IMPACTS OF A LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
By John Berry
A study on extended stay hotels in the city of Norcross conducted by Live Norcross, the Latin American Association, Gwinnett Housing Corporation and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia has helped put a spotlight on the issue of an affordable housing shortage and how is turning ‘Extended Stay’ motels into permanent housing for too many people https://gwinnetthousing.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/extended-stay-survey-report-052019.pdf
The study’s findings echo the experience of many of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul caseworkers who are ‘in the field’ working with people to help prevent homelessness. In those tens of thousands of home visits conducted by our volunteers, we have seen that:
- Extended stay hotels have become permanent residences. More than 40% of occupants have lived there for one year or more and 22% have lived there over 3 years
- Extended stay hotels have become de-facto senior housing-29% of residents are age 55+. Many of them are disabled.
- Prior evictions are cited by 47% of occupants as their #1 barrier to moving to an apartment.
- The high cost of living in these hotels ($2,000/month when paying the daily rate) makes it difficult for residents to save for deposits and 1st months rent. Some landlords will rent to those with a prior eviction but require 3 months rent upfront.
- 79% say they need temporary assistance to get into permanent housing. Most are working full-time and could be self-sustaining after a short period of time.
At SVdP we are looking at how we could do more/better to assist this population. The single biggest barrier to permanent housing that we hear is the inability to come up with enough money to pay the two rent typically required at apartment complexes in order to move in. Bad credit only exacerbates the problem as it often requires that people put up even more at the front end, often as much as three months rent. Often, the ability to afford the monthly rent at an apartment is not the issue, but rather it is the challenge of saving for two to three months of rent up front.
The people we see every day in extended stay situations are usually not unemployed. They are, in fact, the working poor. They struggle each and every day, sometimes working two or three jobs, to make ends meet. Many need our assistance to make the move into a permanent housing situation. Once they are established, they would be able to make it from month to month. But even when we are able to support a request for a month or two of ‘upfront’ rent to get someone into a place, a negative credit rating can block the ability to secure a decent apartment.
These are complex and interconnected issues that will require a coordinated response from property owners, nonprofit agencies, government entities, and working families. There are many public policy issues and innovative programs that can be implemented to help support changes to this situation. One key aspect is building more affordable housing. But that alone is not the answer since enough new housing cannot be built soon enough or under a cost model that will support the overwhelming need. As cited in the Gwinnett study, there are other innovative avenues such as rapid rehousing funding, conversion of extended stay facilities into permanent housing, and others that can help.
Let’s get started!