Posts Tagged ‘rent’

Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce for NPR.
Eric Perkins (right)
says lived on the beach, then a shelter and then in a hotel during the pandemic before moving into the Norfolk apartment,” NPR reports.”The median local rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,000. Perkins’ rent is $600.

This is a story about an approach to housing that hasn’t always worked in the past but, when carefully managed, really can move people out of homelessness and into eventual independence. It’s called the roommate.

Jennifer Ludden has a report at National Public Radio (NPR).

“Even after three years of homelessness, Eric Perkins did not want to move into an apartment with another person who had been unhoused.

” ‘I was real skeptical because of the things I was seeing inside the shelter,’ he says. ‘A lot of drug use, lot of alcohol abuse, PTSD, there was a lot of veterans there. …

“But the arrangement suggested by a local housing provider has turned out better than he expected. On a recent afternoon, Perkins gave a tour of the two-story house where he has lived for more than two years. It’s divided into two apartments, and he shares the one on the first floor. The place came furnished, including with some homey knickknacks. Perkins has his own bedroom but shares a bathroom.

” ‘It’s small, but it’s enough for us,’ he says.

“Farther down the hall is what sold him on the place — a roomy kitchen with a window onto the small yard. ‘I like to cook,’ he says. ‘This is where I want to be.’

“Before he moved in, Perkins had lived on the beach in Virginia Beach, then a shelter and — during the pandemic — a hotel. He ended up without housing after a heart attack in 2017 and double-bypass surgery with no health insurance. He also has chronic lung disease that limits his ability to work. Perkins’ monthly disability payment is just under $800. The median local rent for a one-bedroom apartment is more than $1,000.

“After seeing the apartment and meeting the roommate he’d be paired with, Perkins decided to try it out. His rent is $600, and he gets a lot of help from housing aid. He says his roommate was also a good match with his personality, neat and quiet.

” ‘We got to know each other, we respected each other’s space, we shared everything,’ he says. ‘It was really nice.’

“That roommate ended up reuniting with his family and moved out, and in April 2021, Leon Corprew moved in. Corprew is 59 and Perkins is 56. They say they get along well, though they mostly keep to themselves and give each other space. Perkins used to cook for both of them, but Corprew makes his own meals now because, he says with a laugh, ‘I eat a lot!’

“Getting homeless people into their own apartment, without roommates, is considered the ‘gold standard’ for achieving independence, says Ann Oliva, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. But record high rents and a historic housing shortage are making it all but impossible in many places in the U.S. …

“Rents in many places around the country have gone up by double digits in the past couple of years, and in June, the median listed rent for an available apartment rose above $2,000 a month for the first time. Federal benefits like Supplemental Security Income — or disability — have been unable to keep up. …

“Oliva says she’s seeing more interest in offering roommate arrangements to homeless people out of necessity. When vacancy rates are as low as 1% or 2%, she says expanding the search to two- or three-bedroom apartments can make it easier to find a place.

“It may also lead to housing in nicer neighborhoods, says Todd Walker, executive director of the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center in Virginia Beach, which found the shared apartment for Eric Perkins.

“Walker started trying out this kind of shared housing eight years ago when one of his volunteers offered to rent out a four-bedroom family home. And he says he quickly learned some of the pitfalls.

” ‘We had clients that weren’t paying [rent], other clients giving that client their money to pay for the utility and it wasn’t getting paid,’ he says. ‘It was a catastrophe.’

“The first major lesson Walker learned was to have a separate lease for each roommate. That way, if one person is a problem they can be moved — or evicted — without everyone else being kicked out. Also, he says it’s important to keep utilities in the landlord’s name and include that cost in the rent.

“Another rule that Walker considers nonnegotiable: No doubling up in bedrooms, and there must be locks on the bedroom doors so that each renter is guaranteed a safe space. …

“The whole idea can also be a tough sell to landlords, who might worry about property damage. Walker talks it up to mom-and-pop landlords at every chance and offers incentives like a bonus or double deposit. He says these arrangements often let him house people who would otherwise be denied a lease, because of lack of income, a criminal record or past eviction. …

“Landlord Sophia Sills-Tailor owns the house where Perkins and Corprew live. When she heard about Walker’s program five years ago, she was desperate to rent out a couple of places. She’d been using Craigslist but found those tenants ‘fly-by-night.’ Working with a nonprofit seemed more stable, even if its clients were homeless.

” ‘When they come in, they don’t just say, “OK, here is the person, goodbye,” ‘ she says. They help them set up the household, donating things like blankets, pots and pans. ‘”‘And then they’re coming to see them.’ “

More at NPR, here. No firewall.

I love that when Perkins says the shared apartment is small, he adds that it’s “enough for us.” The roommates are not friends, but they are still an “us.”

