[Hpn] action response

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Fri, 22 Dec 2000 23:17:45 -0500


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Protest calls for low-cost housing=20
 Housing advocates say the strong economy and competing with college =
students for rentals has put a strain on low-income individuals seeking =
affordable space.=20

q=20

By KAREN A. DAVIS=20
Journal Staff Writer=20

PROVIDENCE -- About a dozen people marched in the bitter cold outside =
the regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban =
Development yesterday to protest the ongoing lack of affordable housing. =


The noontime protest, outside 10 Weybosset St., had participants =
carrying bright-colored placards and shouting their message through a =
bullhorn.=20

Their goal, coalition organizers said, was to remind HUD of its =
responsibility to promote and create permanent affordable housing.=20

While housing advocates have long argued the need for the more =
affordable housing statewide, several factors have combined to make =
matters worse, said Catherine Rhodes, spokesperson for People to End =
Homelessness.=20

The strong economy has caused a strain on the already-fragile housing =
crisis, Rhodes said. When the economy is good, there are very few vacant =
units and landlords raise rents to take advantage of market demand.=20

In addition, low-income residents are made to compete with college =
student renters for available units. Low-income residents invariably =
come out on the losing end of that battle, once landlords discover that =
they can solicit more rent per apartment from students.=20

With no housing options available, more people are becoming homeless, =
said Greg Gerritt, another housing advocate. Gerritt said the George =
Hunt Center, a downtown drop-in facility is providing more food, =
clothing and other assistance to new homeless people everyday.=20

State shelters are filled to capacity. And renters looking for shelter =
are not able to find affordable units.=20

"For the past few months, people have been coming to us . . . unable to =
find housing," Rhodes said. "We want [government-run] housing agencies =
to step up to the plate and realize that there is a problem."=20

Said Gerritt, "Now is the time for HUD and everybody else in the housing =
[industry] to start coming up with ways to create permanent affordable =
housing."=20

The demonstrators marched into the Weybosset office building, and Nancy =
Smith, a HUD spokesperson, met with the protesters for about 30 minutes =
yesterday and pledged to include them in future discussions with HUD and =
local housing agencies to address their common housing concerns.=20

Smith said the current HUD administration -- which will change in =
January when President-elect George W. Bush takes office -- has =
committed itself to do all it can to help provide affordable housing. =
She said she expects that commitment to continue.=20

Smith also said HUD takes seriously a concern raised by demonstrator =
Joseph P. Buchanan that some voucher recipients face race and class =
discrimination when they go to find housing. Landlords express disdain =
at allowing subsidized housing renters to occupy their units if they can =
find a free market renters.=20

Matt Jersyk, a spokesman for Jobs with Justice, said he, as a white =
male, was given such preference three times while recently looking for =
an apartment in South Providence.=20

Rhodes said landlords in "affluent" communities have refused to rent to =
subsidized voucher recipients.=20

Heidi Keezer, of Rhode Island Parents for Progress, said she knows of =
three or four single mothers who are looking for two- or three-bedroom =
units. Keezer said all the women languished about three years on waiting =
lists to get the coveted subsidized housing vouchers.=20

Now, they are faced with the frustrating task of finding housing within =
120 days or giving the vouchers back to the housing authorities that =
issued them.=20

According to a recent study by the New England Housing Network, voucher =
recipients in the Northeast were successful in finding housing only 53 =
percent of the time in 1999.=20

Of the six unnamed Rhode Island housing authorities that participated in =
the study, four of them had voucher recipient success rates of less than =
50 percent.=20

Steve O'Rourke, executive director of the Providence Housing Authority, =
said his agency does not have high voucher return rates. O'Rourke said a =
smaller number -- between 10 percent and 15 percent -- of the vouchers =
they give out are returned, but that most people are able to use the =
subsidized rent vouchers.=20

Still, O'Rourke agrees, "There is a problem of [not enough] affordable =
housing right now."=20

Whereas, in the past, it took recipients two or three weeks to find an =
apartment, the current apartment search is taking an average of 85 days, =
according to Providence Housing Authority figures.=20

Housing advocates say the crisis has forced residents to live in =
substandard conditions or forced low-wage earners to accept apartments =
with unaffordable rents.=20

