Urban Planning Optimization: Homelessness
Homelessness impacts more than half a million Americans. Some are temporarily homeless, while others are chronically homeless. That means they have been without a home for a year or more. People of all ages are homeless, even though many work full-time jobs. One major cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. Good urban planning can address this issue and help reduce the number of citizens without a safe place to sleep.
What is Urban Planning?
Urban planning is sometimes called regional, town, rural, or city planning. It involves political and technical aspects because it decides the best and most appropriate use of resources such as land and air. Infrastructure like sewage systems, roads, and public transportation are all elements of urban planning. Today, urban planners focus on sustainable development that considers ecological and environmental concerns.
What Is Urban Planning?: Urban planning focuses on the structuring and use of urban land.
Urban Planning: Repurposing space is a large component of good urban planning.
Urban Planning and Smart Cities: More than half of all people on earth live in an urban area.
The Role of Urban Planners: Urban planners must work with various stakeholders to create workable plans for the areas.
What is Urban and Regional Planning? Urban planning is an outgrowth of public health and came about as a way to stop pandemics caused by poor sanitation and other issues.
Factors Preventing Affordable Housing
Zoning laws and a focus on buildings that will bring in more tax revenues are some of the reasons more affordable housing isn't available. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development suggests expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to encourage builders to construct more housing aimed at people who make about 60% of a given area's median income. Another huge issue is the loss of affordable housing to gentrification. Housing units are either renovated to appeal to higher-income residents, torn down and replaced with more expensive housing, or repurposed.
The Importance of Housing Affordability and Stability for Preventing and Ending Homelessness (PDF): Eight million low-income households were paying more than 50% of their income for housing in 2017, a situation that left them vulnerable to homelessness.
4 Factors That Can Make Affordable Housing not so Affordable: Affordable housing often ends up in areas without access to public transportation, jobs, or childcare.
Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis Requires Expanding Rental Assistance and Adding Housing Units: From 2017-2022 rental prices rose almost 33%, making the affordable housing crisis worsen.
The Rental Housing Crisis Is a Supply Problem That Needs Supply Solutions: One issue with affordable housing is that there's not enough of it.
How Zoning Impacts Homelessness
Zoning regulations tend to work against building affordable housing units. Many areas don't want to build multi-family housing because they fear it will bring down the property values of their single-family homes. Zoning also tends to separate residential and commercial spaces, which separates low-income people from job opportunities. Some communities use zoning to discourage public transportation which causes issues for lower-income residents.
How Zoning Perpetuates Homelessness: One-way zoning causes homelessness is when codes care more about what a building looks like than its overall economic impact on the city and its housing stock.
Zoning Out the Homeless People: Zoning practices often lead to less availability of affordable housing for a city's population.
How Land Use Regulations Are Zoning Out Low-Income Families: Zoning laws that limit density often indirectly lead to increased homeless families.
Cancel Zoning: The Atlantic claims that zoning is responsible for issues like segregation and lack of affordable housing.
How Zoning Shapes our Lives: Zoning shapes what buildings are allowed in a city and where they are allowed to be, often invisibility impacting the lives of the people in the area.
One troubling statistic is that about half of all homeless people work. Many have full-time jobs. They're homeless because working isn't enough for them to afford stable housing. Since 2020, housing prices have risen dramatically, worsening the crisis of the working homeless. There is currently nowhere in the country where a minimum wage job is enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
State of Homelessness: 2022 Edition: More than half a million people were homeless at the beginning of 2020.
Point in Time Homeless Count: Local governments record the number of homeless people in their area.
Working While Homeless: A Tough Job For Thousands Of Californians: Many working people in cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento can't afford stable housing.
Being Homeless and Employed: Understanding the Struggles of the Working Poor: 50% of all homeless adults have jobs.
Impact of Homelessness
In addition to the homeless people themselves, homelessness also impacts the life of a city or region. Governments spend a lot of money on homeless people, although very little of it goes to helping them secure housing. Areas where the homeless gather can frighten away other people. People living in areas without sanitation can lead to public health crises.
Effects of Homelessness: Homelessness impacts every aspect of a person's life.
How Homelessness Affects Society: Homelessness costs governments a lot of money and can present public safety risks.
Homelessness, Its Consequences, and Its Causes: Almost a quarter of all homeless people are minors under the age of eighteen.
What is the Cost of Homelessness?: According to one study done in 2016, each homeless person costs the taxpayer about $35,000 a year.
The Role of Urban Design in Reducing Homelessness
Urban design can work to lessen the number of homeless people. One way to do that is to prioritize keeping the existing stock of affordable housing units and finding ways to build more. Designing cities that rely less on cars also helps people reduce their transportation costs, which can open up their budgets and help them secure good, permanent housing.
An Interconnected Community: Art, City Building and Impactful Approaches to Homelessness: Inclusive city building considers the needs of all city dwellers.
How Urban Planning Instruments Can Contribute in the Fight Against Homelessness. An International Overview of Inclusionary Housing (PDF): Good urban planning can reduce the number of people without permanent homes.
APA Policy Guide on Homelessness: The American Planning Association believes that urban planners have a responsibility to help end homelessness.
Philadelphia's Ten-Year Plan To End Homelessness: Creating Homes, Strengthening Communities, and Improving Systems (PDF): City and urban planners working together can create strategies to make more affordable housing.