HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
Clarification of Policy Ideas Listed in Survey
Question 1: How might we enhance access to decent, affordable housing for all Winston-Salem residents? What incentives (or regulatory requirements) might encourage developers to increase the stock of affordable housing, and encourage landlords to keep buildings in good shape?
1. Sponsored Education/Mediation Seminars with Landlord-Tenant interaction
Subsidized or Sponsored Education and/or Mediation Seminars with Landlord-Tenant interaction (Potential for Non-Profit to Establish this); hire arbitrators to help with landlord-tenant negotiations (Protects Elderly, Undereducated, First Time Buyers, etc.) This policy allows for third parties (such as non-profits) to transfer information between landlords and tenants ensuring that the landlord isnt able to take advantage of first time buyers (and/or other less educated individuals). This could include but not necessarily be limited to informing tenants on what appropriate loans, rent rates and criteria that must be met in order to qualify for affordable housing.
2. Increased Frequency of Inspection/Landlord Accountability for Low-Income Housing
Increased Frequency of Inspection and Accountability measures for Low-Income housing, to protect against tenant manipulation, to decrease number of “slum lords”; restrict repeat-offending or poorly reviewed landlords from Section 8 Benefits / Rent; Standardize who qualifies to be a landlord and the obligations of landlords. An increase in Landlord Accountability would have to be accomplished and centralized by the City’s Housing Authority. The creation of standardized expectations and increased inspections and accountability measures would be a bureaucratic practice
3. Cost assistance programs to account for poor construction and infrastructure of low-income housing
Cost assistance programs re poor construction and infrastructure low-income housing; Energy-Efficient, Weatherized homes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spends about 10% of its budget on utility allowances and assistance for public housing authorities and private builders. Energy efficiency is considered to be a great cost-reducer for property owners and for the federal government. Current programs that exist include Subsidy initiatives, Rate Reduction initiatives, Public Housing Modernization programs, and HOPE VI programs for revitalizing distressed public housing. These are but a few of available programs for Energy Consumption reduction, and modernization projects
4. Address stigma associated with subsidized housing
Tackle stigma associated with Housing Authority/ Section 8 / Subsidized housing (Change poverty narrative); campaign to “put a face on poverty.” Reduce poverty stigma through campaigns that humanize individuals in the city; Potential to use a Humans of Winston Salem model similar to the Humans of New York model of destigmatization and humanization where photographers take pictures of people and a brief paragraph of the person’s lived experience.
5. Supportive Housing program for vulnerable populations
Supportive Housing program for homeless, mentally ill, substance abusers, teen parents, etc.; Rapid Rehousing program. Housing for Mentally Ill, Recovering Addicts, Teen Parents and others that offers the right amount of independence, that is affordable and costs less than 30% of their income, meets any mental or physical needs for the tenant or owner, and is discrimination free. Some programs include Group Housing, Supervised Housing, Rental Housing, and Supportive housing. There is also potential for case managers to help homeowners or renters get on their feet. Rapid Rehousing provides assistance to individuals who suddenly become impoverished. This safety net can also include a case manager to help individuals recover from the sudden wealth loss.
6. Increased funding/staffing for HUD and HAWS
Increase staffing for HUD (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development) and HAWS (Housing Authority of Winston-Salem ); increase HUD Funding; Increase jurisdiction of the HAWS to regulate wealthier neighborhood outside city limits. This policy has the hope of increasing the funds that HUD is able to use towards affordable housing. HUD provides the City of Winston-Salem formula entitlement program grants. These are the Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnerships Program ( consortium with Forsyth County), and Emergency Solutions Grant. These funds must be used to address priority needs as established by the City/County as described in its Five-Year Consolidated Plan.
7. Case managers to serve tenants, provide oversight and accountability
Case managers who are dedicated to serving tenants and provide oversight and accountability to current HAWS bureaucracy; work with homeowners or aspiring homeowners who struggle with drug / alcohol addiction to overcome their problems. This particular initiative is about improving the availability of case study managers, and having a centrally located case manager area controlled by the city.
