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Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle.
Mark Morrisette, facilities director, and Susie Medak, managing director of Berkeley Rep, at a building that will host performers in the pricey Bay area.

Every day, it seems, I read a story on how the current cost of housing affects a different group of people. Yesterday it was about elderly people in Rhode Island becoming homeless and advocates asking the governor to lift local restrictions to house them.

Today it’s about arts leaders using their characteristic creativity to figure out a solution for visiting performers in one of the most expensive regions in America.

Lily Janiak  reports at the San Francisco Chronicle, “Across the breezeway from Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s new Medak Center, fuchsia light from the set of the new musical Goddess streamed through an open loading bay door, like a portal to Narnia.

“Such a sight might frequently greet the company’s out-of-town actors, directors, designers and playwrights — as well as its fellows, Berkeley Rep’s interns — when they wake up each morning and walk next door to work from their new home.

“But the 42,885-square-foot, $26.2 million center, which plans to host a dedication ceremony on Sept. 3, isn’t just about short commutes. It marks a historic and visionary investment in artist housing in a region with ballooning real estate costs.

“Berkeley Rep’s outgoing managing director, Susie Medak, the center’s namesake and the driving force behind its construction, remembers when housing out-of-town artists cost the company $300,000 to $400,000 per year. These days it’s more like $2 million. Before the pandemic postponed the most recent season opening, Berkeley Rep had committed to paying for 7,000 nights at a nearby Marriott hotel for this past year. …

She remembers when housing out-of-town artists cost the company $300,000 to $400,000 per year. These days it’s more like $2 million.

“Assuring comfort and quiet was another objective for the Medak Center. In a university town, a living situation that looked promising during daylight hours might be beset by 3 a.m. parties.

“ ‘I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had to move actors in the middle of a run,’ Medak said.

“The new center, located next door to Berkeley Rep’s Roda and Peet’s theater, has 45 units with capacity for 128 occupants. Fellows will share three-bedroom units. When Berkeley Rep’s not using those rooms, it plans to rent them to other nonprofits. …

“The building also features a classroom and a studio workshop space, which could host anything from movement classes to small experimental performances. … Other amenities include new storage space, a third-floor terrace with gardening beds for organic produce for residents, and a covered loading dock for the theaters so crews no longer have to load and unload sets while exposed to the rain.

“The building has key-card access, laundry on every floor and full kitchens in every unit. It’s also Gold LEED-certified for environmental efficiency.

“A trendy gray palette marks the interior. For one wall of the exterior, Berkeley Rep has commissioned a four-story mural by Oakland artist Cece Carpio to honor Ohlone peoples, on whose ancestral and unceded lands Berkeley Rep now sits.

“The theater has owned the property where the Medak Center was built since 1991, but for years it contained an empty lot and a warehouse. The project was a decades-long dream until Signature Bank helped finance it. The theater company finally broke ground in 2019.

“One comparable local facility is the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Ute and William K. Bowes Jr. Center for Performing Arts, which opened in 2020 and can house 400 conservatory students and 10 visiting artists, as well as 52 students from the San Francisco Ballet School. Those students pay for rooms, however, while Berkeley Rep’s fellows get free housing as part of their contract as workers.

“ ‘The Bowes Center brought together a range of our ambitions: positioning the institution right in the middle of Civic Center, providing much needed additional performance and teaching space, giving our students beautiful, safe accommodations in a place where they can work and live,’ said President David H. Stull.

“That meansfor example, a guest artist such as superstar Chinese pianist Yuja Wang might live and create and record music in the same building as students. …

“The San Francisco Ballet School has been able to increase student beds from 40 to 52 since the Bowes Center opened, said Jennie Scholick, director of education and training.  And now that students live right next to where they take classes, as opposed to a bus ride away in Pacific Heights, the school can accept younger students.

“At Berkeley Rep … the company’s first fellows [were] set to move into the new building Sept. 26, followed by visiting artists in Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor program, and then the cast and creative team for Wuthering Heights later in the fall.

“The board’s commitment to the Medak Center through pandemic delays and uncertainty, Medak said, was ‘the greatest statement of our intent to exist on the other side of this pandemic. Building this building is a statement of optimism.’ ”

It’s not something every city will have the priorities or resources to tackle, but it’s an inspiring idea, don’t you think? More at the San Francisco Chronicle, here.

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Photo: Genna Martin/Crosscut.
Writes Crosscut, “In their roles as King County support services specialists, Kirk Rodriguez, right, and Joe Barnhart walk the area around the King County Courthouse and City Hall Park, as they build relationships with those who live or hang out in that area, … using their own lived experiences with homelessness to form connections.”

After a recent post on better approaches to homelessness, Hannah sent me a link to a New York Times opinion piece by Maia Szalavitz.

“The needs of homeowners and businesses and those of people who are unsheltered often conflict, ” she writes. “Community leaders, faced with increasing crime and disorder, frequently see police sweeps as the only answer, while advocates for homeless people argue that this response is merely a stopgap that does more damage than good.

“But what if there was a way to stop shifting ‌‌people from encampments to jails to shelters to hospitals and back again? In Seattle a unique collaboration among businesses, neighborhood groups, the police, advocates and nonprofits is fighting cynics and misperceptions driven by politics to cut homelessness.

“The coronavirus pandemic presented Seattle with a crisis and an opportunity. In early 2020, authorities closed congregate shelters, emptied jails and stopped new arrests for minor crimes. Lisa Daugaard, a lawyer, saw a rare chance to develop a new approach to addressing homelessness that didn’t involve law enforcement.

“She’d already had success in getting officials to cooperate across siloed systems: In 2019, she won a MacArthur ‘genius’ award for helping to create a program originally called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, which has now been replicated in over 80 jurisdictions across the United States.

“Instead of re-incarcerating homeless people who typically already have long histories of minor arrests, police departments that participate in LEAD refer them to case management services. The program has an overall philosophy of harm reduction, which, in addition to securing shelter, focuses on improving health, rather than mandating abstinence from drugs and other risky behaviors. LEAD originated as a collaboration of public defenders, the police and prosecutors, who put aside differences to work on solutions.

“Peer-reviewed research published in 2017 by the University of Washington found a 39‌‌ percent reduction in felony charges for participants (a group of over 300 people suspected of low-level drug and sex work activity in downtown Seattle) in LEAD compared with controls and an 89‌‌ percent increase in the likelihood of being permanently housed for participants after they started case management. ‌‌

“At the height of the pandemic, when the police were ordered not to make minor arrests or referrals to LEAD, Ms. Daugaard decided to try something new. With federal pandemic funds becoming available and desperate hotel owners newly open to being paid to house nontraditional guests, she said she saw ‘our chance to show that there is another way.’

“Ms. Daugaard and her colleagues created a program now known as JustCare. JustCare staff members, rather than police officers, would respond to urgent calls about encampments. After building trust with ‌‌local homeless people, the workers would move them into housing without strict abstinence requirements and then help clean up the site. The police would be contacted only as a last resort.

“An early success involved an encampment on a major thoroughfare, Third Avenue‌‌, where around two dozen tents were ‌‌erected directly outside the popular local restaurant Wild Ginger, which had closed under pandemic restrictions. A co-owner, Rick Yoder, wanted to reopen the restaurant in the summer of 2021, but he told me, ‘I couldn’t get the windows repaired because the guy said, “I’m not going near those tents.” ‘ …

“Outreach workers from JustCare managed to house ‌‌those living in the encampment and clean up the site without police reinforcement. …

‌”The work begins with no-strings offerings of items like food, water and clean needles‌‌. These regular visits help‌‌ demonstrate trustworthiness and defuse fear about coercion. Creativity is also a must: Conflicts arise over everything from open drug use to burning items for heat. Workers neutralize tense situations with humor and compassion and by recognizing that often bizarre behavior is driven by fundamental needs like hunger, thirst and exhaustion.

“Alison McLean owns a condo in the Pioneer Square neighborhood and contacted JustCare for help dealing with tents that started being pitched against her building during the pandemic. …

“JustCare began its outreach. ‘Maybe two weeks later, they were like, “We found housing for everybody,” ‘ Ms. McLean said. …

“Between the fall of 2020 and this past spring, JustCare closed 14 encampments and placed over 400 people in hotels and other lodging.”

More at the Times, here. Thanks, Hannah. Good tip.

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Photo: Nadia Abdullah via Sentinel Source.
Nadia Abdullah, 25, with Judith Allonby, 64, holding Mango the cat, have been roommates in Malden, Mass., since 2019.

Pretty much all my friends are investigating what Roz Chast calls Places or else at-home services — especially if they expect to need assisted living or memory care eventually. According to today’s story, there’s an interim step, particularly for seniors who live alone, and it’s gaining in popularity.

Cathy Free reports at the Washington Post, “Nadia Abdullah was on the hunt for an affordable apartment in the Boston area a few months before she graduated from college.

“ ‘It was a little frustrating because I couldn’t find anything in my budget,’ said Abdullah, 25, who was sharing on-campus housing with four other students until she graduated from Tufts University.

“At the same time, Judith Allonby, 64, was debating whether to move out of her family’s old home in Malden, Mass., after her parents died. Her two-story house seemed too large for one person and it required a lot of upkeep, but she liked the neighborhood.

“ ‘I rely on public transportation,’ said Allonby, an attorney.

“Then she and Abdullah discovered an alternative: an intergenerational housing arrangement that would benefit them both. While researching their options, they each learned about Nesterly, an online home-sharing agency that matches young renters with not-so-young people looking to supplement their incomes and share their space.

“Abdullah and Allonby each passed the agency’s background check, then they were paired in an arrangement designed to fit their specific needs: Allonby would rent the first floor of her home to Abdullah for $700 a month in exchange for help with the housework and gardening and occasional grocery runs. And Abdullah would get a safe and spacious place to live just six miles from Boston and a 30-minute drive from her robotics engineering job in Beverly, Mass. …

“Allonby said she was surprised at how compatible they turned out to be. ‘It’s really nice to have somebody else around, and Nadia brings a different atmosphere and energy than I had with my 88-year-old mother,’ she said. ‘Nadia is definitely not listening to Frank Sinatra.’

“About 18 percent of Americans live in multigenerational households — meaning two or more adult generations — according to a study from Pew Research Center published this year. Such arrangements have quadrupled in the United States since the 1970s, with about 60 million U.S. residents now living with adults who are of a different generation, according to the study.

“Contributing to that trend is that more young people are priced out of the housing market and more seniors want to age in place, said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a D.C.-based organization that focuses on programs and policies that connect generations. …

“In the United States, several universities foster such arrangements, including Winona State University in Minnesota, Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and the University of California at Berkeley, which has an intergenerational housing program that started in 1986.

“At Drake University in Des Moines, music students are given the opportunity to live rent-free at a local senior living center in exchange for performing several times a month for the residents.

