Our Housing Crisis Is Literally Killing People

Yves here. From my old days in New York City, I can attest to how the loss of cheap housing led directly to a rise in homelessness.

This post deals with another layer of this problem, that many  live in dilapidated, dangerous rentals, unable to afford to move and lacking any way to get the landlord to fix the property. The communist city of New York at least has a 311 line where tenants can report a lack of heating (below a certain temperature in the winter) and IIRC water and the city does get on those cases pretty quickly. But nationally, that sort of thing is lacking.

For instance, in Birmingham, the regular short cut to the airport (a mere 5 minute drive from a tony area) had a fallen down house and ones near it that were in similarly bad shape. One driver told me he’d repeatedly called the city to get the collapsed house razed. I was going to have the driver stop for a second and take a picture and write this up on my blog, since this house had fallen down months ago and the site still had not been cleared. The driver told me he had already been on this (!!!) and had called the city repeatedly about it. When he finally was able to reach a nominally responsible person, he was told no one would schedule a removal till someone in the neighborhood filed a complaint. We discussed at lenght that the pretense that no one had complained was clearly bogus; someone was looking for a payoff.

By Fran Quigley, who directs the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. Originally published at Common Dreams

Last week, my students and I worked with several unhoused persons who had been recently living in dangerous, unhealthy apartments or homes in our community of Indianapolis. One, a young mother of a toddler with another baby soon on the way, had just left a home where eight people across three generations were living. The house had no central heat, so space heaters were the only source of warmth during a month when the temperature dipped below zero for several days. Those heaters and everything else electrical in the house were linked to a complex web of extension cords connected to a solitary working outlet.

On Thursday, we were in court with another client, a mother of four young children still living in a house where mold is spreading, windows are nailed shut, and electrical wires are exposed. This summer, a decrepit air conditioner unit overheated to the point where it nearly caught fire. The landlord repeatedly ignored the mom’s requests for repairs, claiming she accepted the home “as is”—a disclaimer that may be allowed with used car purchases but is explicitly illegal in rental housing. When the landlord finally did take some action, it was to simply paint over the mold.

Also last week, I read that, in the Indiana city of South Bend, six children ranging in age from 17 months to 11 years old were killed when the home where they were living caught fire. The South Bend Tribune reports that the rental home failed a safety inspection in July after an inspector found ten separate violations, including an “electrical problem throughout the entire home.” Demetris Smith, 10 years old; Davida Smith, 9 years old; Deontay Smith, 5 years old; D’Angelo Smith, 4 years old; and Faith Smith, 17 months old, all perished. Angel Smith, 11 years old, survived for a few days before dying last week in Riley Children’s Hospital here in Indianapolis. Angel’s death officially made it the most deadly fire in the city’s history.

Almost every person we speak with in eviction court, along with virtually every unhoused person we connect with, has been or still is living in housing that is seriously unhealthy and often dangerous. Health departments struggle to regulate housing codes. The handful of lawyers available to file claims against landlords are overwhelmed with their current docket, constantly having to turn away tenants who endure horrible conditions.

We do our work in Indiana. Our state is certainly not alone in our struggle to ensure decent housing conditions, but we are among those who do the least to protect tenants. The Greater Indianapolis Multifaith Alliance told the stories of some Indiana renters in this short video; our student Jacob Purcell wrote a detailed analysis of the housing conditions crisis in a comprehensive report available on our clinic web page. Ko Lyn Cheang, then of the IndyStar, wrote here about one of the many local investor-owned apartment complexes where tenants are forced to live in egregious conditions.

Thank goodness for all the tenant leaders and organizers, outreach workers, shelter staff, social workers, physical and mental health professionals, lawyers, advocates, and others who work every day to make the situation as tolerable as possible for as many people as possible.

But we can add the toll that indecent housing conditions takes on low-income renters to the suffering caused by housing insecurity overall. A study by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Eviction Lab at Princeton University showed dramatic increases in mortality rates associated with evictions. “Simply being threatened with an eviction—even when that case did not result in an eviction judgment—was associated with a 19% increase in mortality,” the researchers reported. “Receiving an eviction judgment was associated with a 40% increase in the risk of death.”

Add that startling finding on top of what we know happens post-eviction. It has long been clear that there is a hugely disproportionate death toll among unhoused people. Homeless individuals die at an average age of 50 years old.