"I personally don't know how they [make ends meet]," said Keezer, a =
single mother who lives in Fall River, and pays $500 for a three-bedroom =
apartment. "I've talked to single mothers who end up paying 70 to 80 =
percent of their income on housing."=20

Chris Barnett, of Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance, said tens =
of thousands of Rhode Islanders are "barely making it" every month, =
typically because they earn the $5.65 minimum wage or less than $8 an =
hour.=20

Barnett noted that the housing crisis touches more than just the state's =
poorest residents. It now includes low-wage earners who work in day-care =
centers, coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores, landscaping and =
customer service.=20

A study by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, released in =
September, found that with two-bed apartment rents averaging $638 in =
Rhode Island, a minimum-wage earner would have to work 87 hours a week =
in order for that apartment to be considered "affordable."=20

Or, at the current rent rates, a worker would have to earn $12 per hour =
in order to afford the market rate, the study found.=20

Affordability is defined as costing no more than 30 percent of the =
renter's income.=20

While Rhode Island Housing helps fund the renovation or construction of =
some 200 to 300 units "in a good year," those numbers do not go far =
enough in easing the housing crisis, Barnett said.=20

"There are not enough affordable housing apartments for everyone making =
$6, $7, $8 an hour," he said.=20


--Boundary_(ID_cJLEMY8umxj6R97Y5FJn/g)
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<DIV><FONT size=3D2><STRONG><FONT size=3D3>Protest calls for low-cost =
housing <!/HEADLINE><BR><IMG =
src=3D"http://projo.com/images/dot.gif"></FONT></STRONG>=20
<FONT color=3D#000033><!CONTEXT>Housing advocates say the strong economy =
and=20
competing with college students for rentals has put a strain on =
low-income=20
individuals seeking affordable space. <BR><!/CONTEXT></FONT><BR>q =
<BR><BR><!BYLINE><FONT face=3D"helvetica, arial" size=3D2>By KAREN A. =
DAVIS=20
</FONT><FONT face=3D"helvetica, arial" size=3D2><BR></FONT><FONT=20
face=3D"helvetica, arial" size=3D2>Journal Staff Writer </FONT><FONT=20
face=3D"helvetica, arial" size=3D2><BR></FONT><!/BYLINE><BR><LOCATION=20
PROVIDENCE>PROVIDENCE</LOCATION> -- About a dozen people marched in the =
bitter=20
cold outside the regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and =
Urban=20
Development yesterday to protest the ongoing lack of affordable housing. =