“Molly McDonough, a 22-year-old vocal performance major, recently moved into Wesley Acres, a senior living community that offers everything from independent apartment life to long-term care. …

“She said she was happy to find a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment waiting for her last month on the center’s fourth floor. ‘It came fully furnished, with towels, dishes and anything else I needed,’ McDonough said. ‘They also allowed me to bring my two cats.’ …

“McDonough now often shares meals with senior residents in the communal dining room and she enjoys hearing their life stories. …

“Shortly after she moved in, she found a note on her door from Arlene DeVries, 81, who lives at Wesley Acres with her husband, Fred DeVries, 83.

“ ‘Arlene wanted to give me a tour of Wesley Acres and I found out she’d also been a voice major at Drake,’ McDonough said. ‘Right away, we became good friends.’ …

“In Canada, college students and seniors are moving in together, too.

“Michael Wortis, 85, a retired physics professor from Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver, said he was intrigued when he received an email last year from Simon Fraser University, where he’d taught for 15 years.

“The university had recently started an intergenerational housing program with Canada HomeShare. Wortis, whose wife died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, decided that he could use a little help around the house, in addition to someone to chat with.

“He was matched with Siobhan Ennis, 27, a health sciences graduate student who had been living with three roommates and was looking for some quiet study space.

“In exchange for $400 a month to rent the bottom level of Wortis’s home, Ennis now mows the lawn and helps clean up around the house, and she and Wortis dine together several times a week. They also garden together and have movie nights. …

“As a bonus, Ennis makes terrific stir-fries, he said, and she’s better at figuring out problems with high-tech equipment than he is.

“Ennis said she believes that she actually benefits the most from the arrangement.

“ ‘Michael is such a great person — I love having him as my roommate,’ she said. ‘There is always something to talk about and he’s always direct and thoughtful. We’ll be friends for life.’ ”

More at the Post, here. See my 2019 post on Nesterly here.

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Photo: Mi Casa.
At Genesis , an intergenerational community in Washington, DC, older adults provide care and social support to individuals and families facing vulnerabilities, who in turn, promote the well-being of the elders as they age.

Because we don’t know the future, we need to make a plan. Catch-22: we can’t make a plan because we don’t know the future.

If we will always be able to handle the usual things that grown-ups handle, we may want to stay in our homes. For couples, if only one of us needs extra care, we may want to be where two lifestyles are possible. If we want to take interesting walks, we need to be where there are interesting walks. If we can’t walk or operate a wheelchair, a walkable neighborhood may not be as important as, say, being around good conversationalists or having easy access to books.

And what about being able to interact with people of other generations?

As Matt Fuchs reported at the Washington Post in September, “Research has shown that older and younger adults need one another: Mixed-age interactions make seniors feel more purposeful, and young people benefit from their elders’ guidance and problem-solving skills. ‘They fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,’ said Marc Freedman, chief executive of encore.org, a nonprofit group dedicated to uniting the generations.

“But in practice, such closeness can be hard to come by. Many young adults flock to cities, while older people often isolate within the walls of 55-and-over communities. Parts of the country are as segregated by age as race, fewer people are having children, and people live by themselves in record numbers, including 27 percent of adults over 60. …

“One solution is establishing residential communities that are designed to nurture these bonds.

“ ‘There’s a trend toward intergenerational living,’ said Elin Zurbrigg, deputy director of Mi Casa, a D.C. nonprofit that provides mixed-age housing through its Genesis program, in collaboration with city officials. Demand may be rising because of the pandemic, which has exposed loneliness as a serious health issue and has prompted many Americans to move for fresh starts. …

“[Here are some ways] mixed-age communities benefit their residents.

“[First] they cultivate purpose. A shared purpose with neighbors is what Estelle Winicki, a 78-year-old retiree, always envisioned for herself, but finding that wasn’t easy. In Boulder, Colo., she rarely crossed paths with neighbors. … Her therapist suggested Bridge Meadows, which operates two complexes of townhouses in Oregon that bring together seniors, former foster-care children and their adoptive parents. Residents are encouraged to spend time with their age opposites.

“Winicki, who lives at Bridge Meadows in Portland, doesn’t need persuasion. She starts many of her days helping her neighbors’ children get ready for school. ‘It gives me such pleasure to see these kids grow with a strong foundation,’ she said. ‘They know they can rely on me, and I like helping.’

“[Second] they provide mental health support. ‘The first thing you see among all the generations [at Bridge Meadows] is the sense of “I belong” and “I matter,” ’ said Derenda Schubert, Bridge Meadows’ founder and a clinical psychologist. Such an environment allows mixed-age communities such as Bridge Meadows to provide safety nets that protect residents’ mental health. …

“[Third] they offer professional advantages. In other communities, the generational glue is professional. PacArts, a mixed-age building in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, provides affordable housing to artists. Luis Sanchez, a 53-year-old painter, said he can count on his neighbors whether he’s having a rough patch with health — he’s had two kidney transplants — or his work. An older neighbor has hired him repeatedly to assist with large painting projects. ‘I’ve learned a tremendous amount,’ Sanchez said. ‘She knows techniques and materials I would’ve never used.’

“Eva Kochikyan is a musicologist and teacher residing at Ace 121, a similar building in Los Angeles County. … She grew up in Armenia, where residents socialized regardless of age, but after relocating to Los Angeles, she barely saw her neighbors. In moving to Ace 121, the 41-year-old re-created the experience of a big extended family. …

“Kochikyan recalled her 4-year-old wandering into the building’s communal art studio, sitting right next to an accomplished painter in his 70s and picking up a brush. ‘No lecturing, just working together,’ she said. ‘These connections happen naturally.’