8. Tax incentives for developers of subsidized/low-income housing
Tax Incentives (Increased land tax, decreased development and improvement tax) for Developers who agree to have a percentage of housing units designated as subsidized or low-income housing; Inclusionary Zoning; This helps reduce marketing to wealthy individuals only, and increases workforce housing (Chapel Hill Case Study; Durham Case Study). These ordinances either require or encourage the provision of affordable housing in market-rate development, typically by the provision of density bonuses and other incentives. This allows for two options (1) Mandatory alternative - affordable housing is required, in some manner, in all development that produces new residential units, either through new construction or through rehabilitation and conversion of existing units or commercial space and/or (2) Incentive-based - This approach provides a density bonus of one market-rate unit for each affordable unit offered as of right. These options provide for and ensure that critical governmental service workers (e.g., teachers, firefighters, and police officers) can afford to live in communities where they work despite their low pay
9. Redevelop abandoned buildings into affordable housing
Use research to identify and Redevelop abandoned buildings into affordable housing; Revitalize vacant and foreclosed homes; investing in lower-income neighborhoods instead of higher-income neighborhoods (helps decentralize poverty). TURN (Transforming Urban Residential neighborhoods) provides redevelopment opportunities that do not have gentrifying effects. TURN is a home repair loan initiative that is available to certain areas of Winston Salem and allows for owners and investors to work together to redevelop poor quality housing
10. Education programs for homeowners/aspiring homeowners
Education Programs (in Schools or otherwise) on home maintenance, homemaking skills, renter’s insurance, tenants’ rights to reduce draining resources (Serves younger buyers, first time buyers, elderly, etc.) A program that gives potential homebuyers insights into keeping up with maintenance, educates individuals on loans and mortgages, teaches about housing rights, and how to be a cost-effective homeowner.
11. Incentivize employers to compensate employees for transportation/living downtown
Incentivize employers to compensate employers for transportation, provide alternatives for transportation, or incentivize (Subsidies, Bonuses) employees to live downtown; Employee Housing programs. Benefits packages for employees with transportation, and housing incentives.
12. Ban the Box increasing job and housing opportunities for those with criminal records
Ban the Box is a nationwide initiative to remove the section of housing and jobs applications asking about criminal history. The goal is not to never ask about criminal history, but to give employers the opportunity to select qualified candidates before asking the question of criminal history. This helps decrease poverty in low-income by reducing unemployment and reducing recidivism.
13. Financial incentives for prospective home buyers
Financial Incentives for individuals trying to purchase homes (i.e. Lower Housing Interest Rates; Savings-Matching program for families). The Individual Development Account program matches individuals’ savings to assist them in home buying. The program can assist singles, youth, and others.
14. Financial literacy information provided by banks.
Financial Literacy information provided by banks; Help people establish credit (Hope Project Most banks provide literacy information when home buying; Fannie Mae provides similar information. This actionable item suggests this information be made readily available and can potentially be connected with other education programs in this policy list.
Question 2: How best to enhance qualified residents’ participation in existing programs of housing support? These include education about the benefits of homeownership and efforts to enable those in public housing to transition to the housing market. Relatedly: how to expand our most successful housing-support programs?
1. One-stop-shop for resources relating to housing
Create a one-stop-shop which has information about all of the resources in one designated place. This idea would require a federally funded building (library) to offer every resource there is in regards to existing programs for housing support in Winston-Salem. If anyone had any question pertaining to housing, it would be answered here. Whether it was in the form of a brochure, flyer, or booklet, all of the information would be gathered here.
2. Bring informational programs aout existing programs to public housing, making event appealing (offer food or coffee)
Public housing workers would need to research available housing programs in Winston-Salem, contact professionals, and designate a day for them to speak to the people within public housing. The people willing to speak would set up tables containing information and be willing to answer questions.
