biden’s action to reduce housing costs by investing in the development and/or rehabilitation of affordable housing will allow more cities to continue to move homeless people directly into permanent housing. Guaranteed housing offers our most vulnerable neighbors the opportunity to live fulfilling lives and achieve self-sufficiency, not to mention the cost savings that will reduce the impact of inflation for middle- and low-income Americans.

federally funded Houston The way back is a collaborative public-private homelessness response system that includes local governments, community stakeholders, nonprofits, public housing authorities, and more, with the Coalition for the Homeless. Houston/Harris County shelter at the helm. The collaborative effort aims to address homelessness quickly and effectively. Thanks to unprecedented funding from COVID relief programs, The Way Home has continued to make progress in the fight against homelessness. But further investment would reduce long-term costs and lift thousands more still living on the streets.

As traditional programs expire – like emergency housing assistance – more people are at risk of sinking deeper into poverty and losing their homes. Allowing Americans to fall through our social safety nets and end up homeless will deplete city resources that could have been used to invest in cheaper interventions that would keep someone from becoming homeless – and the trauma that goes with it. is associated – in the first place.

Biden’s proposed investment in housing would begin to undo the devastating effects of past short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible divestment from housing programs, restoring programs that once kept Americans from falling into homelessness.

Although not the focal point, President Biden’s plan to increase the stock of affordable housing and reduce housing costs exacerbated by inflation will greatly benefit homeless populations – and, by therefore, local governments and taxpayers. But more resources need to be channeled to the nation’s most vulnerable so that homelessness becomes rare, brief and non-recurring and the enormous cost of allowing Americans to become homeless can be avoided. When we commit to providing affordable housing, we are doing the right thing, both morally and fiscally.

Michael Nichols is the CEO of the Homeless Coalition of Houston and Harris County. Deborah De Santis is President and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

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