None of this comes as a surprise here: with our clients, it is easy to see the physical and mental pain caused by their housing crises. Fortunately, none have yet suffered the unimaginable tragedy that was visited on the Smith family in South Bend. But our housing crisis is definitely a life-and-death struggle, and this week a lot of people were losing that fight.

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  1. Joe Well

    This is much less of a problem in most other countries, including many “middle income” countries that are nominally less developed than the US when calculating development index using GDP per Capita–under which, someone getting ripped off on housing increases the GDP and makes the country more developed. I am thinking of most of Latin America, Europe and East Asia.

    They simply build lots of concrete block apartment buildings. Knock down old buildings including single family housing and build concrete blocks. End of story. And in the process avert all kinds of problems with transportation, energy waste, crime, health, etc.

    The US is simply not a very highly developed country for the average working person under 50 years old or so, and the gerontocracy’s refusal to build a bunch of concrete blocks (my views! my property values! Jane Jacobson!) is the biggest factor.

    1. Adrian

      Concrete is one option, but it doesn’t always have to be that. Mass timber has taken off in a big way in Europe, beautiful buildings made for families, that are really energy efficient and well designed. The architect Mike Eliason has put a ton of examples on Twitter.
      NIMBY is the primary problem but land use, building codes, construction methods are all so out of date and not fit for purpose in this country.

      1. RookieEMT

        Jane Jacobs was a deep thinker and level headed. She detested Toronto slowly closing down all the single room occupancy rentals. She also noted the affordable housing projects built in New York provided less housing than their historic counterparts after tearing down whole city blocks. That was NY destroying its own urban fabric. Most NIMBY’s insult Jane Jacobs legacy when they go to war to kill a duplex.


        Supposedly as a wannabe for profit land developer, you’d think I would be happy with the 10 year gains. Nope. Our absurdly jacked up real estate prices are destroying the country. Every aspect of the industry is in dire need of reform. Adrian is right.

        And yet no reforms are going to happen. Since everyone in RE is making so much money, why change a thing? The only event that will kickstart deep reform is a housing correction.

        Yet a housing correction could set off a depression. We’re just screwed.

      2. Joe Well

        Al of those code issues fall under the heading of NIMBY

        As for getting creative with housing, a highly developed country could afford to do that. But the US, a country that is so badly behind in this regard, needs to go hat in hand to China, South Korea, or whatever other country has managed to develop themselves out of this mess and say, hey, tell us how you did it so we can copy your model.

        1. JBird4049

          In California, starting with San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose, but spreading like a fungus to the rest of the state, housing costs and homelessness has been steadily worsening for forty years, which is my entire adult life. People are making bank off this including NGOs using state and federal funds, but not spending most of it on the issue. Well, a few do, but they are the exception. The more people scream about the homelessness, the more the corrupt find ways to make more money while not fixing the problem. And I can drive around the Bay or Los Angeles finding homeless people. I will not visit LA’s skid row again.

          We can all see the crisis, and we can all see the solutions often by looking at all the many other countries that deal with it, but until we destroy and replace this rigged system that profits from the suffering, nothing will change.

    2. Altandmain

      Unfortunately, the increases in population density may not have the desired effect in terms of lowering cost relative to income.


      The article references a study that showed that cities that sprawl tend to have lower housing costs. The constraint is having low land values as a percentage of the median income (or lower incomes). There seems to be a trade-off between costs as a percentage of incomes versus land available. The gap is even bigger when accounting for space vs income (ex: price per square foot versus median income), as urban areas tend to have smaller residences.

      The end result is something like this:


      A case could be made that for environmentalist reasons to increase density, but there are going to be negative impacts (ex: lower affordability relative to income). To me, it’s clear that there are trade-offs between environmental effects and housing affordability.

      In the US, there is a trend now of Americans moving to the South, They are pursuing housing affordability and in some cases, weather, although I will note that states such as California, which have relatively warm weather are also seeing population declines, so it seems that housing costs are playing a larger role than weather. The end result is that the Southern states recently overtook the Northeast as the largest GDP region, a gap I expect will grow in the coming years.

      1. Altandmain

        Personally I think that the only way to solve this may be for the government to completely subsidize the housing for baseline in an area with low land values.

        1. TomDority

          Given the huge subsidies given the financiers (investors) who, prior to 2008 bloomed and boomed the housing market and then got bailed out for crashing the economy…. then after, using the bailout and trillions in subsidy to inflate asset prices – see house prices, rental prices and the stock market – well of course you get an ‘affordability crisis’
          Given the structural issues with regard to government subsidy – where subsidy contributes directly to inflated prices – why would an assumption that Gov subsidy would be good.
          Guaranteed student loans = inflated education costs // Govt. subsidized health insurance = increased premiums. Removal of price controls in the pharma industry = increased pharma costs. Repeal of Glass Steagal = increase in speculation and asset price inflation

          1. JonnyJames

            Good points. The privatization of so-called public universities and subsequent outrageous tuition also gave rise to the $1.7 trillion and climbing student loan debt burden. The two went hand-in-glove. Higher education = debt peonage.

        2. ChrisPacific

          Like a lot of problems today, I think this one is fundamentally about inequality. Provide a means for everyone in society to make a decent living, as was once the case, and it largely ceases to be a problem (except for a small handful of people).

          Subsidies on the supply side, as Tom points out, would be snapped up by developers and probably accrue mostly to them and to the middle class, with the poor missing out as usual. Tax breaks or direct subsidies to individuals would need to happen on a big enough scale to move the market, or they’d just be soaked up by landlords. Doing that would amount to doing something about poverty, and would run into all the usual entrenched opposition.

      2. Joe Well

        This is like the joke about assuming a can opener, only it’s assuming more buildable land within a desirable metro area.

        Why doesn’t metro Boston (as an example), just build more McMansions? Answer: they have built some, but there’s hardly any land left within a 90-minute drive of the center. Big yards have already been subdivided as much as possible. A lot of land has to be left undeveloped to prevent flooding. As it is, they’ve McMansion-ized a lot of privately owned forests in southern New Hampshire.

          1. Joe Well

            Well, with my own two eyes I can see that all that is getting built within 90 minutes of downtown Boston is either McMansions or apartments, and I am trying to live in reality. I assume the economics don’t support small single family houses when land is so expensive and there are NIMBY limits on units per acre. Also municipal opposition, they are all in a race to get the highest income population.

    3. Penny

      My job is handling paperwork for a construction company.
      Concrete block construction does not work safely in seismic zones, unless large amounts of steel and concrete fill in the blocks are used.
      Might as well build forms and pour concrete, which is what the majority of multistory building is now. Like piano wires under tension, cables are used to keep floors thinner, allowing more height and less weight in concrete building.

      The other building option below four stories is plywood or oriented strand board on wood framing with concrete plaster on chickenwire on plastic sheeting on the outside and inside, drywall, or sheetrock. These “buildings” are more akin to giant carboard boxes and if there’s the slightest leak under the plaster, have to be ripped apart to the studs and rebuilt.

      The high density housing that California is jamming down the throats of communties statewide is mostly crap that won’t last more than a generation. Go long demolition, because there will be a lot of it in fifty years.

      1. Joe Well

        The depth of knowledge in NC comments is always amazing. I did not think about the fact that concrete block is a term of art. I meant that the buildings themselves are like giant children’s blocks made of concrete.

        Here in New England it seems like the vast majority of new apartment buildings are the giant cardboard boxes you described. A big issue here is fire during construction or renovation. An enormous development was wiped out halfway through construction a few years ago. And God forbid if our leaders’ foreign policy ever catches up with us and Boston goes the way of Tokyo 1944.

        Why are they building such bad buildings? Seriously, I would appreciate your insights. I am assuming the NIMBY horror of high-rise apartment buildings plus timber industry lobbying has something to do with it.

    4. JEHR

      Apparently, Austria decided long ago to create public housing so that it would be easier to control both rents and prices for housing in difficult times. Canada is having great difficulty in offering affordable housing now that rents have become too high (and salaries too low) and houses themselves are very high priced. After WWII Canada build a lot of affordable homes for the returning veterans. You can still see these lovely little homes on the streets of larger cities: they are 1 1/2 stories high with a basement and could easily accommodate a family of four. We no longer seem to have enough houses built that could house those unable to pay the high prices being asked. Sadly, our soup kitchens are given money to supply the homeless with a meal but the money to build affordable homes will take years to meet the demand.

  2. Terry Flynn

    This is heartbreaking and doubly so because so many of us on both sides of the pond can and do see the precursors to this right now. I live in what can probably be described as a “slightly above average” section of a (non-Metropolitan i.e. not technically within city) suburb of a UK city that has hit the news for failing financially in quite a spectacular fashion.

    I’m old enough to remember the “bad old days” in the 1970s when we had power cuts. Now my twitter feed has hourly apologies for power failures to all sorts of postcodes that make me scratch my head in disbelief. Collapse of basic infrastructure and the total inability of local councils to fund things… Anything…. Let alone think about building social housing…. Is sadly the new norm.

    As for Starmer’s Labour party? I can’t express my contempt for them. Next general election? I’m definitely voting. Whilst I’ve spoilt my ballot paper deliberately in local and Euro elections, this will be the first time I’m doing it in a GE. “WE EMPLOY YOU AND YOU’RE ALL INCOMPETENT”. My Aussie half wants compulsory voting in the UK. Maybe it’ll encourage enough people to explicitly say “none of them” so that change is forced. Sadly I’m probably over optimistic.

    1. Revenant

      Sadly, this will be the first Uk GE where I don’t vote. I refuse to produce ID to vote.

      If it was not necessary in the 20th century, it is not necessary in the 21st, given the number of recorded offences of personation are in single figures and the far greater abuse of postal voting by religious/ethnic blocs (Tower Hamlets Bengali leaders, I’m looking at you) is unaddressed.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Totally agree with your sentiment so I can’t criticise your decision. But I don’t see any way to get genuine change without working within current rules such as ID. Maybe some will argue that extra judicial stuff is required. Perhaps. Again, I’d like to think we don’t need that.

        I have a probably ludicrously optimistic view that we can one day get a government that is forced to change things to conform to the kind of democracy somewhat similar to what members of the NC crew has endorsed: voting in person, on a (perhaps two day) bank holiday with purely paper based ballots counted in a forum that is totally transparent. We have had part of that in the UK (one thing we can legitimately boast about though as you note it has been eroded).

        The axiom of “preventative” nature should be supreme. Until and unless an alternative (like digital) voting is 100% secure it should never ever be used. The “best” election the UK ever ran was arguably the one in 1951…..in a deeply ironic quirk of FPTP the best result the Labour Party achieved in its entire history (taking turnout into account) didn’t matter and Churchill won.

        Personally, I date that election to be the date that the UK began its acceleration into “banana Republic” status.

  3. Grumpy Engineer

    Interesting article. But it practically begs the question… What’s to be done about it? There are all sorts of possible actions that could be taken, but some would be more effective than others,

    Rent control?
    Lower interest rates?
    Changes to zoning laws to permit more multi-family units?
    Crackdown on rental monopolies (like those formed by Blackrock)?
    More public housing projects?
    Crackdown on immigration? [I did some math recently and discovered that immigrants are coming across the southern border in numbers high enough to consume 40% of new housing.]

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      All of it. Though ignoring the quarter to quarter issues of interest rate changes, low interest rates let people build and buy what they didn’t need because they could afford payments, waiting on a big payday. Without an appropriate wealth tax, this is a problem.

    2. David in Friday Harbor

      Please let go of the “southern border” meme.

      In my former work developing and analyzing data on disproportionate minority contact with the justice system, I found that the biggest immigrant-based housing market distortions were being caused by legal immigration from south, east, and west Asia.

      These immigrant groups are not only causing pricing and availability issues by their mere presence — they also tend to see housing as an investment and buying up residential properties as entrepreneurial. When I volunteered as a Judge pro tem in small claims night court, I found that the most abusive landlords tended to be south, east, and west Asian immigrants.

      These groups have been ripe-pickings for Ayn Rand/Milton Friedman libertarian ideology, and lobby hard against the sort of inclusive social policies that might provide humane shelter for Americans displaced by globalization and deindustrialization.

      1. Grumpy Engineer

        It’s not a meme. It’s math. But you’re right, I shouldn’t have limited my question to just the southern border. It really applies to all immigration. When immigrants come into the nation, they’re going to need to live somewhere. When we have plenty of cheap housing, that’s not a problem. But when we don’t, what should we do?

        1. Joe Well

          Answer to your question: build great big apartment buildings. With which task the immigrants can help.

          1. jobs

            Don’t forget about infrastructure: roads, water, utilities, sewage and waste treatment, public services, hospitals, etc.

            And as an example, don’t cram most tech jobs into a few overcrowded regions and cities, and kill or severely limit the H-1B visa program. Offer free, high quality education to your own population as an investment in the country’s future.

  4. Adam1

    There was a time when home building was a simple business where you could get in and out and easily scale up or down as the housing market ebbed and flowed. In the last generation or so it’s become very capital equipment intensive which is a barrier to entry so now every time there’s a serious downturn in housing the weak builders are forced out, but new ones aren’t coming in when things pick up. It’s become quite concentrated in many parts of the country and the big builders wont touch anything that smells like “affordable” housing without big subsidies.

    1. New_Okie

      Yes, and the subsidies are fairly limited and the number on offer depends on federal funding. I wonder what would happen if we instead auctioned off subsidy vouchers, with the total number of vouchers tied to … I’m not sure, perhaps the five year average for number of people in the county in the lower income bracket?

      (It might seem strange to auction subsidy vouchers, but the deal is–with the current system too–that if you get the subsidy then you agree to charge less rent than you otherwise could for…with the current system I want to say 15 years? So there is a cost to balance the benefit.)

      As Yves has written about before and others have noted (I know Michael Hudson has a lot to say on the topic) there are better, systemic solutions like the fair taxing of property to make up for the increased value of the land due to public spending. But anything that ends the real estate speculation party will be very difficult to pass, and this seemed like the kind of reform a progressive congress might once have embraced…

  5. JCC

    A trip through Los Angeles today, where the median price of an apartment is $2,780/month and the median asking price of a home is $1.2M (median sold price is $950K) is what I imagine, though looking more “modern”, Charles Dickens’s London must have looked like. There are homeless everywhere living in tents and cars… at least that’s the way the more well-to-do homeless live.

    The general public in SF and Oakland envy the fine living standard of Los Angeles.

    1. Penelope

      There’s plenty of less expensive housing in L.A. County. The funky garage conversions, backyard cabins, basement apartments that made it an artist’s and musicians dream in the 1960s, now occupied by 951,000 of other country’s overflow.
      Immigration enforcement is the solution, not highrise hives built everywhere.

      Profile of the Unauthorized Population:
      Los Angeles County, CA
      Demographics Estimate % of Total
      Unauthorized Population 951,000 100%
      Top Countries of Birth
      Mexico 501,000 53%
      El Salvador 112,000 12%
      Guatemala 108,000 11%
      Philippines 48,000 5%
      China/Hong Kong 42,000 4%


  6. Rip Van Winkle

    Illinois/Cook County/Chicago has always been more supportive of tenants, going back to the Walter Slim Coleman and Father Pfleger days.

    I’m not an electrician, but have noticed throughout Indiana that there is Romex electric wiring there where conduit would be in Illinois.

  7. Oldtimer

    Housing would be much cheaper but for fiat money.
    It’s the trillions of MBS in Fed’s balance sheet that increased the housing prices together with Bernank’s QE.
    Fed’s new undeclared mandate of keeping asset prices elevated and protecting them from taking losses has pushed everyone into real estate, it’s the only place where the average Joe can get some leverage to protect himself from ongoing stealth dilution of money.

  8. JonnyJames

    A comment above says: Immigration enforcement is the solution. What utter nonsense and cheap scapegoating.

    The financialization of the economy, years of QE, ZIRP etc. has caused exponential increases in asset prices – stocks, real estate. Michael Hudson always says a property is worth whatever the bank is willing to lend against it.

    In the US, housing is a commodity to be hoarded, rationed and used to extort the public with outrageous rents and mortgages. Housing is not a right, the only right we have is to die in the gutter. Let’s keep it real. (rentier economy, unearned income, price-gouging)

    Another example is the sky-high real estate in Hawai’i. Largely because housing prices have been driven up to obscene levels, there are now more indigenous Hawaiians on the mainland, than in the islands themselves. Oligarchs from the mainland like Mark Zuckerbird, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Ellison, and others have bought up large properties in the islands. Ellison owns the island of Lana’i , which IMO, is perverse. It looks like slow-motion economic ethnic cleansing.

    1. Sue inSoCal

      Johnny James, I certainly agree with you. The issue I see is who does the grunt work? Who does the work for hotels, restaurants, the wealthy, the growers (I’m looking at you Pom billionaires in Lost Hills)? A few years ago, there was a piece iirc in the LA Times, that one of the wealthy LA suburbs didn’t want to hear bus noise (quelle horreur!) from the busses that transported their home workers close to their mansions. Therefore, the bus route was truncated and their nannies and home workers had to walk a good distance to their homes dragging their baggage. One might hope someone might give them a lift. (Eye roll) And I’m also altogether fed up with inflation being conflated with price gouging.

