The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg on Thursday unveiled a new report focusing on disparities of affordable housing and poor health.
The intent of “Home: A Pathway to Health Equity Through Housing,” is twofold: to educate the general public how affordable housing and health inequality in Pinellas County are connected and to begin increasing collaboration with community stakeholders.
Foundation officials said the research found a strong connection between poverty, race and geography in relation to accessible affordable housing needs across Pinellas County. They said the rising cost of rent is an issue as the income gap continues to grow, especially among African Americans.
For example, the report found that minimum wage workers in Pinellas County would need to work 148 hours per week to afford the median estimated market rate for monthly rent in Pinellas County.
Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said that when compared nationally, Florida has a more severe shortage of accessible affordable housing.
“In Florida, for every 100 of those lowest income people, there are just 29 homes that are affordable and available to them,” she said. “So clearly, the funding for the programs that make homes affordable for most low income people isn't keeping up with the demand.”
Fred Karnas, a senior fellow at the Kresge Foundation, said the connection between poor health and housing often descends from the impact of people being displaced, poor housing quality and safety issues.
An area of south St. Petersburg was highlighted in the report. There, about half of residents are cost burdened and more than 50 percent of them are African American are in need of affordable housing, it states.
When discussing causes, the panelists pointed to systemic racism and the need to address it.
“Racism is really holding us back, not only from being able to achieve our health and care goals or our housing stability goals, but just from being a better community where people want to live and be safe and stable in their own home with access to the services and support that they need,” said Peggy Bailey, director of the Health Integration Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Yentel said affordable housing and homelessness are also a problem for senior citizens, people with disabilities and veterans. She said more political will – and money from the federal government – is needed to address the issue.
“The thing about homelessness and housing and security is that we have the data, we know what the challenges are, we know where the challenges are the greatest,” she said, “and we have proven solutions to end homelessness.”