3. Feed information about financial resources/services to students
Feed information about services to students so that they know what they are eligible for (student loans, scholarships). It is critical for students to understand that they are most likely worthy of participating in existing programs. With that being said, the school would need to assign a day that is geared toward educating their students on services so that they know what they are qualified for. The school would set up a mandatory information session that spoke of these benefits. It is important to enlighten students because not only can these programs possibly relieve stress, but it gives them the hope to want for a brighter future.
4. Community resource packets in stores, schools, restaurants, churches, libraries, etc.
Design a packet of community resources and place them in stores, schools, restaurants, churches, libraries, etc. Similar to a one-stop-shop, this policy would require every existing program to remain in one single packet. These packets would be placed all over Winston-Salem so that everyone could have access to them. Transportation is extremely limited for most people within this city, therefore it is imperative to have these booklets arranged everywhere so that everyone could have access to them.
5. Educate people in public housing about benefits of permanent housing
Educate the people in public housing about the opportunities that follow permanent housing and give them the hope to want better housing. This policy would require someone (member of a church, volunteer, etc.) to go into a public housing unit and remind the residents’ of all of the critical things that permanent housing provides. A house gives a family stability, security, mental wellness, morality, and the list can go on. All it takes is the constant reminder of a better life and that is what keeps these residents’ hopeful.
6. Case manager to provide insight and support for transitioning to home ownership
Establish a case manager who can focus on a family, track how they did in supportive housing, and with this information decide whether they are ready to become homeowners. The job of the case manager would be to assist the family in identifying their goals, demands, and means. They would guide the resident throughout this process and make sure that they are meeting their target. After counseling, the case manager would be able to determine whether or not they think the resident is ready for permanent housing. It is possible for case management to be funded through insurance as well as government services (if the resident is qualified).
7. Housing navigators to assess needs and advise on housing options
Grant a housing navigator to a specific family who can step in and guide them in order to maintain permanent housing. It is easy to get off track and pick up the same habits that originally led someone into homelessness. However, a housing navigator would advise the family and focus on moving them into permanent housing. The navigator would confront critical needs, help the family with compiling documents that are imperative for housing and introduce them to successful supportive services. The navigator would be funded by public housing or federal funds.
8. Urban Farm School job training program
Organize a group of volunteers who are willing to be an advocate for a resident, which will give that person more 1-on-1 focus. It doesn’t take much more than having someone encouraging you in order to succeed. With that being said, this policy would combine a volunteer with a resident for the purpose of getting them over that hump and into permanent housing. The volunteer would help with pretty much anything the resident desired pertaining to housing. This intimate set up would inspire the resident and it wouldn’t cost a single penny.
9. Volunteer-resident one-on-one weekly housing support program, including transport
Match volunteers with residents, get to know them and make them feel comfortable, then provide them with the transportation that they need in order to get them involved in the housing market. Many issues in Winston-Salem stem from the lack of transportation options. Maintaining a car is expensive and there aren’t any extensive transit systems here. With that being said, it is very hard for people to get from point A to point B on their own. This idea would pair a volunteer with someone in public housing and make the resident comfortable with the volunteer. Then the volunteer would designate certain nights of the week to drive the resident to get them involved in the housing market.
10. Financial literacy program for people in public housing
Develop a class for people in public housing that focuses on budgeting. This policy focuses on creating a class for people within public housing that teaches them how to manage their money. This would require a volunteer who is trained in this area to go through a step by step curriculum that fully embodies how to maintain money. The moment one learns how budget the further along they are on the road to permanent housing.
