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Month: July 2016

Madison Schools Address Needs of Homeless Students

The most recent piece in the Wisconsin State Journal’s series on homelessness examines the relationship between a child’s insecure housing situation and their education. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1,414 students were identified as homeless throughout the 2014-15 school year in the Madison School District, and even this count is most likely lower than the actual number. Homelessness causes unique stresses for students experiencing it as anxieties about what they will eat and where they will sleep distract from the concentration needed to focus on school. Yet a review of research by the Family Housing Fund reveals that early and constant intervention by schools can minimize and reverse the effects of homelessness.

K’won Watson, a six-year-old at Hawthorne Elementary School, experienced these efforts first-hand while living with his mother and baby brother at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. When he enrolled in kindergarten in October 2015, he received school supplies and free lunches in addition to getting his school fees waived. Further assistance was provided by the district’s Transition Education Program, which was founded in 1989 and works to help homeless students. K’won received intensive reading support and was able to work with Hawthorne’s positive behavior support coach. This network of assistance provided the resources and stability K’won needed in order to concentrate in class.

Unable to find housing after exceeding the maximum amount of time families are allowed to stay at the Salvation Army shelter, K’won’s mother moved their family back to Chicago in the middle of the school year, a sadly common occurrence for students at Hawthorne Elementary. Still, the teachers and support staff there hope they were able to make a positive impact on him.

Says teacher Jani Koester, “If we’re going to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to look at the needs of the children. They have to have hope that their lives can be different.”

You can read the full article by the Wisconsin State Journal here.

Milwaukee has Nation’s Largest Monthly Rent Increase in June 2016

According to a recent study done by ABODO, Milwaukee had the nation’s largest increase in monthly rent in June of 2016. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee increased from $880/month to $1,010/month in June of 2016, which is a 15% increase in rent.

This does not mean, however, that Milwaukee’s monthly rent rates are the highest in the nation, but just that the city had the largest monthly rent increase in June. The study looked at cities across the country and their average monthly rent prices. Columbus, Ohio was close behind Milwaukee with a 13% increase in rent for one-bedroom apartments, and Charlotte, North Carolina had the biggest drop in monthly rent with a 14% decrease.

The study also found that demand for apartments in Milwaukee has increased. Milwaukee’s vacancy rates “dropped from 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 4.1 percent in the first quarter of this year,” according to an article about the study from Milwaukee’s BizTimes.

The article, entitled “Milwaukee has largest rent increase in nation, study shows,” interviewed Sam Radbil, the senior communications manager at ABODO, about reasons for Milwaukee’s recent rent increase. “What we’re seeing is Milwaukee is becoming a mini-Chicago…People are moving to Milwaukee from Chicago and it is no longer a downgrade like people had historically thought.”

Rabdil also said, “I grew up in Milwaukee and lived through the Marquette Interchange construction, but never once did I see a change in the skyline like I’m seeing now…People are starting to see what Milwaukee has to offer. Unique restaurants and bars, a rich cultural scene and actual development. That is why the rents are going up.”

The increasing cost of rent in Milwaukee, coupled with the general shortage of affordable housing, certainly feeds into the issues Matthew Desmond discusses in Evicted.

 

To read the study done by ABODO, click here.

You can read the BizTimes article entitled “Milwaukee has largest rent increase in nation, study shows” here.

 

Homeownership Tax Benefits and the Affordable Housing Crisis

The website Talkpoverty.org recently published an article that discusses the gap between what the federal government spends on rental assistance programs and homeownership tax benefits. The article states that federal rental assistance programs in 2015 cost the government $51 billion, while “two of the largest homeownership tax programs—the Mortgage Interest Deduction and the Property Tax Deduction—cost $90 billion in 2015.”

The article goes on to state that “households making over $100,000 a year received nearly 90 percent of the $90 billion spent on the two tax programs discussed above. Households making less than $50,000 got a little more than 1 percent of those benefits.”

Low-income households receive even less of a benefit from these tax programs (the article puts the average monthly figure that low-income households receive from these programs at eight cents). This stands in stark contrast to households making over $9 million annually (0.1 percent of Americans) receiving an average of $1,236 per month from the two homeownership tax programs mentioned above.

The article ends with a discussion of how we can make this system more fair for low-income households, including redirecting some of the spending on wealthy homeowners to benefit first-time homeowners, helping low-income households save for a down payment, and other policies that could help put an end to the affordable housing crisis.

To read “The Biggest Beneficiaries of Housing Subsidies? The Wealthy.,” click here.