“[Fourth] they may keep older people active. Seniors may get more movement when inspired by the vigor of youth. … Kochikyan thought of a neighbor as an ‘old grandma’ after watching her frown during a solo workout. Since then, though, the baby boomer has befriended a group of children who enjoy kicking her yoga ball with her. During these sessions, her intensity picks up and her face lights up, Kochikyan said, ‘like she drops 20 years off her age.’ ”

Read about other potential benefits and check the most recent research at the Post, here.

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Photo: World Housing.
In a tiny village on the outskirts of Nacajuca, Mexico, builders are creating new homes using an oversize 3-D printer.

Pop-up temporary cabins, 3-D-printed buildings: whether such super-cheap housing is a good idea or not, it’s probably the wave of the future because we are so far behind providing shelter for all. Typhoons, floods, entrenched poverty, opioid devastation. All require new solutions to homelessness.

First, let’s take a look at 3-D homes in Mexico.

Debra Kamin reports at the New York Times, “Pedro García Hernández, 48, is a carpenter in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco, a rainforest-shrouded region of the country where about half of the residents live below the poverty line.

“He ekes out a living making about 2,500 pesos ($125.17) a month from a tiny workspace inside the home he shares with his wife, Patrona, and their daughter, Yareli. The home has dirt floors, and during Tabasco’s long rainy season, it’s prone to flooding. Dust from his construction projects coats nearly everything in the home, clinging to the bedroom walls, the pump toilet and the counters of his makeshift kitchen.

“But that will soon change. In a matter of months, Mr. Hernández and his family are moving to a new home on the outskirts of Nacajuca, Mexico: a sleek, 500-square-foot building with two bedrooms, a finished kitchen and bath, and indoor plumbing. What’s most unusual about the home is that it was made with an 11-foot-tall three-dimensional printer. …

“And now, the era of the 3-D printed community has arrived. Mr. Hernández’s home is one of 500 being built by New Story, a San Francisco nonprofit organization focused on providing housing solutions to communities in extreme poverty, in partnership with Échale, a social housing production company in Mexico, and Icon, a construction technology company in Austin, Texas.

“When New Story broke ground on the village in 2019, it was called the world’s first community of 3-D printed homes. Two years and a pandemic later, 200 homes either are under construction or have been completed, 10 of which were printed on site by Icon’s Vulcan II printer. Plans for roads, a soccer field, a school, a market and a library are in the works.

“Single-family homes are a good testing ground for the durability of 3-D printed construction because they are small and offer a repetitive design process without much height, said Henry D’Esposito, who leads construction research at JLL, a commercial real estate firm.

They can also be constructed to tolerate natural disasters: Nacajuca sits in a seismic zone, and the homes there have already withstood a magnitude 7.4 earthquake. …

“ ‘We know that being able to build more quickly, without sacrificing quality, is something that we have to make huge leaps on if we’re going to even make a dent on the issue of housing in our lifetime,’ said Brett Hagler, New Story’s chief executive and one of four founders.

“The organization was started in 2015, shortly after Mr. Hagler took a trip to Haiti and saw families still living in tents years after the 2010 earthquake there. Across the globe, 1.6 billion people live with inadequate housing, according to Habitat for Humanity. …

“Speed is only one factor in bringing a village to completion — New Story has teamed up with local officials in Tabasco to bring sewage services, electricity and water to the community.

“Mr. Hernández, who has plans to expand his construction business to a larger space in his new home, said he was not focused on a move-in date. He cares about the long-term impact the home will have for his daughter, who is studying to become a nurse.

“ ‘When we receive the house, my daughter will be able to rely on it,’ he said. ‘She won’t have to worry anymore.’ ”

Meanwhile in Boston, construction crews have been working on a pop-up, temporary community to relieve the pressure at a trouble spot known locally as Mass and Cass.

Milton J. Valencia reports at the Boston Globe, “The crews had already built new pop-up cabins over the last two weeks. And on this day, they were digging through concrete to connect to water and sewer lines, putting the finishing touches on a new, makeshift cottage community to house people who are homeless.

“The pop-up community — which could be fully operational by Monday — is just one piece of what state and city officials hope will be the solution to a sprawling tent encampment at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, what has become the epicenter of the region’s opioid crisis.

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe.
An inside view of one of the temporary cottages on the grounds of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital campus.

“Seventeen sleeping cabins, ranging in size from 64 to 100 square feet, are lined up in two rows. At one end is a courtyard. And at the front of the village is a 500-square-foot structure that will serve as a common room, where those living there can gather for meals or counseling. Other services — to help treat addiction or mental illness — will be available at the site. And at the end of the day, those living there can retire to their own personal sleeping space. …

“As city officials and social workers push people to leave their tent encampments near the Mass. and Cass intersection, they invite them to the new cottage community, marketing it as a temporary but appealing option that could serve as a warmer, safer transition to long-term housing.”

Will there, in fact, be safer, long-term housing? That is the question.

More on 3-D homes at the Times, here, and on Boston’s pop-up community at the Globe, here.

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Image: Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation.
2021 artistic rendering of Senakw. The Squamish First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation.

Just before the pandemic, I read at the Guardian about an indigenous-led development for Vancouver, Canada. And yes, it’s still going forward. The market-rate aspect of the development is supposed to fund the parts that benefit the First Nation providing the land. I found a more recent story from the Daily Hive.

