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KSBW video for HRC for Monterey County GIVES!

The need for housing assistance is greater than ever and YOUR donation makes all the difference. Check out our new video and also catch it on KSBW during the next month to promote donations to HRC through the Monterey County Gives! campaign.

Monterey County GIVES!

IRS Videos on Identity Theft

Identity Theft

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Identity Theft may sometimes be a sensitive topic to discuss.  The Internal Revenue Service has a playlist of videos available to help you in recognizing different aspects of this subject.  Feel free to share this with others.

How to Fight Homelessness

How to Fight Homelessness

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WITH over 58,000 people in our shelter system every night, and thousands more sleeping on the streets, concern about homelessness in New York City has reached a fever pitch. We must attack this challenge on every front: through construction of more housing with on-site services, expanded federal support for homeless families and improvements in city-run shelters.

But the best solution to homelessness is preventing it before it even occurs.

More than two-thirds of the people in our shelters are families with vulnerable children, and the most common cause of their homelessness isn’t drug dependency or mental illness. It’s eviction. If we can slow the pace of evictions, we will make a major dent in the homelessness crisis.

Evictions have reached epidemic proportions in New York City. The number of families forced from their homes by court order has been rising steadily for the last 10 years, and is now close to 29,000 per year. Countless thousands more are leaving under duress midway through eviction proceedings. Many end up with nowhere to go and are forced to turn to homeless shelters.

The sky-high pace of evictions is exacerbated by our profoundly unequal judicial system. Unlike those in criminal cases, New Yorkers in housing court have no right to counsel. The result: Only 10 percent of New York City tenants who appear in court have attorneys to help protect their rights. In stark contrast, close to 100 percent of landlords do. It’s hard to overstate just how badly this skews the results of eviction proceedings in favor of owners.

Housing law in New York is byzantine and challenging even for lawyers to navigate. For low-income tenants representing themselves, winning a case against a landlord’s attorney is a steep uphill climb. Unscrupulous landlords are fully aware of this dynamic and attempt to capitalize on it by routinely hauling tenants into housing court on weak grounds — knowing full well that the deck is stacked in their favor. Randomized studies have shown that those few tenants who do have attorneys are 80 percent less likely to be evicted as those representing themselves. Landlords know this, too — and will sometimes simply drop their case as soon as they realize a tenant is represented.

The status quo is untenable, and even judges are increasingly speaking out. New York State’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, has called eloquently and powerfully for the establishment of a right to counsel in housing court.

New York City has already taken significant steps toward the critical goal of representation for tenants. Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have substantially increased funding for tenant attorneys in housing court in recent years. The mayor’s announcement last month of another $12.3 million for this important work will bring total funding to over $60 million — a tenfold increase since fiscal year 2014. The City’s Human Resources commissioner, Steve Banks, is the former head of the Legal Aid Society, with a profound commitment to expanding representation.

But even with this important progress, a vast majority of tenants must still fend for themselves when they face eviction. And more funding for attorneys is no substitute for the establishment of a mandated right to counsel, to guarantee a more level playing field in housing court no matter which way future political or fiscal winds blow.

Establishing a right to counsel in housing court wouldn’t just reduce the human cost of homelessness — it would save New York money in the long run. It costs about $2,500 to provide a tenant with an attorney for an eviction proceeding, while we spend on average over $45,000 to shelter a homeless family. Our proposal makes good moral and financial sense.

Unless we attack the root causes of homelessness, we face the prospect of more New Yorkers entering our shelter system faster than we can move others out into apartments. We have the tools to stop this crisis, and we have the solution to end the eviction epidemic. New York should establish a right to counsel in housing court now.

Criminalizing homelessness is NOT a solution!

Ordinance passed to remove homeless property

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Amid protest by members of the public and by the some of the homeless themselves, Salinas City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night that will allow the city to remove property of homeless people.

City Attorney Chris Callihan submitted the ordinance proposal and in it, wrote that the “collection and storage of both personal property and bulky items, as well as the erection of tents, at various locations throughout the city has created unsanitary and unsafe conditions.”

The ordinance, titled “Restricting Bulky Items and Personal Property on City Property,” sets forth a process to remove things like tents, furniture, shopping carts and more from city property. In the process, a notice can be posted 24 hours before the removal and then the property owner can claim the property within 90 days.

It prohibits obstruction of walking and vehicle traffic on city property, placement of bulky items on city property, and tents being placed on city property.It is noted that bulky items, like mattresses and shopping carts, are not considered personal property and can be immediately removed and discarded.

Violations would be a misdemeanor that could be prosecuted criminally or administratively.