10. Refurbish buildings to create low rate single room rental housing
Refurbish old motels or empty buildings and create single rooms for people to rent at low rates, for five years at a time. This would require volunteers raising funds through a fundraising web page and/or events that would provide funds necessary for remodeling a home. The homes targeted for refurbishing would be foreclosed homes or houses for sale in lower-income areas. The process could be carried out in a few days and could include hiring a realtor or interior designer for an hour or so to talk to volunteers about how to make a house seem more “livable,” whether that is describing what kind of paint to use or how to arrange furniture. This would cost less than $100. Next, the volunteers would go in and paint the inside of the houses and rearrange or buy new furniture. A gallon of paint costs about $25, and that can go a long way. Lastly, volunteers could purchase shrubs and colorful plants and place them throughout the front yard of the home. This action is cost-effective, quick, and could attract qualified residents.
Question 3: What new or expanded policy approaches could help reduce or even eliminate homelessness in Winston-Salem?
1. Mixed income housing/inclusionary zoning ordinances to curtail high segregation rate
Mixed income housing in order to curtail the levels of segregation (making inclusionary zoning laws mandatory would resolve this issue). These ordinances either require or encourage the provision of affordable housing in market-rate development, typically by the provision of density bonuses and other incentives. This allows for two options (1) Mandatory alternative - affordable housing is required, in some manner, in all development that produces new residential units, either through new construction or through rehabilitation and conversion of existing units or commercial space and/or (2) Incentive-based - This approach provides a density bonus of one market-rate unit for each affordable unit offered as of right. These options provide for and ensure that critical governmental service workers (e.g., teachers, firefighters, and police officers) can afford to live in communities where they work despite their low pay
2. Incentivize building of smaller affordable housing units
Smaller housing units which are less expensive to develop and better for the environment (incentive based programs that allow developers to develop a higher density of units if they include affordable housing). Many of the homes in Winston-Salem were built in an era of larger families. An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a small, self-contained residential unit on the same lot as an existing single-family home. The ADU may be created as a separate unit within an existing home, as an addition to the home, or as a separate structure on the lot. ADU codes encourage affordable housing and provide a variety of housing densities and types, while preserving the character of single-family neighborhoods. These types of housing arrangements offer the potential for extra income for the homeowner, and a more affordable living arrangement for the renter. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are over 30,000 (33.1% of population) 1-person households and slightly over 29,000 (31.5% of population) 2 person households in Winston-Salem. Combined, this represents over 64% of the City’s population that is a 2-person household or less. The ADU may provide much needed smaller units that are also affordable.
3. Educate and fine landlords relating to keeping Section 8/affordable housing up to code.
Fine landlords in order to improve the conditions of current Section 8/ affordable housing. This policy works towards the goal of incentivizing landlords and developers to maintain an acceptable standard of living in affordable housing. While a fine itself could serve as a useful nudge for landlords to properly maintain their housing units, education on the potential economic benefits of adequate maintenance could also provide motivation. Keeping housing units up to code (and making tangible infrastructure improvements such as weatherproofing, low-flow appliances, and foam insulation) increases tenants’ standards of living, saves landlords money in the long run, and helps the environment.
4. Redevelopment of unused/abandoned homes
Redevelopment of boarded up homes around the city that aren’t in use. While renovating existing housing units is certainly expensive, this is a pittance compared to building all-new houses and apartments. Working with landowners to bring unused domiciles up to acceptable standards saves money and alleviates the fiscal and environmental impact of new construction. Furthermore, renovation projects will generally take less time than new construction, allowing the city to provide better housing at a much quicker pace. Finally, renovating unused or abandoned homes, if possible, would provide substantial aesthetic benefits for nearby residents.
5. Rent regulation policies to prevent landlords overcharging renters
Renting rate control so as not to allow for landlords to overcharge renters. While economists and politicians continue to debate the merits of rent regulation policies, the tangible benefits in small-scale usage cannot be ignored. The vast majority of European nations currently employ rent controls, as do several U.S. states. Capping exorbitant rents, especially in lower-income areas, can make housing affordable to those who could potentially be homeless otherwise.