<BR><BR>The noontime protest, outside 10 Weybosset St., had participants =

carrying bright-colored placards and shouting their message through a =
bullhorn.=20
<BR><BR>Their goal, coalition organizers said, was to remind HUD of its=20
responsibility to promote and create permanent affordable housing. =
<BR><BR>While=20
housing advocates have long argued the need for the more affordable =
housing=20
statewide, several factors have combined to make matters worse, said =
Catherine=20
Rhodes, spokesperson for People to End Homelessness. <BR><BR>The strong =
economy=20
has caused a strain on the already-fragile housing crisis, Rhodes said. =
When the=20
economy is good, there are very few vacant units and landlords raise =
rents to=20
take advantage of market demand. <BR><BR>In addition, low-income =
residents are=20
made to compete with college student renters for available units. =
Low-income=20
residents invariably come out on the losing end of that battle, once =
landlords=20
discover that they can solicit more rent per apartment from students.=20
<BR><BR>With no housing options available, more people are becoming =
homeless,=20
said Greg Gerritt, another housing advocate. Gerritt said the George =
Hunt=20
Center, a downtown drop-in facility is providing more food, clothing and =
other=20
assistance to new homeless people everyday. <BR><BR>State shelters are =
filled to=20
capacity. And renters looking for shelter are not able to find =
affordable units.=20
<BR><BR>"For the past few months, people have been coming to us . . . =
unable to=20
find housing," Rhodes said. "We want [government-run] housing agencies =
to step=20
up to the plate and realize that there is a problem." <BR><BR>Said =
Gerritt, "Now=20
is the time for HUD and everybody else in the housing [industry] to =
start coming=20
up with ways to create permanent affordable housing." <BR><BR>The =
demonstrators=20
marched into the Weybosset office building, and Nancy Smith, a HUD =
spokesperson,=20
met with the protesters for about 30 minutes yesterday and pledged to =
include=20
them in future discussions with HUD and local housing agencies to =
address their=20
common housing concerns. <BR><BR>Smith said the current HUD =
administration --=20
which will change in January when President-elect George W. Bush takes =
office --=20
has committed itself to do all it can to help provide affordable =
housing. She=20
said she expects that commitment to continue. <BR><BR>Smith also said =
HUD takes=20
seriously a concern raised by demonstrator Joseph P. Buchanan that some =
voucher=20
recipients face race and class discrimination when they go to find =
housing.=20
Landlords express disdain at allowing subsidized housing renters to =
occupy their=20
units if they can find a free market renters. <BR><BR>Matt Jersyk, a =
spokesman=20
for Jobs with Justice, said he, as a white male, was given such =
preference three=20
times while recently looking for an apartment in South Providence.=20
<BR><BR>Rhodes said landlords in "affluent" communities have refused to =
rent to=20
subsidized voucher recipients. <BR><BR>Heidi Keezer, of Rhode Island =
Parents for=20
Progress, said she knows of three or four single mothers who are looking =
for=20
two- or three-bedroom units. Keezer said all the women languished about =
three=20
years on waiting lists to get the coveted subsidized housing vouchers.=20
<BR><BR>Now, they are faced with the frustrating task of finding housing =
within=20
120 days or giving the vouchers back to the housing authorities that =
issued=20
them. <BR><BR>According to a recent study by the New England Housing =
Network,=20
voucher recipients in the Northeast were successful in finding housing =
only 53=20
percent of the time in 1999. <BR><BR>Of the six unnamed Rhode Island =
housing=20
authorities that participated in the study, four of them had voucher =
recipient=20
success rates of less than 50 percent. <BR><BR>Steve O'Rourke, executive =

director of the Providence Housing Authority, said his agency does not =
have high=20
voucher return rates. O'Rourke said a smaller number -- between 10 =
percent and=20
15 percent -- of the vouchers they give out are returned, but that most =
people=20
are able to use the subsidized rent vouchers. <BR><BR>Still, O'Rourke =
agrees,=20
"There is a problem of [not enough] affordable housing right now."=20
<BR><BR>Whereas, in the past, it took recipients two or three weeks to =
find an=20
apartment, the current apartment search is taking an average of 85 days, =

according to Providence Housing Authority figures. <BR><BR>Housing =
advocates say=20
the crisis has forced residents to live in substandard conditions or =
forced=20
low-wage earners to accept apartments with unaffordable rents. =
<BR><BR>"I=20
personally don't know how they [make ends meet]," said Keezer, a single =
mother=20
who lives in Fall River, and pays $500 for a three-bedroom apartment. =
"I've=20
talked to single mothers who end up paying 70 to 80 percent of their =
income on=20
housing." <BR><BR>Chris Barnett, of Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage =
Finance,=20
said tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders are "barely making it" every =
month,=20
typically because they earn the $5.65 minimum wage or less than $8 an =
hour.=20
<BR><BR>Barnett noted that the housing crisis touches more than just the =
state's=20
poorest residents. It now includes low-wage earners who work in day-care =

centers, coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores, landscaping and =
customer=20
service. <BR><BR>A study by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, =
released=20
in September, found that with two-bed apartment rents averaging $638 in =
Rhode=20
Island, a minimum-wage earner would have to work 87 hours a week in =
order for=20
that apartment to be considered "affordable." <BR><BR>Or, at the current =
rent=20
rates, a worker would have to earn $12 per hour in order to afford the =
market=20
rate, the study found. <BR><BR>Affordability is defined as costing no =
more than=20
30 percent of the renter's income. <BR><BR>While Rhode Island Housing =
helps fund=20
the renovation or construction of some 200 to 300 units "in a good =
year," those=20
numbers do not go far enough in easing the housing crisis, Barnett said. =

<BR><BR>"There are not enough affordable housing apartments for everyone =
making=20
$6, $7, $8 an hour," he said. <BR></FONT></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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