The sensitive topic drew a large impassioned crowd to the Council meeting with more than 25 people, including Councilman Jose Castañeda, holding signs reading “Homelessness is not a crime” and more to protest the ordinance outside the City Hall Rotunda before the meeting.

Many of the protesters were homeless people who live in Chinatown, where hundreds of homeless people are living in a sprawl of tents and haphazard structures.

The protesters filled the room for the meeting, and when the agenda item came up for public comment, nearly 30 people came to the podium to voice their opinion.

In presenting the topic for the second time since first introduced Sept. 15, Callihan underscored that the ordinance would address a citywide issue in of homeless property in areas such as Natividad Creek Park, Sherwood Park and the Sanborn Road overpass, not just in Chinatown.

Stating that its purpose was to protect public health, safety and welfare for all residents, he said the ordinance would help address issues of people sleeping on creek beds when El Niño flooding is expected this winter and help clear streets where fire engines may have to respond to in an emergency.

He also defended the legality of the ordinance, saying it’s modeled on similar laws in other cities like Los Angeles and consistent with current law.

However, Castañeda called for the city council to table or reject the ordinance that he says would unconstitutionally criminalize the status of being homeless.

Housing and civil rights attorney Anthony Prince, who has represented Castañeda in other legal matters, also called for the Monterey County legal community to seek an immediate court injunction for the ordinance, which he described in a news release as “fraudulent, lacking due process and out of step with the views of the United States Department of Justice.”

In a brief on the topic presented to council, Prince further argued that property owners must be given a chance to argue against the taking of property.

At times calling into question the morality of the issue, many asked where 1,700 homeless people would go if their tents and items were taken away.

Mayor Joe Gunter argued that allowing people to live in squalor also does not meet the moral obligation of the city, which is to provide a safe community.

Callihan added that there is going to be ongoing conversation with the homeless and service providers as the ordinance goes into effect and the city continues to try to identify housing projects, including one already projected to be in Chinatown.

Several members of the public questioned the thousands of dollars that the city invested into the Forbes AgTech Summit earlier this year when they believe those funds should have gone toward issues like homelessness in the city. City Manager Ray Corpuz brought up that the city has committed $1.46 million to various endeavors mean to alleviate the issue.

Callihan also added that the city’s obligation is toward health and safety of the entire community and not just some.

However many homeless advocates, including Rita Acosta, said that the city should instead consider a managed homeless camp.

Members of the Salinas Downtown Community Board, such as Marilyn Dorman, said that she strongly opposed adopting the ordinance as written and instead wanted clarification of how it would be applied and other issues.

At one point, a young boy who said he was homeless began to cry as he described the stress the ordinance would cause and pleaded for a second chance. Others brought up Salinas’ own John Steinbeck and his advocacy for the “common man.”

Jill Allen, development director for Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra, which runs Dorothy’s Kitchen, said she was concerned about homeless service providers’ ability to assist the chronically homeless if they are “being pushed out of Chinatown” and advocated for seeking alternatives.

City officials said that several items of concern regarding the ordinance were already addressed with the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers while drafting the ordinance, and there will be ongoing discussions with the Coalition on how best to implement it.

Salinas Assistant Public Work Director Don Reynolds has said some of the history of the ordinance began earlier this year when a complaint to the city was submitted about people camping in the alley behind the Buddhist Temple and about 30 bags of human waste reportedly dumped into a minister’s backyard in the area.

As city staff talked about the issue, it began to look at a process already used in San Jose and Seattle for removing personal property.

Two town hall meetings were held by California State University, Monterey Bay students who work in the area to get feedback from residents, Reynolds has said, and there were also meetings with homeless service providers.

Before the vote Tuesday, several council members spoke about the sensitivity of the issue, the need for compassion, and their concerns for health and safety. Councilman Tony Barrera revealed that he was homeless himself for several months and lived at Victory Mission.

Though he said it was a difficult decision for him, Barrera said he was concerned about what would happen if someone lost their life in the existing conditions of the homeless in the city.

Councilwoman Gloria De La Rosa said she used to be a service provider in Chinatown and also knows many of the homeless there. She advocated for county officials to be more proactive on providing assessments and referrals of homeless and said that while the community needs to work together on the homeless issue, she represents other citizens such as families she’s trying to encourage to walk in the parks now affected by homeless camps.

In the end, the ordinance passed with only Castañeda dissenting.Now approved, the ordinance will go into effect in 30 days, and then a request for proposals will go out to contractors to do the removal.

Housing Resource Center Opens New Offices

Housing Resource Center opens new offices

Growing nonprofit Housing Resource Center of Monterey County opened new offices on Thursday

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Welcoming more than 50 people to your new home is never easy, but the Housing Resource Center of Monterey County did it in style on Thursday.

