Hispanic Households Face Systemic Barriers to Housing

An article in Cityscape, “Understanding Low-Income Hispanic Housing Challenges and the Use of Housing and Homelessness Assistance,” examines the extent to which Hispanic households are underrepresented in housing and homelessness programs compared to their needs. The authors, Claudia Aiken, Vincent Reina, and Denis Culhane, find that language and immigration status are key barriers Hispanic residents face in accessing housing and homelessness assistance programs.

The authors used data from HUD’s Picture of Subsidized Households (POSH), Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless counts, the decennial census, and the American Community Survey (ACS) to explore county-level variation in Hispanic representation in housing programs and the homeless population across the United States. They conducted a case study of Hispanic families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, utilizing administrative data and qualitative interviews, to explore factors underlying Hispanic representation in housing and homeless assistance programs.

Hispanics disproportionately struggle with poverty: while they accounted for 18% of the population in their analysis, they made up 27% of the population living below the poverty line. Relative to their poverty rate, however, Hispanics were underrepresented in both HUD housing assistance programs, and the homeless population. They accounted for 19% of HUD housing assistance recipients and 22% of the homeless population. Sixty-two percent of Hispanics experiencing homelessness accessed shelters compared to 63% of all people experiencing homelessness.

Hispanics were underrepresented in the HUD assisted housing stock in 71% of counties. Among the top quartile of counties for Hispanic underrepresentation in HUD housing assistance programs, Hispanics made up 29% of the poverty population, but only 5% of HUD assisted households on average. These high disparity counties tended to include traditional Hispanic communities where Hispanic populations are larger, such as in California, Texas, and East Coast population centers. A higher Hispanic share of the county’s population, a higher Hispanic poverty rate, a larger share of foreign-born Hispanics, and a greater share of the foreign-born Hispanics who were noncitizens were all associated with a county being in the top quartile of counties for underrepresentation in HUD assistance programs.

It is often assumed that members of the Hispanic community are less likely to utilize government services due to cultural factors such as strong social support networks even though they tend to have disproportionate needs. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “Latino Paradox.” Hispanic residents participating in the Philadelphia case study acknowledged the role of informal social supports in coping with housing challenges, while also expressing some mistrust of government stemming from issues related to discrimination and immigration status. The case study, however, also revealed systemic barriers to housing and homeless assistance programs in line with their national findings. These barriers included limited English proficiency, literacy, and immigration status. The authors argued that these systemic barriers in their case study reflected their national findings that greater Hispanic underrepresentation in housing assistance programs was associated with communities having a larger share of foreign-born and non-citizen Hispanic residents.

The authors conclude that Hispanic households face complex barriers to accessing housing assistance programs and that disparities in representation and program access are not solely a function of cultural resilience. They recommend addressing language barriers, tackling fears in the Hispanic community about public charge and deportation, and recognizing and investing in the capacity of community development and social service organizations based in Hispanic communities. The authors note that improving the national housing safety net more broadly is important to addressing the housing crisis for Hispanic households.

Read the article at: https://bit.ly/3mLfVE1