What do questions about green building, housing and the cost of raising children in the United States, housing affordability for people with disabilities, and fair housing have in common? Not much apart from housing, but some pretty interesting articles and studies have come out recently about each one.
Studies that show that old buildings may be just as sustainable, if not more so, than their new, green counterparts. In what may turn conventional green building on its head, a recent news article highlights studies that take into account greenhouse emissions associated with demolition and new construction, as well as the energy used to operate and maintain buildings. As we grapple with what sustainability means for housing, this important comparison weighs the merits of rehabilitation versus new, green construction in a different way.
In a recent USDA study looking at the cost of raising kids, housing accounted for the largest share of total child rearing costs. Perhaps not surprising to those with kids, housing topped the list of expenses in child-rearing, accounting for one third of total expenses on a child in a two child, two parent family. This was true across income levels. Since 1960, average child expenditures have climbed 22% in real terms for a middle-income, two parent family. Housing accounted for about a third of expenses in both 1960 and 2010.
The newest national Priced Out report looks at housing affordability for the 4.4 million non-elderly people (including 52,500 Minnesotans) with serious, long-term disabilities who depend on federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Without assistance for rent, the report finds, it is nearly impossible for SSI recipients to afford safe and adequate housing, let alone food or clothing. On average in Minnesota, a modest one bedroom apartment consumes 88% of a person's monthly SSI payment and state supplement, compared to 112% nationwide. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro, this figure rises to 101%. See the report for other parts of the state. Priced Out is produced by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force and the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC).
A recent HUD report finds that local Fair Housing Initiatives Programs (FHIPs) often serve as the first point of contact for people filing discrimination complaints. FHIPs also filter out cases that lack merit or are not civil rights cases. When FHIPs sign on as a complainant or representative of a complainant, such cases are much more likely to result in a conciliation or a finding of cause than cases coming from other sources. As the primary enforcer of the Fair Housing Act, HUD relies on the FHIP to supplement its ability to enforce, educate and do outreach for fair housing. Here in Minnesota FHIP grantees include the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, which works with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, and the Minneapolis Urban Leauge, which works with Financial Rehabilitation, Inc., and Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition.