Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No profit in housing the homeless |

No profit in housing the homeless | "What other solutions are being offered? Rather than trying to occupy vacant houses, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke suggested that cities and states should destroy vacant homes to help bring supply and demand back into balance.
In a speech in March, Bernanke praised the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Mich.--a 'highly depressed' market, in his words--for acquiring vacant units through tax liens and demolishing them. Bernanke sniffed that such programs could 'mitigate safety hazards and reduce supply.'"

According to the Census Bureau, U.S. households on average have 2.57 people. So the vacant housing stock could provide homes to at least 47.5 million people--or about 15 percent of the U.S. population. And that's a conservative estimate when you consider that many vacant houses could comfortably house many more people than the household average.

To put this number in perspective, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 3.5 million people in the U.S. experience homelessness in a given year, and about 842,000 people are homeless in any given week. So there are enough vacant homes to house the homeless in any given week 56 times over.

Further, in 2005, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimated the global homeless population at 100 million. So, roughly speaking, there is enough vacant housing to provide shelter for nearly half the world's homeless population in the U.S. And when you factor in the growing amount of vacant commercial real estate, such as office buildings and shopping centers, an even further dent could be made.

Meanwhile, in the Southwest, tent cities are arising, occupied by people who lost their homes to foreclosure. The city of Santa Barbara, Calif., for example, has set aside 12 parking lots to allow people who lost their homes to live out of their cars. In many cases, the people living in the lots still have jobs, but simply can't find affordable housing

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