About a week ago, nearly three dozen people met in Davenport to talk about the Iowa Housing Partnership, a new state-wide advocacy organization raising awareness for the need to provide less expensive housing options.
The lack of fair, affordable housing is a national crisis. But it is a local problem, too. But when there is a crisis, as we once again learned recently with the possible closure of the winter emergency shelter, the Quad City community responds.
The disappearance of affordable housing options in the Quad Cities is at crisis levels. The 2013 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice found that from 2000 to 2010, Davenport lost 3,887 rental units available at $500.00 per month. Combined, Davenport, Moline, and Rock Island lost 7,467 rental units available at $500.00 per month during the same time period, a 54% reduction.
On the other hand, during the same time period, the region has 6,995 more rental units available at $500.00 and more, with 1,620 of those units available at $1,000.00 and more, a 350% increase.
There is no doubt a development boom in the Quad Cities is reviving parts of our community. Over the last decade, housing options for high earners is booming -- sometimes with the assistance of tax incentives -- but at the very same time housing options for persons earning low-incomes are disappearing. Is this fair?
The disappearance of affordable homes -- coupled with stagnant wages, loss of collective bargaining, and low-paying jobs -- is increasingly forcing families into unsustainable rents, hazardous living arrangements, couch surfing, hotel living, and homelessness. With such instability, it is not hard to imagine the impact on physical and mental health, children's ability to focus in school, public safety, and ability to find and retain employment. According to the Princeton University Eviction Lab, Davenport’s eviction rate is the 44th highest of the 313 U.S. cities with a population of more than 100,000.
College students also are experiencing greater rates of homelessness and housing instability.
The 2017 Kresge Foundation survey of 33,000 community college students found 33 percent endured hunger and nearly 50 percent lacked secure housing. Fourteen percent were homeless.
Bre, whose last name was not given, is a student at Trinity University in Washington, D.C. She was profiled last month by How Housing Matters, an online resource of the Urban Institute. Bre, like our local college and community college students, represent our nation’s future but also are facing the hard realities caused by the loss of affordable housing options.
While attending school, Bre works a retail job and is able to live on campus. But like a growing number of students across the country, there is no "home" for her to go to in the summer.
When school is not in session, Bre lives in a tent alongside the Third Street Tunnel. The tunnel runs within blocks of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
In the Quad Cities, we hear of college students doubling and tripling up, some sleeping in professors' offices and homes. We hear of tutors visiting elementary and intermediate school students who are living with their families in hotel rooms -- some in cars -- for months.
Mayors, governors, chambers of commerce, healthcare administrators, civil rights leaders, and school districts across the country are seeing the short- and long-term, social, emotional, traumatic consequences of persistent housing instability and chronic homelessness. Inspired by books like Evicted and The Color of Law, and community movements like Community Land Trust Network, (http://cltnetwork.org/who-we-are), the Tiny House Project (https://www.veteranscommunityproject.org) and Rural Studio (http://www.ruralstudio.org) communities are creating local solutions to big national problems.
On the state-wide level, the Iowa Housing Partnership is worth our collective attention. And, fortunately, our community is up to the task of finding realistic, innovative, entrepreneurial, local solutions as well. Stay tuned.