A recent study blamed the decrease in federal funding for affordable housing since the 1980s for “helping create the modern phenomenon of homelessness.” It noted only a quarter of eligible poor people receive government housing assistance.
Once housing is lost, according to the authors of “Protect Tenants, Prevent Homelessness,” those evicted find diminished opportunities to rent again, creating a cycle in which homelessness is likely. Released by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the study found 1 in 4 of the poorest quarter of American renters pays nearly 70 percent of household income for housing and utilities.
The authors propose strengthening renters’ rights laws at local, state, and federal levels. They claim this strategy would limit evictions and big rent increases, because landlords would not be able to use source of income, eviction history, or criminal history in choosing tenants, thereby removing those barriers for low-income people.
But increased regulations would more likely drive landlords away from renting to those at the low end of the market, exacerbating the dearth of affordable housing in large metropolitan areas, where rental vacancies are at a historic low.
One key finding could be useful across the country: A 2010 analysis of a New York City United Way initiative, the Housing Help Program, showed that providing counsel to those experiencing a housing crisis “prevented loss of housing for 91 percent of clients and also reduced homelessness.” —R.H.