      1. JonnyJames

        Yeah, who is going to be the nanny, gardener, dishwashers, restaurant workers for the lazy, spoiled rich folks? Who’s gonna pick the grapes, and make the fancy wines for the rich folk? They want the cheap, exploited labor, but they don’t want to see them.

        The image of callous, ignorant, lazy white people whining about there are too many brown-skinned, Spanish -speaking folks (mostly of indigenous descent) around in California is not flattering. They should ask themselves: “why are all the place names Spanish or indigenous?” Where are my people from originally? How long have my ancestors lived in California? Were there indigenous people living here before? What happened to them? Where do they live now? What do the indigenous folks think about the invasion of Europeans?”

  9. kareninca

    I have relatives who live in southern Indiana; they are working class. He is a retired air conditioner system repairman for the school system, so they are comparably well off; she is a retired school and nursing home cook. The standards for home repair are pretty low generally in their area. They have a friend who lives in a trailer and the floor is literally caving in. They see that as something to patch. When they sold their mom’s house next door, the structurally unsound garage was something to point out to the buyers as an ethical matter, but it was up to the buyers if they wanted to do anything about it (maybe that is not the law, but that was what they did). So I’m not surprised that the genuinely poor live in hazardous squalor.

    It is an economic reality for a lot of people. I mentioned my root canal to my cousin last year, unthinking. I assumed that she had some dental insurance since she had good regular medical insurance. She told me that when one of her teeth goes bad, she just “lets it go.” She doesn’t want to, but she can’t afford a bunch of root canals.

    I recently learned that there is a housing issue that can be even worse than terribly maintained housing; it is something that would not have occurred to me. I was chatting with a lady in my local liberal (full of atheists and agnostics) church; she and I were on the homeless shelter committee last month since my church was hosting the rotating homeless shelter. She has a daughter who a number of years ago worked with homeless people in LA.

    The daughter’s job was great at first; she would manage to get a clean and well maintained room for a person who had previously been on the street. In a lot of cases the person had a drug problem or a chronic physical ailment. So there the person would be, in their clean and dry room; it was extremely gratifying.

    But then, over and over and over again, she would get a phone call. The person had died. And since they were in that room, they had died alone. The intermittent social worker visit was their only other human. The person had no contacts and there was no-one to even call. Finally she quit because it was so terrible. Years later she would still be getting phone calls from social services in LA because she was the only phone number associated with someone who had just died. She is now doing something else that is socially useful instead.

    People differ of course. I would much prefer to be alone in a little sterile room than on the street, mainly because living without a bathroom would be so awful. Also I don’t have a lot of desire for company. But it turns out that the sort of community that you can get in a house with a bunch of people, or even an encampment, is important for many people.

    I have a coreligionist in Kentucky who is lobbying to try to prevent the local criminalization of homelessness. He is going to try to push for encampments with services (as a stopgap), partly so that people can have company.

    1. Laura in So Cal

      I read the book “Rough Sleepers” by Tracy Kidder last year that did talk about the issue that housing homeless people away from their community of other homeless people was problematic.

      In any case, this was a really good book focusing on specific individuals in a specific city. My library had it.


      1. kareninca

        Thank you; that looks interesting; it is very recent. That matters since currently homelessness is different; there are so many homeless people with jobs now (for instance). And there are so many fewer housing options. But as you say it is a Boston story, and Boston is its own world. There are a lot of resources in Boston that e.g. rural Maine people could only dream about (I’ve been told). I was recently told of a (housed) person in northern Maine (a friend of a friend of a relative) who had a very small growth, but could get no treatment there, and by the time she was finally gotten to Boston it had grown tremendously and she could not be treated and died. Even a homeless person in Boston would have not have had that medical delay.

      1. JonnyJames

        Classic, cheers Sue! Those dudes are from the East Bay (SF Bay Area). I grew up in the East Bay.

        Side note: When I was younger I heard disparaging remarks from people who lived in SF and “the peninsula” about how dreadful and working-class the East Bay was.

        Here’s a band straight outta Oakland you might like.

  10. Paul Art

    No one talked about the housing construction market being an Oligopoly. Googled this one straightaway,
    The Feds should roll up their sleeves and just jump into the house construction business as they should in a multiple other areas. It is time to retire the ‘free’ market bilge water but a thousand Economics departments in a thousand Universities will also have to be euthanized starting with the one in Chicago. I would suggest building several Philosopher’s Ships to keep in readiness when the time comes.

