Mayors say they don’t have tools to deal with homelessness
Plus, private mortgage lending still doesn’t serve black and Latino lenders, and more.
Report finds mayors without dedicated staff rely on police to manage homelessness
A survey of 126 mayors in 39 states found that mayors felt reducing homelessness was beyond their control, most had no measure of success, and a third of respondents used their services police to deal with homelessness. The report, released by the nonprofit Community Solutions in conjunction with the Boston University Initiative On Cities, is the eighth annual survey of its kind and the first to include questions on homelessness. According to the report, 73% of mayors believe they are held accountable by residents for homelessness, while only 19% believe they have control over reducing homelessness in their cities.
The survey highlights some of the challenges mayors believe they face. More than 60% said the main barrier to ending homelessness is lack of funding. The second most cited challenge is public opposition to housing and homeless shelters. Perhaps most alarming is the number of mayors who recognize that the police have an influence on homelessness policy. According to the report, “78% of mayors say the police have at least some influence on their city’s homelessness policy,” and their influence was behind only homeless service providers. shelter and city and state agencies that deal with homelessness. Many mayors have no homelessness staff and 22% of mayors have placed their homelessness staff within their city’s police department.
All mayors were anonymized in the report, but it includes geographic and political information, with East Coast mayors more likely to believe they have no control over homelessness and Republican mayors more likely to s to press the police. But the bigger picture paints a familiar picture to anyone who has seen mayors struggle with homelessness – in the face of disinvestment in housing, the lack of a coordinated plan and public opposition, many mayors have relied too heavily on law enforcement as a tool to address visible homelessness, often associating it with the meager services available.
Private mortgages still not serving black communities
A National Community Reinvestment Coalition report examined changes in mortgage lending during the Covid-19 pandemic. He found a gap in homeownership rates between black and white families that was at a 120-year high.
Loans for the purchase of a home increased for Hispanic borrowers (1.5%) and Asian applications (1%) and decreased by 0.1% for black borrowers.
Even when the homes were purchased, their values weren’t equal, according to the report: “Black and Hispanic borrowers bought less valuable homes than white (and some Asian) borrowers, and they paid more to do so. .”
At the same time, the report notes, many more households are refinancing — renegotiating the terms of their loans based on their credit and home value — during the pandemic due to lower interest rates in the Federal Reserve. A total of 15 million borrowers – more than double in 2018 – were refinanced in 2020, but these refinanced mortgages were mainly targeted at white borrowers and borrowers of Indian and Chinese descent.
Analyzing these results also becomes more difficult, as private lenders provide racial identification data less often, the report says. The report recommends federal policies that explicitly target race to improve mortgage lending for underserved communities. This is something lawmakers tend to avoid, as policies that are not racially neutral in their language are more likely to be challenged in court.
New York’s eviction moratorium expires
Despite ongoing protests, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has allowed the state’s eviction moratorium to expire. City Limits visited Bronx Housing Court on the first day after the moratorium expired, where the number of tenants awaiting court appearances remained more or less the same as previous weeks, although that is expected to change. “A lot of people are coming in terrified of being on the streets today or tomorrow now that the moratorium is over,” a housing attorney with the BronxWorks organization told City Limits.
Tenants who failed to pay rent between March 16, 2020 and June 15, 2021 and who can prove it was due to pandemic-related job loss are still protected from eviction, according to City Limits. The federal government will provide more pandemic relief to the state’s depleted eviction prevention fund in April and the governor will include a still determined amount of overdue tenant funding in the state budget, according to the news outlet.
Roshan Abraham is Next City’s housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities Fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.