Kenneth Chan reports, “By the end of this year, site preparation for construction could begin on the Senakw development. … Squamish First Nation members overwhelmingly voted to approve the massive development on their 12-acre Kitsilano reserve in late 2019. Thus allowing band leaders to seal the partnership with local developer Westbank and continue their work with refining the design concept.

“In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized, Khelsilem, a spokesperson and councillor of the First Nation, said the heights of several buildings have been increased, including the tallest tower, now up from 56 storeys to 59 storeys at 172 metres (564 ft). … The first of four construction phases will target the westernmost parcel of the reserve — a narrow strip of land between the bridge and Vanier Park. …

“He said, ‘Some of the motifs of the building have been refined to incorporate Squamish culture and identity, and there is starting to be a bit more imagining of where the public gathering spaces will be.’

“The ground plain commercial space component of the project has changed too, with open public courtyards sunken into the landscape, activated by retail, restaurants, cafes, and potentially grocery stores and fitness centres.

“It also takes advantage of the space under the Burrard Street Bridge, using the structure as a cover for an ‘outdoor restaurant,’ gathering areas, a playground, and basketball courts.

“The residential component of the project still carries a total of 6,000 units, possibly enough to house as many as 9,000 people. …

“The housing tenure composition has not been finalized, but Khelsilem maintains purpose-built market rental housing will likely account for at least 70% of the homes. The below-market rental housing component dedicated to Squamish members has grown slightly to roughly 300 units. …

“The First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation, defined as in 25 years. More than half of its 4,000 members live on reserve, and over 1,000 are on the housing waitlist, with the most recent housing allocations offered to members who have been waiting for over three decades.

“Senakw’s non-market housing component for members will help achieve some of this broader goal directly. The real win is that the revenue generated by the market housing will provide the First Nation with the capacity to pursue greater self-determination. It will greatly enhance their ability to provide current members and future generations with more services, such as eldercare, education, and language and culture support. It would also help fund more member housing initiatives beyond this reserve. …

“Khelsilem adds many members have also expressed excitement about the trades training and employment opportunities that will be offered by the construction project.

“ ‘It is important for the public to understand that this is an economic development venture, it is not an affordable housing project. It is an economic development venture so that we can generate significant amounts of revenue to be invested into our community because we’ve been without the means to do it otherwise,’ said Khelsilem. …

“The infusion of thousands of market rental homes at Senakw will serve to improve overall housing affordability in Metro Vancouver by filling some of the demand from moderate-income households.

“ ‘The reality is new market rental housing is affordable for middle class workers and families in Vancouver, and that’s who this housing will be for,’ he said, adding that strong demand for rental housing has persisted even under COVID-19 conditions.”

More at the Daily Hive, here.

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Shelter

America, January 12, 2020

At a time of year that many communities around the world are telling the story of finding shelter in a stable, it feels ironic that even in a pandemic wealthy countries can’t find it in their hearts to protect people from being evicted.

In America, if the December rescue bill is signed, renters will be protected until the end of January 2021, about a month.

Coronavirus shut down businesses, and people lost jobs and couldn’t pay rent. Have we no collective will to protect the most vulnerable? Landlords, especially small landlords, need protection, too. It’s not just up to them.

The burden of pandemic losses must fall on us as a group. As a taxpayer, that would be my priority. I can do without more bombers and military aid to Saudi Arabia. As a people, many of us celebrating Christmas today, what are our priorities? What does Christmas mean?

At the Washington Post, Heather Long and Rachel Siegel interviewed Americans who are in danger at this season.

“Most told The Post they are ‘not political people’ and are struggling to understand why Congress and the president would be able to celebrate Christmas when 14 million Americans are slated to lose unemployment aid on Saturday, the government is set to shut down on Tuesday, and an eviction moratorium that has prevented millions from losing their homes during a pandemic ends on New Year’s Eve.

“Waitress Robyn Saban summed up the sentiment of many: ‘I’ve worked for 18 years at a diner under very hard conditions. I never called in sick except when my husband died. And now Congress is just leaving town. It makes me furious because they are leaving people hanging.’ …

“Tony Bowens, 31, spent nine days in a hospital in March fighting for his life against the deadly coronavirus. In many ways, he’s just grateful this Christmas to be home with his wife and two kids, even though very little is the same. As his family struggles to pay rent, he can’t believe [there’s no] agreement on aid. …

“Bowens has ongoing complications from covid: Headaches, temperatures that spike for a day, crippling leg pains and trouble breathing. He lost his IT job in March and has not been able to work since. He received $65 a week in unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that Congress created this year to assist independent contractors and gig workers like him, but it will end the day after Christmas unless a relief bill gets enacted.

“His family is barely getting by on his wife’s job as a state government worker in Illinois. They are behind on rent and the electric bill, and they worry about more layoffs for state workers.

“Bowens said extending unemployment is ‘one of the most important things’ in the relief package because a $600 one-time check won’t last long, ‘but unemployment would go for 11 weeks. I was going to be able to get that again.’ ”

More on evictions at the News and Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina, here, at US News, here, at the Washington Post, here, and at CNBC, here. Eviction Lab is worth checking, too, here.

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Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Dean Kaplan and Sarah Heintz chatted in the apartment they share in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Empty nesters are faced with a challenge: they hate to leave their home, but maybe it would be practical to get a smaller, cheaper place with more people around and less snow shoveling in winter. Meanwhile, grad students have a different conundrum: their university may be in a high-rent area, but they don’t have much money.

Idea!

Dugan Arnett at the Boston Globe describes one creative solution that is working out for both empty-nesters and young adults.

