Tiny Tuesday: For Every Homeless Person There Are Two Vacant Homes

Now here is a sobering fact. For every homeless person in the US – 554,000 in all, according to HUD – there are two investor-owned houses or apartments with nobody living there. It seems that with a tip of the hat, America’s housing problem could be solved twice over.

But you can’t just put homeless people in houses. Why not? According to this column on Gritpost, rent is at an all-time high, encouraging investors to buy up ever more property. It’s a sad truth that taking real estate off the market increases demand, which in turn drives rent prices even higher. Somehow landlords find it more profitable to hold an empty property, paying taxes on it and doing basic upkeep, than to lease it for a HUD affordable rate.

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Moreover, many of the properties are actually foreclosures, owned by banks. This Business Insider article points out that most foreclosures are not fit for habitation, it’s not profitable for banks to fix them up to sell. Instead, they offload the properties onto cities, sometimes razing them because the land is more valuable than the building. Meanwhile, cities have no interest in fixing up decrepit houses or building new, so they act as intermediaries to help investors find the properties. That leaves the decision to developers – and of course, developers need to make a profit, which leaves little room for the altruistic undertaking of affordable housing.

Under Title V of the McKinley-Vento Homeless Assistance Program, the federal government must make “underused” properties available to homeless advocacy organizations. A lot of good has come out of the program, including a former VA hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas that was converted into low-income apartments. But Title V doesn’t apply to the private sector. Without a motive, banks and investors continue to hold onto huge swaths of vacant real estate, and the homeless… stay homeless.

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Tiny Tuesday: Win an Envi Heater (plus an action)

Building excitement for his upcoming workshop in Los Angeles, tiny house goofball spokesperson Deek Diedrickson is giving away an Envi, an slim electric wall-mounted convection heater. Envi claims it can warm 150 square feet, which could equal a large bedroom, a medium living space, or a small house. To enter, all you have to do is share this quick video on Facebook before 8pm EST today.

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Promo for the upcoming Tiny House workshop in LA.

Today’s action: Call your senators and ask them to stop the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as the next Administrator of the EPA. Pruitt has said of global warming that “the debate is far from settled,” and as Oklahoma State Attorney General he has repeatedly sued the EPA to fight regulation of fossil fuels. Yesterday the Office of Government Ethics cleared Pruitt of any financial conflict of interest, and he now faces confirmation by the US Senate. Nominees are rarely rejected, but controversial picks often withdraw themselves.

You can look up the phone numbers of your senators here.

Sample script: Hello, my name is Scott Silverstein and I live in Waitsfield, Vermont. I’m calling to express my concern about Mr. Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, because Mr. Pruitt’s history in public office shows a lack of concern for the environment and a disregard for scientific facts. For these reasons, I’d like ask Senator (Leahy, Sanders) to oppose this nomination. Thank you for your time.

Don’t be afraid to call. The interns who answer the phone are really nice.

Thanks to Laura Casey.