The low-slung building at 201-A John St. in Salinas hides a lovely courtyard fountain well-shaded by Japanese maples. Balloons in the organization’s colors lent a festive note to the opening, as staff members led informal tours of freshly appointed office spaces.

“We’re a private, nonprofit agency and our mission is to provide housing resources, all the way from homelessness to home ownership,” explains Leila Emadin, executive director of the center.

“For the last two years in particular,” noting that the center has been around for 31 years, “we’re really grown in size and capacity, trying to meet the need of the homeless in Monterey County. We believe we can do it, the community has been helping us do it, and today is a wonderful chance to welcome everyone to our new home, thank them for their support and make sure that we move forward together in creating housing opportunities for those in need.”

Follow Jay Dunn on Twitter @dunn_salnews #salinas #salinasunfiltered

As Banks Retreat, Private Equity Rushes to Buy Troubled Home Mortgages

Original article found here

As Banks Retreat, Private Equity Rushes to Buy Troubled Home Mortgages

Private equity and hedge fund firms have bought more than 100,000 troubled mortgages at a discount from banks and federal housing agencies, emerging as aggressive liquidators for the remains of the mortgage crisis that erupted nearly a decade ago.

As the housing market nationwide recovers, this is a dark corner from which banks, stung by hefty penalties for bungling mortgage modifications and foreclosures, have retreated. Federal housing officials, for the most part, have welcomed the new financial players as being more nimble and creative than banks with terms for delinquent borrowers.

But the firms are now drawing fire. Housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers contend that the private equity firms and hedge funds are too quick to push homes into foreclosure and are even less helpful than the banks had been in negotiating loan modifications with borrowers. Federal and state lawmakers are taking up the issue, questioning why federal agencies are selling loans at a discount of as much as 30 percent to such firms.

One company has emerged as a lightning rod, criticized by housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers, but admired by investors: Lone Star Funds, a $60 billion private equity firm founded in 1995 by John Grayken. In just a few years, Lone Star’s mortgage servicing firm, Caliber Home Loans, has grown from a bit player to a major force in the market for distressed mortgages.

An examination by The New York Times of housing data and court filings, as well as interviews with borrowers, lawyers and housing advocates, revealed a pattern of complaints that Lone Star was quick to begin foreclosure proceedings, whether the firm had bought a delinquent mortgage at a federal auction or directly from a bank.

Take Charles and Pamela Hubbard of Sacramento. They briefly lost their home when Lone Star’s Caliber subsidiary dealt harshly with their request for a loan modification. The couple said they had submitted the application to reduce their monthly mortgage payments four days before a planned foreclosure sale, but the Lone Star subsidiary said the Hubbards had been late in completing the application and pushed ahead with the sale.


Lone Star’s Foreclosures

Lone Star Funds and its affiliated entities, including Caliber Home Loans, have foreclosed on at least 1,500 houses sold by a federal housing agency. The houses were part of an overall pool of 17,000 distressed mortgages the private equity firm purchased in June 2014 at a Department of Housing and Urban Development auction. Most of the completed foreclosures have taken place in the last five months, according to an analysis of home addresses by RealtyTrac.

The highest concentration of completed foreclosures has been in Florida, several Midwestern states, a handful of states in the Northeast and California.

Within a month, the three-bedroom house that the Hubbards had lived in for two decades was auctioned off to another affiliate of Lone Star with the right to resell it later. The foreclosure was rescinded only after the couple went to court.

Caliber declined to comment on individual borrowers, but it said that in general, it was “committed to providing the best possible service to all borrowers, and identifying solutions that allow troubled borrowers to continue to pay their mortgages and stay in their homes is our top priority.” It said it had one of the highest loan modification rates in the industry.

Another window into how Caliber and Lone Star operate can be seen in a rare look into one of Lone Star’s biggest deals — a bundle of 17,000 distressed mortgages that had an unpaid balance of $2.96 billion.

With money from public pension funds, Lone Star bought those mortgages in the summer of 2014 at an auction held by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The loans were originally underwritten before the financial crisis by banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, with insurance guarantees from the Federal Housing Administration.

The list of those mortgages was provided to The Times by the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, which obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request.

HUD rules barred Lone Star from foreclosing on most of the mortgages it had acquired until early March. But since then, the firm has picked up the pace of foreclosures, an analysis showed.

As of the end of August, Lone Star and Caliber had foreclosed on at least 1,500 of those formerly F.H.A.-guaranteed mortgages — or 9 percent of the pool, according to an analysis of the home addresses performed by RealtyTrac, a foreclosure tracking service. Many of the foreclosed homes are clustered in Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, California and Texas.

A majority of the homes foreclosed on by Caliber have been bought back by another Lone Star affiliate at either a trustee or sheriff’s auction. The private equity firm is looking to resell the homes, and many can be found on Zillow, an online real estate listing service.


Moving Fast in Ohio

This foreclosure push was felt by John P. Glynn and his wife, Tammy, of Gahanna, Ohio. They were working with JPMorgan Chase on a loan modification when their mortgage was sold to Lone Star in last summer’s HUD auction.

After Caliber took over the handling of the Glynns’ mortgage, the talks that had been going on with JPMorgan over a modification ended. Caliber filed a lawsuit in February seeking to foreclose on the loan.

“I got the impression they didn’t want to work anything out,” said Mr. Glynn, an industrial engineer.

Caliber is now working toward reaching a settlement with the Glynns.

The firm said it had modified or restructured loans for 2,300 delinquent borrowers in the HUD pool. It noted that modifications were outpacing foreclosures and that it expected “the number of successful modifications to continue to increase over time.”

The number of foreclosures can be expected to rise as well.

In February, a HUD report analyzing the status of some of the 79,000 soured mortgages it sold over the last five years — including those bought by Lone Star — reported that 20 percent of the mortgages had been foreclosed, 9 percent had been restructured and 6.4 percent had been resold to other firms or investors. Borrowers remained delinquent on about half the loans.

In addition to Lone Star, other private equity firms have emerged as big buyers of troubled mortgages from federal agencies and banks. They include Bayview Asset Management, an affiliate of Blackstone Group, and Selene Investment Partners.

These firms have swarmed into troubled mortgages because they can squeeze profits from these loans by either restructuring them or by foreclosing on them and then repackaging the distressed loans into bonds that are sold to mutual funds and hedge funds.

Private equity’s push into the distressed mortgage market has produced some benefits. Thousands of homes that were abandoned by borrowers are now back on the market. In the HUD sales, about 10 percent of homes were vacant, according to the February report.

Still, housing advocates argue that federal housing agencies should make it easier for nonprofit organizations to have a better chance to compete for troubled mortgages, believing that these groups would work harder to avoid foreclosures.

Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote this year to Julian Castro, the HUD secretary, expressing concern that nonprofit housing groups were too often losing out to private equity firms in the bidding for distressed mortgages.

In his letter, Mr. Capuano, who singled out Lone Star, said the HUD sales “may turn out to be an efficient new mechanism for increasing evictions.”

The tendency to act quickly on foreclosures is, in part, by design.

The acquisition of distressed mortgages by Lone Star is the engine in a well-oiled securitization machine that assumes that foreclosure and resale of the homes are inevitable components of the process. In these securitizations, many of the soured loans are bundled into bonds that yield up to 4 percent. They are then sold to hedge funds and mutual funds.

The short-term securities generate income for investors from the proceeds derived from foreclosing on the mortgages and then selling the homes on the open market. Last year, Lone Star sold 17 such securitizations, with a combined unpaid loan balance of $10 billion, and the firm is on pace to complete a similar number of deals this year, according to Intex Solutions, a securitization deal tracking service.

A confidential offering document for one of these Lone Star deals — named VOLT 2015 NPL, a transaction backed by 4,895 delinquent mortgages — indicates that the firm considers foreclosure and sale of the homes the most likely outcome for a majority of the loans.

The offering statement, reviewed by The Times, says “payments on the notes are expected to largely come from liquidation and sale proceeds, although there are expected to be collections each month from monthly payments by mortgagors.”

The document notes that about 9 percent of the mortgages were part of the pool of loans purchased from HUD.

Lone Star and other private equity buyers contend that many of the foreclosures involve homes that have been abandoned by borrowers, or loans beyond hope. The private equity firms also maintain that foreclosures are less profitable than modifications because the process is costly and time-consuming, and the homeowners are not making any payments for years at a time.

Federal housing officials reject much of the criticism of their sales of loans to firms like Lone Star, noting that many of the borrowers have not made a mortgage payment in three years. The private buyers, officials say, often represent borrowers’ last, best hope of striking a deal that can keep them in their homes. HUD officials also point out that the loan sales have reduced the obligation of the F.H.A. insurance program to guarantee mortgages against default, saving billions in the process.

In a letter in May responding to the criticism from Mr. Capuano, the Massachusetts congressman, Erika L. Moritsugu, a HUD assistant secretary, said the program was “putting the loans in the hands of purchasers motivated to help a borrower reperform.”

She said the private buyers were expected to reduce the principal owed by a borrower because “that is often the best way to help someone who is multiple years in arrears” and “headed for foreclosure.”

Nonetheless, in response to the criticism, HUD recently increased the period during which a private buyer cannot foreclose on homes to 12 months from six months, and it sought to create smaller pools of loans to give nonprofits a better chance at submitting winning bids.