“After living with more than a dozen different roommates in his young life, most of them strangers, Dean Kaplan is well-versed in the particulars of those first meetings — the short introductions, the perfunctory pleasantries, and then the quick getting on with life. …

“In late August, though, as he stood on the front porch of a sizable multistory house in Cambridge ready to meet his newest roommate, he found himself uncharacteristically nervous and eager to make a good first impression.

“Of all the roommates he’d had in the previous few years, Sarah Heintz would be the first septuagenarian. In fact, Kaplan, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and Heintz, a 77-year-old whose grown daughter now lives across town, are part of an experiment in connecting young people in need of cheap rent with older residents who wouldn’t mind a little extra companionship and an occasional hand around the house.

“The notion is driven by the Boston area’s housing crisis, which has propelled rents through the stratosphere [while] some 90,000 spare bedrooms are going unused in the homes of aging empty-nesters.

“That got a pair of MIT urban-planning graduate students thinking: Those rooms might be valuable to young people, especially students. And they might also provide a way for older people, who increasingly are living alone, to stay in their homes as they age.

“ ‘They get helped around the house, doing everyday sorts of things — walking the dogs, going grocery shopping, technology tutoring, and feeling that they can help a young person get started in their life,’ said one of the students, Noelle Marcus.

“To match these odd couples, Marcus and classmate Rachel Goor last year launched a startup called Nesterly, which works roughly on the principles of a dating app, with searchable online profiles and features that help work out details of a lease. …

“That day in August when Kaplan showed up on Heintz’s porch, he came with his mother and some luggage stuffed with clothes. Heintz invited them in and gave them a tour.

“At first glance, they would seem an unlikely pairing. … But as Heintz led Kaplan and his mother through the house, his nerves started to ease.

“ ‘The walls are covered in books,’ Kaplan said later. ‘And that made me feel at home immediately.’ …

“Under the terms of their lease agreement, rent is $800 a month (about half the cost of apartments Kaplan had been looking at before the arrangement with Heintz), knocked down to $700 if he devotes eight hours each month to helping Heintz with a range of chores.

“But even without that incentive, they said, they’ve discovered they like doing favors for one another. He helps in the garden and gives her a hand logging into her e-mail account; she offers him rides to Market Basket and recently taught him the proper way to gut a fish.” Read more here.

I love this idea, but I just have to say one thing. There are plenty of septuagenarians who don’t need help logging on to their email accounts. It’s a lazy journalistic assumption that is really starting to grate.

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0321-ddp-finland-homeless

Photo: Gordon F. Sander
Residents at a Housing First facility near Helsinki, Finland. Emmi Vuorela, right, is the resident coordinator. 

“Housing First” is a model that parts of the United States have adopted on a limited scale. It provides housing to homeless people without making behavior changes a prerequisite. The theory is that a person is more likely to get off an alcohol dependency, say, if he has the stability of shelter.

Now Finland has not only seen the wisdom of the concept, it has decided to go much bigger and provide every homeless person with housing. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when a society as a whole makes up its mind to do something sensible. Sensible because the program not only helps individuals but pays for itself.

Gordon F. Sander writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “As anyone who has visited Europe recently can attest, the scourge of homelessness has reached epidemic proportions.

“The only exception to the trend is Finland, according to FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless. There, homelessness is, remarkably, on the decline.

“Per the latest statistics, the number of homeless people in Finland has declined from a high of 18,000 30 years ago, to approximately 7,000: the latter figure includes some 5,000 persons who are temporarily lodging with friends or relatives. In short, the problem has basically been solved. ..

“Finland opted to give housing to the homeless from the start, nationwide, so as to allow them a stable environment to stabilize their lives.

“ ‘Basically, we decided that we wanted to end homelessness, rather than manage it,’ says Juha Kaakinen, CEO of the Y-Foundation, which helps provide 16,500 low-cost apartments for the homeless. …

The elimination of homelessness first appeared in the Helsinki government’s program in 1987. Since then virtually every government has devoted significant resources toward this end.

“Around 10 years ago, however, observers noticed that although homelessness in general was declining, long-term homelessness was not. A new approach to the problem was called for, along with a new philosophy. …

“The concept behind the new approach was not original; it was already in selective use in the US as part of the Pathways Model pioneered by Dr. Sam Tsemberis in the 1990s to help former psychiatric patients. What was different, and historic, about the Finnish Housing First model was a willingness to enact the model on a nationwide basis.

“ ‘We understood, firstly, that if we wanted to eradicate homelessness we had to work in a completely different way,’ says Mr. Kaakinen, who acted as secretary for the Finnish experts. … ‘We decided as a nation to do something about this.’…

“One of [the] goals was to cut the number of long-term homeless in half by producing 1,250 new homes, including supported housing units for tenants with their own leases, and around-the-clock presence of trained caring staff for residents who needed help. …

“As far as the not inconsiderable cost of producing the 3,500 units created between 2008 and 2015 – estimated at just under $382 million – [Sanna Vesikansa, the deputy mayor of Helsinki] declares that ‘the program pays for itself.’ As evidence, she points to a case study undertaken by the Tampere University of Technology in 2011. It showed society saved $18,500 per homeless person per year who had received a rental apartment with support, due to the medical and emergency services no longer needed to assist and respond. …

” ‘That doesn’t cover the contribution to the economy [from] residents who moved on from supported housing and got jobs,’ she adds.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Tony Price, formerly homeless, grows tomatoes in his small patio garden and shares the produce with friends and neighbors. Now that he has permanent housing, he’s able to take better care of his health.