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Photo: Avi Werde on Unsplash.
“Rental properties,” notes Living on Earth, comprise more than a third of U.S. housing stock, [and] 40% of the U.S.’s rental housing stock faces risk of damage from climate disasters.”

When I was first visiting retirement communities, I noticed that the heat was turned up high. I asked in one place if residents could control the temperature in their rooms, and the answer was no. I thought about that when I heard today’s story. Renters have little control over the temperature in buildings and no say at all about efficiency steps to counter global warming.

Host Steve Curwood at the radio show Living on Earth introduced a recent show on the topic.

“CURWOOD: There will soon be funds and programs for homeowners to take climate action by installing solar panels and energy efficient heat pumps. But renters typically use a third more energy per square foot than homeowners because landlords often don’t get a financial return on installing expensive upgrades to improve insulation and HVAC efficiency. …

“But there are ways for people living in rental housing to go greener, save energy costs and guard against heat waves and other climate related risks, says Todd Nedwick the Senior Director of Sustainability Policy at the National Housing Trust. He spoke with Jenni Doering.

“DOERING: We want everyone to be able to play a role in mitigating the climate crisis. [Landlords] don’t always have that clear incentive to do so. So what kinds of carrots, or sticks for that matter, can help prod building owners to reduce their energy consumption?

“NEDWICK: [There] are incentive programs out there, utility energy efficiency programs, for example, that will help to offset the cost of making building upgrades. Those are really important resources for building owners, especially owners of affordable housing, where there really is very limited cash flow to actually pay for the upfront cost of some of these upgrades. And we’re also seeing policies like building energy performance standards, which basically require building owners of poor performing buildings to make upgrades to reduce energy use of the buildings. So we are seeing both carrots and sticks. I think what works most effectively is when you combine the two. So, if you’re going to have a building energy performance standard and require building owners to make upgrades, especially in affordable housing, providing resources to the owner to actually pay for some of those costs is pretty important.

“DOERING: And how do those incentives and standards work? Are they at the local level, the state level, the federal level?

“NEDWICK: [Standards] are typically at the local or state level. … There are several cities that have implemented building performance standards, and Maryland just became the third state that adopted a building performance standard statewide. And then for the incentive programs, typically those programs are at the utility level. So it’s utilities that are providing those incentives to their customers. However, state public service commissions really make decisions that impact the utilities’ motivation to provide those energy efficiency programs. Input from residents, from affordable housing providers, is really key to designing these programs in a way that’s truly equitable. …

“One opportunity for renters is community solar. We know that renters can’t control the installation of solar panels on their building, but they can access community solar, which allows residents to basically purchase solar generation from a solar community.

“Renters can have control over, for example, improving the lighting in their unit, using more efficient lighting like LED, as well as talk to their landlord and encourage their landlord to participate in some of these energy efficiency incentive programs. …

“DOERING: A lot of sustainable changes like weatherization, even some energy efficiency measures, may come with a significant upfront price tag. What resources are available to help landlords make these upgrades?

“NEDWICK: [Many] utilities offer energy efficiency rebate programs, which helps to defray some of the costs of the building upgrades. There’s also financing that can be available, a lot of green banks develop targeted financing programs for affordable housing, which provides the upfront resources that building owners will need. …

“Some programs [require] as a condition of receiving funding to make building upgrades, landlords have to keep rents affordable, they have to agree not to raise rents as a result of the upgrades that are being made to the building. … If 100% of the cost of the upgrades are being provided through these programs, then there should be very little increase, if any. …

“DOERING: Given that 40% of the US’s rental housing stock faces risk of damage from climate disasters, that’s according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, how is this set to impact renters? …

“NEDWICK: In this country, we spend so much more funding on disaster recovery than we do disaster preparedness. And we’ve found that particularly rental housing, the disaster recovery funding often doesn’t reach renters and owners of rental housing. Typically, disaster recovery programs allocate funding based on the extent of the economic disruption from a climate event. And so that often correlates with higher property values. As a result, a lot of the disaster recovery funding, especially through some of the FEMA programs, really don’t reach affordable housing residents and owners in an equitable way. …

“The Inflation Reduction Act included a $1 billion program specifically targeted to the HUD housing stock that will allow building owners to invest both in the energy efficiency of the building as well as improve resilience. So we are really happy to see that level of investment and that targeted approach to addressing affordable housing.

“There are also programs in the Inflation Reduction Act that will provide rebates to both single family owners as well as multifamily building owners to encourage building owners to invest in energy efficiency, as well as converting existing fossil fuel burning equipment to all electric. [In] Washington, DC, where I’m from, buildings account for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. So we’re not going to address climate change if we’re not addressing the existing housing stock. You know, climate policy is housing policy.”

More at Living on Earth, here, where you can listen to the show if you’d rather. No firewall.

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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