  11. Vicky Cookies

    I’ve been looking into this in my state, Wisconsin. One issue faced by would-be reformers is that a recent state law removes authority for municipal and county governments to enact rent control, or basically to legislate in the interests of renters, as opposed to landlords, at all. The urban metro area of Milwaukee might be inclined to enact rent control or similar measures; the gerrymandered state legislature would never allow reforms. This is a symptom of the nature of accumulation: landlords and realtor’s associations, collecting ground-rent, become rich enough to donate to every legislator; anyone poorer (in part from having to pay rent) cannot effectively advocate without great creativity and support.

    Another issue is that there persists a blind-spot among mainstream liberals, including those working on the issue, to injustice in this area: it is assumed that markets are the rational solution to everything, that poor people naturally get poorer services, that one’s worth is one’s net worth. An example: In Milwaukee county, there is widespread discrimination against renters with low-income housing vouchers by landlords. This is, of course, totally illegal. The Housing Division of the county’s Dept. of Health & Human Services wrote a report on ways to address this. It mentions that a local association of landlords conducted a survey of themselves as to the reasons for this (again, illegal) refusal to accept vouchers. A main reason, it happens, is that landlords believe that low-income renters do more property damage. The report then mentions that there is no evidence for this belief, but then – instead of concluding that irrational landlords should be subject to the law – spends a great deal of time carefully considering how a damage mitigation fund might be built to incentivize these repeat offenders to follow the law! All carrot, no stick, when it comes to the rich, unfortunately.
    The market is also very tight, bad for renters, despite it being a low-cost of living area. Consolidation of the market into the hands of a few notorious slumlords doesn’t help matters either. HUD reports show that there is a correlation between rising rents and homelessness (as if it weren’t obvious), and one from 2019 even gives us an equation: for a 10% increase in median rent, we can expect a 1.92 person per 10,000 increase in homelessness.

    My thinking on this is evolving as I research, but here I lean towards a big government, tax-the-rich style socialism rather than the eat-the-rich socialism I normally espouse, for purely tactical reasons: the landlords have to be worked with, because in the opinions of the powerful, they are not parasites, but efforts should be made to expand state and local government capacities to be a larger part of the housing market, bringing down rents and building the power to actually use the stick, rather than the carrot, on these critters who charge us a tax in order to sleep indoors. Efforts should also be made to change who the powerful are, and whose interests they represent, of course.

  12. seabos84

    In my NOT humble opinion, at least 1/3 and possibly a lot more of the LAND for housing needs to be owned by the community. We need to take the land cost off the table.
    By median of the deciles of personal income, there needs to be enough affordable housing for the people working the grocery stores & food services & book stores & …, the people who will never make what the chief engineer of the water or sewage plant for 3 million people makes, BUT, who are necessary members of the community.
    This is kinda random … BUT … I’m taking a Business Calc class at a community college in Seattle. It will get me 50 of my 100 clock hours I need to keep my WA. state license to teach high school math. 1 of the sample problems was using derivatives to answer questions on a cost kind of function which modeled the rate with which a cashier could scan items based on hours on the job.

    WHY aren’t there cost functions which are tied, dynamically, into misery idexes?

    The greater the number of people who can’t afford a decent place to live,
    the higher the drug use / drug crime / homelessness / suicide / over doses / kids NOT in school …

    When the median of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th deciles of income can NOT afford a decent place to live,
    they also have crap health ‘care’ cuz they don’t go,
    & …?
    I showed my high school kids how you divide a rent or mortgage by 52 & you get the hourly rate of pay you need to make to pay that rent such that it is 30% of your gross. I FIGURED THIS FORMULA OUT ON MY OWN.

    I just did a quick google on “McKinsey Seattle homelessness” and there are the studies that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars & tell us … whatever.

    Shouldn’t the purported leaders in public policy XYZ have a reporting infrastructure such that, just like scanning stuff in the check out line, The COSTS of screwing people are right there on the web? not buried in CON$ultant reports?

    BTW – from 1980 to 1990 federal minimum wage went from $3.10 to $3.80 an hour.
    I went from welfare to cooking in Boston, from 4.25 to 9.50 an hour, and I left boston cuz, after rent, I was broke. IF your response defends the Dukakis / Gore / Kerry / Clinton-Obama crowd who’ve been making excuses for this inexcusable crap, OR, you’re gonna tell me some right wing phatasy about our rigged markets, don’t bother – save your fingers.

  13. Anon

    I lived for 6 years in an apartment in Indiana that had a serious black mold problem in every room. In the kitchen, it was so bad, the walls sweated with wet black mold. One of the two bedrooms had no heating. In the winter, the whole room would freeze with ice inside and become inhabitable. In the bathroom, the walls and tile were covered with black mold. I tried everything to clean it but it would come back again and again.

    There were also dangerous problems with the electrical wiring and a huge hole in the roof that had been covered over with Hefty bags for years. The apartment owners refused to fix anything.

    After being there for almost 5 years, part of the bathroom floor collapsed. It took months to get the owners to fix it. When they did, the repair itself took weeks. During that time, I was repeatedly harassed by the workmen. One of them liked to call me a c*** to my face. After the floor was fixed (badly) the apartment sued me to pay for the repair (several thousand dollars). I was not responsible for the collapsed floor in any way. I had been trying to get them to fix the black mold problems and the weakened floors for years. A friend helped me to get free legal help and I won the case eventually but the apartment evicted me a few months later anyway.

    Now, it would be easy to say, getting out of that apartment was a good thing. The problem was I had nowhere else to go. I lived with a friend for a while and finally found another place of my own but at a significant increase in rent. There are no protections for renters in Indiana. Tenants are at the mercy of the landlords, most of whom have no mercy.

    Reliving this experience by writing about it today has left me in tears. I feel that tightness in my chest and pain in my stomach that I felt back then. I feel like I can’t breathe. To be poor in this country is to be treated like crap over and over. A lot of us would rather be dead than to constantly fight just to survive.

  14. Adam Eran

    Pretty close to a Jane Jacobs quote: Modern city planning is positively neurotic in its willingness to embrace solutions that don’t work and ignore those that do….It’s a form of advanced superstition like 19th century medicine when doctors believed bleeding patients would heal them.

    After attempting to make transit-friendly (pedestrian-friendly) mixed use neighborhoods a reality in California for 30+ years, I’ve resigned myself to being ignored by the powers that be. If FNMA changed its underwriting standards, this is a problem that would be fixed in five minutes. It’s not “form follows function,” in reality it’s “form follows finance.”

    Inadequate transit is inevitable if not enough people live within a walkable distance of stops. That means building to roughly 11 units/acre, with pedestrian friendly “complete streets.” Failing this, the requirement that every driving age adult own and drive a car to do their business is one of the most regressive “taxes” known to man.

    Meanwhile, Richard Nixon stopped the feds from building more affordable housing, and Ronald Reagan cut HUD’s affordable housing budget by 75%.

    The best we’ve got is this initial attempt to make housing a public utility. I bookmarked the link, but I believe I got it from NC.

  15. Heraclitus

    I work in the real estate business, and own a few residential rental properties. I agree with the gist of RookieEMTs’ points above. The expense of real estate is ruining America. I am currently far below market rents with my rentals, and I intend to stay below them.

    I remember as a young man in the ’80s seeing my first homeless person. He seemed to have some mental issue, so I chalked his homelessness up to that. However, at that time, there were also local boarding houses, loosely monitored by the Department of Social Services, which offered single rooms and meals at reasonable prices, as well as run down tenant houses on the farms, usually without toilets, though some had running water nearby. People lived in them at very low cost, and managed to stay clean, warm, protected from the elements, and fed. In retrospect, toilets could probably have been added via a septic tank. But our growing county government decided that such accommodation was unfit for human habitation.

    So today we have homeless encampments instead. They aren’t especially safe, and are often havens for drug abuse. I go easy on those living rough to the extent I can. However, some are destructive and are creating bad conditions on the property they occupy. The police seem to move the homeless from place to place, to make them less visible. I suspect there are hundreds within a five mile radius of where I am, and this includes some very upscale developments. A person alone who wants to hide can hide very easily.

    The root of the problem is that the upper middle class, who are really in charge of zoning, etcetera, in America, have an interest in protecting their real estate values. The local governments cater to them, and benefit from higher real estate values because of higher taxes. The upper middle class’s focus on maintaining real estate values is a paradox, because if they sell an expensive property, they’ll have to pay out a bundle to buy another. Wouldn’t it be better if all property were cheaper?

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