In the last decade, there’s been a lot written about how a small percentage of people use hospital emergency rooms on a regular basis and what could be done to stabilize them and save money. In today’s story, we find that providing housing for homeless patients can yield positive, long-term results.

From Pauline Bartolone and Kaiser Health News at Capital Public Radio: “Hospitals in Sacramento and around the country want to get [homeless patients] off the streets, to improve their health and minimize unnecessary visits to the ER. … That’s why many hospitals are stepping outside their role as medical providers to invest heavily in housing for homeless people.

“Dignity Health’s ‘Housing With Dignity’ initiative got Tony Price into an apartment, paid his rent for four months and set him up with a social worker who helped him become eligible for permanent housing. …

“A 2002 study showed that providing housing and supportive services, to more than 4,600 mentally ill homeless people in New York City dramatically reduced their presence in hospitals, shelters and correctional facilities. …

“Health insurers are starting to invest in housing, too. Dignity and other Sacramento hospitals have long funded ‘respite’ programs that shelter homeless people for a few weeks after their hospital stays, but the goal of ‘Housing With Dignity’ is to keep them from being homeless again. …

“Ashley Brand, Dignity’s director of community health and outreach, said the program is helping address the hospital chain’s longstanding challenge of ensuring that homeless patients get follow-up care after they’re discharged. …

“No matter how many times Tony Price visited Sacramento hospitals while he was living on the streets, he never got well. His diabetes was uncontrolled, he repeatedly lost the drugs he was taking for anxiety and depression and, he says, he regularly drank himself into ‘oblivion,’ sometimes consuming as much as half a gallon of vodka a day. …

“Price qualified for the services offered by ‘Housing with Dignity,’ which put him into a one-bedroom apartment in Sacramento’s sprawling North Highlands neighborhood in May 2015 and assigned him a social worker, Chris Grabe, who drove him to medical appointments. …

“He has been off the streets for nearly two and a half years, and he’s been to the hospital only once since January. … He now gardens, and he recently volunteered at a church and as a leader of an Alcoholics Anonymous group.”

At Capital Public Radio, here, you can read how Grabe stuck with Price through early relapses and what is needed to expand this effort to more people.

Hat tip: House of Hope CDC on twitter.

12/8/17 Update: Meanwhile in Boston, where one in four Boston Medical Center patients is homeless or in dangerous housing, BMC is partnering with local housing organizations and spending $6.5 million to help patients. This is the latest manifestation on BMC’s whole-patient approach to healing. Read about it here.

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Photo: Safira’s Journey
Safira, an Indonesian blogger, visits the Teletubbies village to learn about earthquake-resistant housing.

I like the WordPress blog Safira’s Journey, by a young woman from Indonesia. In a July post, she visits an unusual village and takes pictures.

“My sister needs to make a report about Teletubbies Village in Yogyakarta. So, she asks me to take her to the place as I’m more familiar with Yogyakarta. It’s one of unique village or kampong in Yogyakarta.

“It is made for replacing the public’s house which ruined because of the earthquake in 2006. It was big earthquake and the victims about 6.234 people. It’s occurred at 5.55 in the morning for 57 seconds with moment magnitude of 6,2.

“Teletubbies domes village is from Domes For The World Foundation. It’s unique house and it can resist the earthquake. My sisters interviewed the people who living in one of the domes. She said, it’s comfortable and people are happy to live there. The domes village is one of the memorial from the earthquake.

“They even have annual even to memorizing the earthquake. They make the Teletubbies figures as the icons as you can see from my pictures. Who is that in the costumes? LOL”

More photos at Safira’s Journey.

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Photo: Big Car Collaborative
The search for a housing model that benefits both artists and communities.

Low-income communities often benefit artists by providing cheap housing. And artists benefit low-income communities — at least until a tipping point comes and improved ambience spills over into gentrification. That’s when neighbors find that rents have gone too high, and the artists do, too.

Indianapolis is testing an approach to make artist and community interaction a long-term benefit for all.

Adele Peters writes at Fast Company, “For artists, the gentrification cycle in cities often goes something like this: struggling photographers or painters or writers move into an industrial neighborhood with cheaper rents and transform it. As new businesses spring up to serve these new residents, the neighborhood becomes more desirable to a wider swath of upper-middle class professionals. Eventually, rents increase so much that the artists have to move away.

“In Indianapolis, one block in the Garfield Park neighborhood south of the city’s downtown is experimenting with a different model. An arts nonprofit worked with other partners to buy and renovate vacant houses and is now offering to co-own them with artists.

“Artists will pay half the cost – one $80,000 home, for example, will sell for around $40,000. If they later move out, they’ll get their equity back, but no more; the house will be sold at the same cost to someone else, keeping the neighborhood accessible as the artists help make it more desirable.

” ‘Neither of the two sides can profit off of an inflated market value,’ says Jim Walker, executive director of Big Car Collaborative, the art and placemaking nonprofit leading the project along with the local Riley Area Development Corporation and local neighborhood associations. ‘That’s to keep us from pricing out future owners of the homes.’ …

“When Big Car bought an abandoned factory on a block in Garfield Park, converting it into a community art center that opened in 2016, the organization realized that there was a bigger opportunity in the area. The block, cut off from part of the neighborhood by a highway built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had declined for years; roughly half of the houses were abandoned. …

“ ‘These homes were available to us below $20,000, on average, because they were owned by banks in Florida and other investors who just walked away,’ says Eric Strickland, executive director of Riley Area Development Corporation, which works on community development in and around downtown Indianapolis. …

“The Artist and Public Life Residency program is designed for artists who are particularly interested in community and placemaking. ‘What we’re really looking for, first and foremost, is leadership in trying to invest in the community, and use the talents and resources that you have to support your own neighborhood,’ says Walker. …

“The development corporation wants to encourage other developers to build new affordable housing for the area to help keep the most vulnerable people in place. …

“Big Car is working closely with neighbors, who they say have been supportive of the changes–particularly the potential for local commercial streets to gain new businesses and bringing life to vacant houses.”

