Each year, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) releases an annual report series on housing instability and homelessness. The report series is produced by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. There are two primary output models. The first type, referred to as “integrated data” reports, links and contextualizes disparate information sources to explore the problem of housing instability and/or homelessness through a unique lens. Last month, CSS released an integrated data report describing child and youth homelessness by combining data from the Homeless Management Information System, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services. An upcoming integrated data report will use combined information sources to describe single adult homelessness, which comprises the largest population sector of those experiencing homelessness.
The second major output in the series is the annual Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability & Homelessness Report. This report includes local, regional, and national data on the full housing continuum. It also features data from the Point-in-Time Count; housing inventory; rental gaps; and system performance metrics. It provides a single, “go-to” document for all housing and homelessness-related data and information pertaining to Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The 2020 Report will feature new data sources, and also address the impact of COVID-19. It will be released in late September.
In addition to the locally produced housing instability and homelessness outputs described above, several other housing-related reports have been released during the past year. This blog post will provide you with a “top five” reading list as of Summer 2020, including a brief overview; why you should read the report; and what each means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
The reading list below includes five new (or older, but still important) housing-related reports and books. Considered together, this list provides the reader with a more comprehensive understanding of a deep rooted, multifaceted problem.
Each of the books and/or reports in the “top five” reading list for Summer 2020 sheds light on a particular aspect of the housing crisis: the high cost of housing; the inability of wages to keep pace; the shortage of inventory to address the need; a history of policies that have led to these conditions; and current, real-world examples of how and why affordable housing is stalled, stopped, and/or otherwise stymied.
Taken together, the list helps anyone currently involved and/or interested in this work to be equipped with information and data that can help develop comprehensive solutions. Tackling only a piece of a complex problem like housing instability and homelessness leads to short-term, short-sighted solutions. This does not mean that all solutions must be big; rather, it means that solutions must be both linked and consistently evaluated to ensure effectiveness.
How many new, permanent affordable housing units were made available (through development, subsidy or otherwise) in Charlotte-Mecklenburg during the prior year? How many households needed permanent, affordable housing units during the prior year? How many of these households have experienced homelessness before? What is the gap between need and supply; did it decrease or increase from the prior year? What non-housing sectors played a role in increasing household income for those who could not afford it? How and to what extent? What is the short-term and long-term (individual and community) economic impact of ensuring everyone resident in Charlotte-Mecklenburg has a home? Given COVID-19, what is the public health impact?
Beyond the data, the “top five” list also underscores the critical importance of relationships to move from information to implementation. Relationships between tenants and landlords; among and across public and private sectors; and between the real estate industry and local government, to name but a few. Debunking myths with data can provide a helpful first step. But books like Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America also illustrate the difficult and deliberate conversations that occur between and among the public and private sectors that can either enable or prohibit solutions needed.
Finally, each book and/or report in the “top five” list share solutions – some of which are consistent across the entire curated list. Solutions to address the gap between housing cost, and what households can afford, need not be new or innovative. The innovation lies in how the pieces and parts are assembled to build an ecosystem that supports, rather than impedes, these solutions.
Courtney LaCaria coordinates posts on the Building Bridges Blog. Courtney is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Courtney’s job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so that they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.