While HUD has hoped that buyers of its loans will seek to reduce permanently the principal or debt owed by a borrower, Caliber tends not to do so.

In the first half of 2015, Fitch Ratings said of the loans it had reviewed, Caliber had not completed any modifications that included permanent principal reductions.

Instead, Caliber generally offers to modify loans for five years, during which a borrower makes either reduced monthly payments or simply pays interest on the loan. But those modifications revert to their original payment terms in the sixth year, sometimes with any deferred unpaid principal or unpaid interest added to the back end of the loan.


Short-Term Relief

Such deals provide short-term relief to borrowers but do not provide a permanent remedy for homeowners short of cash.

George Velazquez, 51, an auto appraiser who lives on Staten Island with his wife, Evelyn, said there was no room to negotiate with Caliber when it presented him with a five-year interest-only mortgage modification after Lone Star bought their loan from HSBC.

Diane Cipollone, a lawyer and a consultant to the National Fair Housing Alliance, said these kinds of modifications simply delay the inevitable and do not present “good odds for any of these borrowers to keep their homes when the temporary modifications expire.”

Phillip Harris, 62, who has black lung disease, has lived for more than 40 years in a three-story building in San Francisco that doubles as his home and a boardinghouse. Caliber threatened to foreclose on the mortgage a few months after Lone Star bought the loan from Bank of America and scheduled a sale of the property for March 19.

Mr. Harris sent in an application for a loan modification — a move that under California law would stop the foreclosure process. But because the documents were not yet in Caliber’s computer system, the firm said it intended to go ahead with the foreclosure and sale of the house.

About a week before the trustee sale, Mr. Harris and his lawyer, Tiffany Norman, said they called Caliber and spoke with an employee who identified herself only as Katrina. On the recorded call, Mr. Harris and his lawyer repeatedly told the Caliber employee that the application had been submitted.

“We definitely don’t doubt you guys sent that in,” the Caliber employee said during the phone call, a recording of which was produced in litigation. But the employee said there was nothing she could do to stop the sale because it took five to seven days for an application to be “uploaded into” Caliber’s system.

Ms. Norman went to court and got a temporary restraining order against Caliber. A few weeks ago, a Caliber lawyer approached Ms. Norman about a potential settlement.

Formerly known as Vericrest Financial, Caliber has grown rapidly. Today it manages more than 327,465 mortgages with a combined value of just over $71 billion. Some of Caliber’s growth has come from Lone Star’s steering of standard mortgage origination business to the firm by requiring prospective buyers of the foreclosed homes it puts up for sale to be prequalified for a mortgage from Caliber.

As Caliber has grown, so have the customer complaints. More than 1,000 complaints have been lodged with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with complaints running 54 percent higher than a year ago, the agency reports. Caliber said in an email that the modifications it had made had reduced the average borrower’s monthly payments more than 20 percent.

“A collaborative solution that turns a nonperforming loan into a performing loan is not only the best outcome for homeowners, but it is the most attractive economic outcome for the long-term oriented investors who own the mortgages,” Caliber said.


Help From the Court

In the case of the Hubbards, it took court action to get Lone Star and Caliber to work with them.

Lone Star bought the loan on their three-bedroom home in Sacramento from Beneficial Financial, a division of HSBC, in the summer of 2014 for an undisclosed sum.

Soon after buying the mortgage, which had an unpaid balance of $300,000, Caliber and Lone Star moved to foreclose. The sale of the home on Jan. 20 sent the couple running to court. They argued that the sale took place even as Caliber employees said they were trying to “find a way to escalate the submission.”

After the Hubbards sued, Caliber and the couple began negotiating. In May, they agreed to a short-term modification that would reduce the Hubbards’ monthly payments on the mortgage by several hundred dollars, to $1,953 for the next five years.

Caliber filed a formal notice with county officials on May 29 that rescinded the sale of the home to Lone Star. While the matter was resolved, it could have turned out differently if a buyer not affiliated with Lone Star had stepped in to buy the home.

“I don’t know why they went through with it because it just didn’t make any sense,” said Mr. Hubbard, 64, a civilian employee with the Army. “Maybe people who get into these situations are categorized as no good, and they simply don’t want to deal with them.”

Concentrated poverty is the new urban panic

Original article found here

Concentrated poverty is the new urban panic

There is far more social capital in high-poverty neighborhoods than some public policy analysts suggest

September 21, 2015 2:00AM ET

Residential clustering of very poor families, especially of ethnic minorities, is increasing. Widely reported analyses by Paul Jargowsky, a fellow at the Century Foundation and professor of public policy at Rutgers University, show a growing number of neighborhoods in which poor households exceed 40 percent — the threshold measure of a demographic condition called “concentration.” He associates concentrated poverty with riotous protest and police violence, along with high rates of school dropouts, teen pregnancy and incarceration. Concentrated poverty apparently brews a toxic mix of lawlessness and despair that is contagious, lethal and growing.