More at Fast Company, here.

Photo: Big Car Collaborative

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Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
From left, Army veteran Kevin Faherty speaking with Paul Connor, veteran services coordinator, and Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian in January.

A sad fact of war is that those who serve too often come back suffering from emotional trauma or addiction.

Fortunately, there are understanding people who can help them move on. We just need more of them.

Kevin Cullen at the Boston Globe describes what one Massachusetts sheriff is doing to make veterans’ lives more hopeful.

“For the past year, with hardly any attention, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and his staff have developed an innovative approach that is transforming lives for the better, lowering recidivism rates and raising the odds that those who have served their country can become more responsible, productive citizens.

“[Jan. 13] marked the first anniversary of the Housing Unit for Military Veterans at the Middlesex jail and house of correction, the first of its kind in New England, and really the only one quite like it nationwide. Its acronym is HUMV, or Humvee, an armored vehicle that once protected many of the younger vets in the unit. …

“Koutoujian tapped Paul Connor, an Army veteran, to run the unit. They got a waiver from the state, so that pre-trial prisoners and inmates already serving their sentences could be housed together. The HUMV is set up like a barracks, bunks lined up in the self-contained unit. …

“The men in the unit are broken down into squads, sharing chores and other duties, which builds camaraderie and accountability. …

“Connor’s veteran status makes a real connection with those in the unit. His decade of sobriety, meanwhile, makes him a role model. Like the vast majority of inmates in the general population, most of the vets in the HUMV have struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. …

“Amy Bonneau, a social worker from the Boston Vets Center, runs a support group at the HUMV.

” ‘For a lot of these guys, their underlying issues can be traced back to their service,’ she said. ‘If we don’t treat what got them here, they end up coming back. What we see is the camaraderie that this unit fosters makes them more willing to take the treatment seriously. It’s more than helping themselves. They don’t want to let down their brothers.’

“Connor, still a captain in the National Guard, puts it in terms that everybody in the unit understands.

“ ‘In boot camp, they break you down,’ he said. ‘A lot of these guys come in here broken. We are building them back up.’ ”

More here.

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Despite its size, the compassionate Netherlands has welcomed a large number of refugees during the largest migration since World War II, perhaps remembering the terrified families that fled Hitler.

To house all the newcomers is naturally a challenge, but a design competition has yielded creative ideas.

Jon Comulada writes at Upworthy, “As the worldwide refugee crisis continues, innovative solutions are needed so that the people fleeing civil war and sectarian violence have a safe place to live. …

“In January 2016, the Netherlands launched a design competition called ‘A Home Away From Home’ in which entrants were tasked with designing temporary housing for refugees and disaster victims. All of the winning designs rethought the idea of public housing, adding amenities and innovations to make the buildings more like fully functioning homes than simply a bed to sleep on.

“The winners of the contest recently appeared on display in Amsterdam as part of Dutch Design Week and included things like solar power, water purification systems, and ingenious use of space and material.

“The cube design of the Farmland [below] means dozens can be stacked, placed together, and moved easily. The architects of this design imagined the miniature villages establishing a ‘DIY economy’ with local towns. …

“Home is a concept many of us take for granted, but it’s not a small thing. It makes us feel safe, comfortable, and human.

“The current refugee crisis hasn’t showed signs of slowing down, and with climate change creating more and more dangerous weather systems, we’re likely to see climate refugee numbers grow sharply. All of those people are going to need places to live. Innovative solutions like these help them to not only live, but live with dignity and opportunity.”

Check out several other designs from the competition at Upworthy, here.

Photo: A Home Away From Home
This Farmyard shelter is designed to transform vacant farmland into mini villages.

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Attempts to improve housing for low-income people have often destroyed a sense of community. That’s eminently clear in Robert Kanigel’s new biography of Jane Jacobs, an activist who helped to end the construction of the large complexes known as the “projects.”

So there is some irony in a new Global Oneness film about a 70-year-old housing project that probably once destroyed a neighborhood but has since created its own sense of community. Today it is threatened with what sounds like very pleasant improvements.

Life is complicated.

The Global Oneness Project has interviewed Yesler Terrace residents and created a film to spark discussion of the pluses and minuses of revitalization.

Even the Walls is a short documentary about the multi-generational residents living within Yesler Terrrace, a public-housing neighborhood in downtown Seattle grappling with the forces of gentrification.

“For over 70 years, Yesler has been home to thousands of Asian, Asian American, African, African American, Native American, Hispanic, and Caucasian residents. The 30-acre property is being redeveloped quickly and the residents are being forced to make a decision — collect their memories and belongings and leave, or return to a place they know well, but do not recognize due to heavy reconstruction.

Even the Walls chronicles the intimate stories and experiences from the residents of Yessler and defines the human connection to home and community.”

The film is here. Lesson plans for teachers are here. And the good intentions of the City of Seattle are described here.

Photo: Seattle Housing
In an organic 70-year process, the residents of Seattle’s somewhat worn Yesler Terrace have made the “projects” into a real community. So not everyone is thrilled that improvements are afoot.

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