6. Financial incentives/subsidizing landlords to rent to lower-income tenants.
Tax breaks for landlords who are willing to accept a lower rent rate if they rent it to a homeless and/or low and moderate income individual. This would also be accompanied by a database with all landlords who are willing to participate in this program. Landlords typically seek applicants and tenants with the highest possible (or at least most stable) incomes. A seemingly a sensible business impulse, this clearly discriminates against those without a predictable income level, as well as unemployed and underemployed individuals. Many of these individuals are between employment and genuinely want to work; however, housing discrimination often traps them in a vicious cycle of being unable to find a job because they do not have stable housing and vice versa. Financially incentivizing or subsidizing landlords to rent to lower-income tenants can break this cycle.
7. Increase minimum wage so all workers can meet basic needs, including housing
Increase minimum wage (the city should conduct a study to better understand what a family’s baseline needs are in terms of food, housing, transportation and other basic necessities and determine the minimum wage based on that). Similar to rent controls, raising the minimum wage remains controversial. Nevertheless, paying a living wage provides tremendous benefits for low-income families. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle have all introduced pilot programs to widespread acclaim which provide for incremental increases in the minimum wage, and the Congressional Budget Office has recently called for more states and cities to follow suit. Winston-Salem should at least consider the noteworthy benefits of such a program; however, potential drawbacks include disincentivizing corporate investment and raising commodity prices.
8. Subsidize job training and skills workshops
Goodwill Industries’ vocational training programs have provided countless people with the tools and skills necessary to network, interview, maintain, and succeed in numerous fields of employment. These programs allow unemployed and underemployed citizens to lift themselves out of the poverty cycle. Participation is rising, though costs are rising proportionally; the city should thus look towards subsidizing and promoting these (or similar) educational programs. In terms of cost/benefit analysis, these programs provide maximum “bang for the buck” in catalyzing personal and professional development.
9. Post-incarceration vocational education programs
Ties in with the job training and skills workshop but more tailored for individuals that are just coming out of jail and attempting to re-enter into society. Post-incarceration education programs, particularly those which provide useful vocational skills and social counseling, have statistically been proven to decrease recidivism rates and increase quality of life for former inmates. Pilot programs for this policy could potentially be incorporated into existing Goodwill Industries’ programs. These could provide high return on investment in decreasing crime and helping individuals escape poverty.
10. Improve access to and routes of public transporation
Accessible bus stops and better routes that cater more to the necessities of the riders i.e. low and moderate income individuals (that means think about what types of jobs they have and where the bus needs to stop). Poor transportation infrastructure stands as one of the most insurmountable obstacles for low-income individuals. Restructuring and streamlining our public transportation system to include subsidized carpools, bus routes that target lower-income areas, and better-publicized information on routes and schedules can help remove this obstacle. Similar programs in numerous cities, including Greensboro and Charlotte, have proven to be highly effective in decreasing unemployment.
11. Expand Medicaid to decrease healthcare costs
Expand Medicaid to decrease healthcare costs. Exorbitantly high healthcare costs, particularly unexpected expenditures, prevent individuals from making other necessary purchases and reinvesting in our community. As medical costs rise, other priorities often fall by the wayside. Efforts to expand our public healthcare systems could include lobbying on the state and federal levels, increasing support for city public health offices and projects, and providing educational materials such as flyers, pamphlets, and websites to increase awareness of common preventable health issues.
12. Financial literacy education programs geared toward affordable housing options
Financial literacy education (how much rent should be, how to properly save and correctly invest, etc.) Low-income tenants often cite the indecipherable nature of modern financial systems as a major factor in preventing them from achieving better housing. Frequently, manipulative landlords capitalize on financial illiteracy for their own ends. Public schools often do little to nothing to enhance awareness of the confusing litany of financial programs available, and poor financial literacy often forces many low-income tenants into living paycheck to paycheck, unaware of proper saving practices. Free classes, seminars, and educational materials can easily and rapidly combat this problem, freeing these individuals from this vicious cycle and allowing them to reinvest in local businesses.