Jargowsky’s thesis, embraced by many other urban analysts, is that large numbers of poor people living together in distressed surroundings will generate a local culture that lacks social capital and adequate “role models” andreinforces negative behavior. Inappropriate lessons learned on the streets of poor, segregated neighborhoods are viewed as a major cause of individual failure.

Such arguments fail to consider that the only neighborhoods poor people can afford overwhelmingly have underfunded schools, overly aggressive police, substandard housing, inadequate health care, exploitative businesses, paternalistic or corrupt services, few legal job possibilities and too much crime. Correlation is not causation. Distressed conditions in these neighborhoods were not caused by an absence of “role models” or inadequate social capital. In fact, there is far more social capital in high poverty neighborhoods than Jargowsky and others have assessed. But that reality is ignored in this latest round of warnings about the growing dangers of concentrated poverty.

Jargowsky issued a much cheerier report (PDF) on the same subject in 2003, based on observed changes through the 1990s, when the number of high-poverty tracts actually declined slightly instead of increasing. Since then, however, we appear to have headed in the other direction. Much of this has been driven by the national economy, which tanked in 2008. Poverty rates spiked and have stayed high. Growing concentrations of poverty are consistent with rising rents and widespread refusal of landlords to accept housing vouchers.

Data from concentrated neighborhoods do reflect worries for youth growing up there. Correlations between high poverty rates and adverse medical, domestic, educational, employment and criminal justice outcomes seemingly confirm that these places are toxic. Jargowsky and other analysts imply that these problems are greatly aggravated by residents’ collectively inappropriate values, behavior and choices.

If concentration is the problem, then the solution should lie in de-concentration: Just move people into more wholesome environments and let them thrive. Actually, we already tried that. For nearly two decades, from 1992 until 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) demolished hundreds of public housing complexes under the HOPE VI program, allegedly to rescue residents from the effects of concentration. Most families were relocated into private housing using vouchers. During that same period (1994-98), a HUD experiment called Moving to Opportunity (MTO) was launched in five U.S. cities, and randomly selected public-housing families were deliberately relocated into census tracts in which poverty-level households constituted less than 10 percent.

To gauge whether moving out of concentrated poverty improved lives, relocated families from HOPE VI and MTO were studied over the years. In Tampa, I led an independent research project on the effects of HOPE VI from 2000-09. We interviewed relocated households and homeowners in two receiving neighborhoods, and tracked socioeconomic conditions in all relocation sites in the county.

Relocation is not the answer to poverty or its concentration. We cannot abandon or demolish whole neighborhoods because too many poor people live there.

Nationally, formal evaluations of both HOPE VI and MTO showed no measurable improvements in the economic wellbeing of relocated adults or educational success of children. Few benefits were found for either program, and there were several negative outcomes. Boys faced particular problems in new neighborhoods. Recent research(PDF) with young male adults who grew up in MTO low-poverty neighborhoods revealed significantly higher levels of conduct disorder and PTSD than counterparts who stayed behind in public housing. Another, more positivestudy of the MTO data suggests that children in families who moved to low-poverty neighborhoods before age 13 now earn more on average as adults, and are more likely to be married. However, those who moved when they were older have fared worse than those who grew up in public housing. Although results are mixed, the most that can be said is that relocating families with young children, preferably only girls, might yield benefits in the next generation.

Many relocated families have returned to old neighborhoods, to reconnect with kin and friends, regain access to transit, and/or escape unpleasant conditions. Relations with new neighbors had been one source of unpleasantness. Relocated families we interviewed in a low-poverty Tampa neighborhood reported both social and physical isolation, as well as overt hostility from their new neighbors. Housing was better, but transit and other services were worse. Many of their old ties were severed, and new social connections intended to open opportunities and mentor youth weren’t forming. Interviews with a large sample of surrounding homeowners confirmed the reported hostility: They worried about property values and safety, and were angry at the government for endangering them with “these families.”

That fearful hostility, infected with racism and fed by real economic concerns, reflects the ugly history of racially concentrated poverty and resistance to desegregation. Well into the second half of the 20th century technocrats confidently advised builders, bankers and public officials to avoid residential mixing of races. The templates of cities, suburbs and transit followed that rule, as did realtors, insurers and lenders. Too many still quietly accept it. Jargowsky concedes all this, but he leaves unquestioned the ongoing folklore about cultures of poverty and the dangerousness of poor people of color.

