Location, location, location is a familiar phrase when thinking of real estate, but it is also an important factor in determining the affordability of housing. The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) has added the cost of transportation to the cost of housing to find what they consider the “true” cost of housing. In their Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, CNT has combined the average cost of housing in an area with the average cost of transportation in that same area to provide a more complete look at affordability. Below are two maps that show how the cost of transportation affects affordability in Tulsa County. Keep in mind that affordable housing is generally considered housing that costs no more than 30% of household income. When CNT added transportation to the equation, they calculated that affordable transportation should be no more than 15% of household income. So, housing and transportation costs should be no more than 45% of household income.
Figure One: Housing Cost as a Percentage of Household Income in the Tulsa Area
In Figure One, the blue color represents 30% or more of household income and yellow represents less than 30% of household income.
Figure Two: Housing and Transportation Costs as a Percentage of Household Income in the Tulsa Area
In Figure Two, the blue color represents 45% or more of household income and the yellow represents less than 45% of household income.
In another attempt to increase comments, what do you think the implications of this type of data might be? Will it affect how you think of affordable housing?
For more information on the Center for Neighborhood Technology, click here.
For more information on CNT’s Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, click here.
To look at the images above in more detail, click here.
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Ezra Klein, a health policy blogger for the Washington Post, links to a new report from the Food and Drug Administration examining the problem of food deserts – places that lack access to full-service grocery stores and the fresh produce they sell. This isn’t really a food equity blog, but since I recently posted on the topic this seems like a relevant follow up.
Jane Black, another Wapo reporter, read the report and notes that “there’s no significant evidence that increased access to fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and whole grains actually reduces Body Mass Index (BMI).” Klein adds that “only 2.2 percent of Americans live a mile or more from a supermarket and don’t have access to a car.”
So what’s the problem with these so-called food deserts? Too much food.
The problem, it seems, is the opposite: food swamps. Areas dense with fast food and convenience stores. As the USDA puts it, “Easy access to all food, rather than lack of access to specific healthy foods, may be a more important factor in explaining increases in obesity.” The concentration of the obesity crisis in high-poverty areas thus brings us back to a pretty well-accepted hypothesis: The problem is with low-income areas where the cheap food is the bad food.
If its the abundance of junk foods rather than the scarcity of fresh foods that is the real culprit here, the policy implications are much different. Subsidizing grocery stores or “green carts” or farmer’s markets isn’t the solution. Getting people to buy the good stuff is, such as policies that provide bonus Food Stamps dollars for fresh produce.
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Over the course of two years, volunteer parents and community members went door-to-door in Chicago’s low- and moderate-income neighborhoods conducting surveys of more than 5,000 parents and caregivers. The purpose? To better understand the barriers to preschool and Head Start faced by low-income families. Following the surveys, the project convened two community meetings to engage parents and stakeholders in an analysis of potential policy solutions.
As a result of their research, they discovered about half of eligible preschool aged children are not in a program of any kind. Their findings including the most common challenges to getting children enrolled and participating as well as recommended solutions are presented in the report, “Why Isn’t Johnny in Preschool?” Some highlights:
- Transportation was the number one barrier. Families did not have cars; found public transportation too difficult; were afraid or physically unable to walk their children to school especially grandparent caregivers; and/or struggled getting multiple children to different sites at different times.
- Preschool schedules that don’t accommodate work schedules and child care needs and various options are needed – all day, hours that match school hours of older siblings, and half-day programs at different times.
- Parents find the enrollment process to be too hard. Parents lack information on options or are overwhelmed by all the options, families aren’t aware of free programs, or which programs they qualify for.
- Programs should raise awareness of the importance of preschool and break down stereotypes that children are too young to go to school.
- Families worry about the loss of state child care subsidies, especially when it is a source of income for extended family and are concerned about the cost of child care co-payments.
Do these same barriers exist in Tulsa? Who are the hard to reach parents in our communities? What are effective practices to encourage enrollment and if we eliminate barriers to enrollment without addressing barriers to participation, what will we gain?
In responding to a somewhat unrelated question recently posed to staff, a teacher from one of our Early Childhood Sites created her own list of barriers many of which parallel those found in the report: many families don’t know our services are free; families believe it’s difficult to sign up or they don’t know how or where; and parents are looking for child care and believe early childhood education is “out of their reach” prescreening themselves from programs labeled as early childhood education.
What barriers have you seen?
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