The same scurrilous racial stereotypes that originally justified segregation (i.e, “concentration”) were invoked as reason to remove people from places where they may have wanted to stay and scatter them into other neighborhoods where it was believed they could learn better ways to live.

Under the HOPE VI plan, containment changed to coerced dispersal. The logic had not changed — just the tactic. Relocation was justified by claims that public housing fostered a pathological social environment, an argument that validated negative images of public-housing tenants and fueled hostile reactions in receiving neighborhoods. MTO was nearly shut down in Baltimore due to resistance in white neighborhoods. These deeply rooted beliefs are the real problem — and policies that are effectively based on them are both wrong and counter-productive.

Relocation is not the answer to poverty or its concentration. We cannot abandon or demolish whole neighborhoods because too many poor people live there. We need to fix distressed neighborhoods and enforce fair housing laws. In reality the vast majority of people who live in these stigmatized areas have middle-class aspirations and are doing their best to give their kids a chance.

Not well known to those who live in other neighborhoods are the many residents who devote their time to helping neighbors and working for change. Our policies need to support and reward that work. We must invest in decent schools and services, demand more respectful and effective policing and through media coverage, educational materials and public meetings actively challenge racist stereotypes that have caused generations of damage to our people and our cities.

Susan Greenbaum is a professor emerita of anthropology at the University of South Florida. She is the author of “More Than Black: Afro-Cubans in Tampa” and a newly released book about the Moynihan Report, “Blaming the Poor.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Upcoming Live Stream From the National Alliance to End Homelessness


Thursday, September 10, 2015


Today Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman will join actor Richard Gere and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), for a public briefing on the state of homelessness in America. Coinciding with the release of Gere’s latest film “Time Out of Mind,” the briefing will include a discussion of progress made under the Obama Administration’s “Opening Doors” plan.

Video of the event will live stream today at 2 p.m. EDT. Also speaking during the briefing will be:

Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

Jennifer Ho, senior advisor on housing and services, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Watch the live stream »


With the film “Time out of Mind” opening in limited released, yesterday in New York City and in other cities on Friday, Sept. 11, we at the Alliance believe it has the potential to serve as a valuable awareness and engagement tool. For those interested in arranging group viewings or private screenings when the film is released for streaming On Demand (Sept. 18), we have put together a brief guide to encourage thoughtful discussion about the film’s take on chronic homelessness.

Download the guide »


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Housing wait list opening for first time since 2008

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Jay Dunn, The Salinas Californian

For the first time since 2008, the Housing Authority of the County of Monterey is opening the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Families in need of affordable housing will have a two-week window from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3 in which they can file online to be part of a computerized lottery. (A list of available resources for families is available below).

Leticia Fowler, Senior Housing Program Specialist for HACM, explains the details:

“The waiting list that’s going to be opening September 19 is for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. It used to be known as Section 8, so that’s usually what everybody knows it by,” she said.

During the filing window, qualifying residents will be able to apply to be on the waiting list for a rent subsidy.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program allows the client to find an apartment or house in Monterey County where the landlord is willing to work with them. They pay a portion of the rent based on income that HACM calculates, and the Housing Authority pays the difference.

“When we open the waiting list, we’re expecting about 10,000 applications,” Fowler said. “The last time we opened was in 2008, and we received a little more that 6,000 applications. The need now for housing, based on the economy, is much greater, so what we’re expecting is between 10,000 and 12,000.”

Last time, the waiting list was opened, HACM was using paper applications.

“We had a line out the door, people camped out over the weekend,” Fowler said. “It was not the greatest experience for the people who were applying. They were already in need of housing, and to feel like they have to camp out for it was not something we wanted to duplicate.”

So this time, applications can be filed online only. People can start applying at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 19.

But, Fowler emphasized, “it doesn’t matter when you apply, as long as it is between September 19 and October 3.”

Once everything is in electronically, HACM will use an outside agency that has managed waiting lists all over the country for housing authorities.

If HACM does receive 10,000 applications by the time the period closes Oct. 3, Fowler said 25 percent of the total number of applications will be randomly selected by a computerized program.”

If an applicant gets onto the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, there is no guarantee that they will receive a voucher, but it puts them on the list as a pre-application.

“Once all the names are sorted they are then placed on a waiting list, at which point, just like we do now, we pull them off the list, call them into our office for an orientation and an appointment where we will determine whether or not they are eligible for the program based on HUD’s guidelines,” Fowler said.

“Nothing needs to be scanned,” Fowler emphasized. “It’s just like if you go and apply for anything online. There’s no income verification that needs to be done at the time of application. They just need to make sure they have the information to input.”

Those applying will need to have Social Security numbers for all household members and their annual income, “but they don’t need to scan any proof of it to us at the time of application,” she said.

“We do have a process for making a reasonable accommodation request, but those need to be received in our office at 123 Rico St. in Salinas by September 21,” Fowler said. “Someone who does not have a computer, for instance, or who is perhaps blind or otherwise disabled, something that would not make it possible for them to do an online application, then they need to make this request in person before the 21st to see if we can accommodate them.”

A number of community agencies were asked if they could help disseminate information, and were offered training in order to provide appropriate guidance.

“For us, the big concern is the application window, as it is only two weeks long,” said Carissa Purnell, the director of the Alisal Family Resource Center, one of the agencies offering help. “That means that in order to be to apply for affordable housing, you will need access to a computer, access to the internet, and you will need an e-mail address.

“There’s a big technological gap that I see in terms of it being accessible, so that’s where a lot of the community agencies are stepping in to try to help folks get access to these services. We want to let families know that the process might be intimidating, but we’re here to help.”

Purnell said Alisal Family Resource Center, will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday during those two weeks. Those needing help can get bilingual support free of cost. “All you have to do is schedule an appointment,” she said.

The Salinas Public Library system will also offer assistance, Purnell said.

Follow Jay Dunn on Twitter @dunn_salnews #salinas

Housing Choice Voucher Program

Apply online at:

Web site:

For more information: Housing Authority of Monterey County, 123 Rico St., Salinas, CA 93907; phone: 831-775-5000, Joni Ruelaz 831-775-5040, TDD: 831-754-2951; fax: 831-424-9153.

Personal help and referrals:

Alisal Family Resource Center, 1441 Del Monte Avenue. Salinas, CA 93905; phone: 831-775-4500; fax: 831- 753-5273

Cesar Chavez Library, 615 Williams Road, Salinas, CA 93905; phone: 831-758-7345.

Connecticut Says It Has Ended Chronic Homelessness for Veterans

NEWINGTON — Earlier this year, advocates counted 41 chronically homeless veterans living on Connecticut’s streets. On Thursday, state and federal officials proclaimed that housing has now been found for all those troubled vets, calling it a landmark in the effort to help veterans.

“We are the first state in the nation to end chronic homelessness among our veterans,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said during a ceremony at a veterans’ housing complex.

The governor said the state’s goal is to bring an end to homelessness for veterans in Connecticut by the end of this year, and to provide housing and support services for all homeless people in the state by the end of 2016.

Despite the progress being made, Malloy and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation who attended the event Thursday said more needs to be done to help both veterans and others living on the streets.

“This is not a ‘mission accomplished’ moment,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

A spokesman for the state Department of Housing said Thursday the state has invested at least $3 million in rental subsidies and special services for Connecticut’s homeless veterans, with the bulk of that money being allocated in the past five years.

Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said state funding has been critical in helping to “fill in the gaps” despite the millions spent by the federal government to deal with homeless veterans.

“In a lot of states,” Bates said, “there is no state investment.”

She said the key is addressing the needs of each individual or family, and having the right type of housing and support services available to fulfill those needs.

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald also attended Thursday’s celebration and praised Connecticut’s efforts to help homeless veterans.

“The federal government can’t do it by itself,” said McDonald, who has been in charge of the federal agency for barely a year. Cooperation with states and nonprofit organizations is critical, he added.

A “chronically homeless veteran” is defined by state and federal officials as a veteran who has a disability and has been homeless for a year, or three times in a four-year period.

Connecticut’s February survey showed a total of 39 additional veterans who were homeless in addition to the chronically homeless vets who were found living on the streets.

Malloy said ongoing state efforts have placed “nearly 300 veterans previously experiencing chronic homelessness” in permanent housing in recent years.

The survey of Connecticut’s homeless earlier this year found declines in virtually all categories of people and families living on the streets or in homeless shelters. The total number of people living in homeless shelters in February was 3,412, a 4 percent drop from the previous year.

Another 626 people were found to be living on the streets — a decrease of 32 percent from the 2013 survey by the Coalition to End Homelessness.

Thursday’s event dealing with chronic homeless veterans was held on the lawn of Victory Gardens, a veterans’ housing complex next to the U.S. Veteran Affairs medical facility in Newington.

McDonald said progress has been made to reduce the huge backlog in applications by veterans seeking help from the federal veteran’s administration. Revelations about that backlog created an uproar and demands for reform in recent years.

According to McDonald, that backlog in applications peaked in March 2013 at more than 611,000 applications waiting to be processed by the VA. He said that number has been cut by 80 percent, and new claims are now being handled within 125 days.

Blumenthal, who is the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the reduction in the numbers of veterans in Connecticut waiting for their applications to be processed reflected those national statistics.

Full article found here: