Feb 5, 2020

Axios Cities

By Kim Hart
Kim Hart

Good afternoon. Thanks for joining me for today's 1,553-word edition (6 minutes) that takes a closer look at the housing crisis and its impact on homelessness around the country.

  • As always, I welcome your feedback and stories. Just hit reply or find me at kim@axios.com.

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1 big thing: Homelessness isn't just a big city problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Homelessness is on the rise in many of America's biggest and most expensive cities — but it's a growing problem in rural areas, too.

Why it matters: People experiencing homelessness are often harder to count in rural areas, and they have a harder time accessing support programs in small towns with fewer resources.

The big picture: Homelessness in the U.S. has risen for a third consecutive year, driven by a spike in California, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said in December.

Jobs continue to shift to cities, making life harder for people already struggling to find work and affordable housing.

"The long-term trend is that people are leaving rural areas and moving to cities. In rural areas, there are fewer jobs and less income. It's not necessarily that housing options are so expensive, it's that job opportunities simply aren't there."
— Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

By the numbers: One-third of rural Americans say homelessness is a problem in their community, according to a May poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Homelessness is often more hidden in rural areas than in cities.

  • Small towns are less likely to have stable shelters, so people are more likely to double up with friends or sleep on family members' couches. That also makes it harder to be counted during annual data collections.
  • "In rural communities, there's not a typical place where people experiencing homelessness might gather, such as a food pantry, soup kitchen or public library," said Shaye Rabold of the Kentucky Housing Corporation.

Zoom in: Overall, 4,079 homeless people were counted in Kentucky in a 2019 national survey, the last single-night survey of homeless people for which data is available. That's a 10.6% increase over the January 2018 national count, per HUD data.

  • Kentucky's major metro areas — Louisville and Lexington — both saw around a 15% increase in the homeless population between 2018 and 2019.
  • The rest of the state, which is mostly rural, saw a 6.9% increase.

Eastern Kentucky has been hit hard by the loss of coal mining jobs and a dwindling number of service-sector jobs.

  • Even in areas where there are jobs, there's very little public transportation for people living in spread-out rural counties to get to work.
  • "You may be living in a particular community, but the job is a county over and there's no way to get there," Rabold said. "But even if you have an education, even if you have transportation, there just aren't enough jobs to go around."

Go deeper:

2. The housing crisis has now gone national
Expand chart
Data: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The rent is too damn high across huge swaths of conservative states, and it's getting worse fast, per Axios' Justin Green.

The big picture: “The lowest-income people have always had an absurdly high cost of living,” Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a research associate at Harvard's Joint Center on Housing Studies, which produced the report with the above data, told Bloomberg.

  • “But the affordability crisis that we’re seeing now is hitting middle-income renters, and it’s hitting them across the country.”
  • Bloomberg notes: An "influx of high-income renters ... are increasingly delaying home ownership either out of choice or necessity, driving up rents by fueling competition for existing units and spurring new construction designed primarily for the upper end of the market."
3. Domestic violence pushes many women to homelessness

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes: On any given night, one in four of the nation's more than 216,000 homeless women is driven to the streets because of domestic violence, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

Why it matters: There is a growing national effort to address homelessness, but access to services that deal with both issues is complicated. Domestic violence is often addressed separately, even though the two struggles are often intertwined, the NCFH writes.

By the numbers:

  • 38% of domestic violence victims become homeless at some point in their lives, according to the Family and Youth Services Bureau.
  • 70% of homeless women reported being physically assaulted by a family member or someone they knew, and half had been sexually assaulted.

The big picture: Domestic violence and homelessness are also intertwined with mental health.

  • Homeless mothers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at three times the rate of other women, the NCFH found.
  • Homeless women are also more likely to become depressed as a result of being homeless, which can lead to substance abuse.

The state of play: Domestic violence is common among all socioeconomic levels, but it most prominently affects poor women, per the NCFH.

  • Securing affordable and safe housing is difficult for domestic violence victims, because of their "urgent circumstances, poor credit, rental and employment histories, and limited income," the NCFH writes.
  • The inability to collect and/or enforce child support and alimony payments is key to their limited income.
4. Where average rent rose the most over the last decade
Expand chart
Data: PropertyClub; Chart: Axios Visuals

PropertyClub, an apartment rental service, used Zillow data to calculate which cities saw the greatest percentage rent increases between 2010 and 2019.

  • It's not surprising that New York, Seattle and San Francisco saw sizable median rent increases — but Aurora, Colorado, and Boise City, Idaho, actually saw the biggest jumps.
  • San Jose saw the biggest jump in absolute numbers, and it's the only city on the list to see median rents increase by more than $1,000 over the past decade.

Go deeper.

Exclusive: Grant money funds tech job growth outside Silicon Valley

One America Works, a nonprofit organization that helps high-growth companies find the right cities for expansion, received a $1 million grant over two years from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Why it matters: While the dollar amount isn't huge, it shows an increasing interest in strategically spreading economic opportunity to new places.

How it works: One America Works piloted its program in Pittsburgh in 2019, after an initial $250,000 grant from the RK Mellon Foundation.

  • In the first year, One America Works sourced five companies seeking to fill 250 positions with the expectation that 80 tech jobs would land in Pittsburgh, according to founder Patrick McKenna, an entrepreneur and investor with roots in Silicon Valley.
  • The organization uses analytics to match the right city for the company's requirements based on talent, transportation access, quality of life and affordability.

The goal is to expand the "New Growth Playbook" into more cities and build a pipeline of companies interested in expanding there. Contenders include Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville and St. Louis.

The big picture: McKenna said he started One America Works last year to "get more companies to see the value in accessing new talent, lowering cost and increasing opportunity in more places."

  • He's targeting early high-growth companies with around 200 employees who are planning to hire another 200.
  • Starting an office outside of Silicon Valley with 10–20 employees with the potential to grow is increasingly attractive to startups struggling to afford and retain talent in the ultra-expensive and competitive Bay Area.

"Imagine if we had 20 other cities besides the three to four we have now that were legitimate destinations for the tech workforce," he said. "That changes the whole country."

5. Millennials' housing anxiety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A majority of millennials feel behind financially and are not optimistic about their financial future, according to a new survey from Bank of America.

Why it matters: Millennials are nearly twice as likely as baby boomers to worry often about their finances. Homeownership tops the list of anxieties — 20% say not being able to afford a home is the top financial stressor.

Of millennials with savings, 32% are saving to buy a first or a different home.

  • Younger generations prioritize homeownership even more: 41% of Gen Z and 40% of younger millennials are saving to buy a home.

Yes, but: Debt a big hurdle. Excluding home loans, 16% of millennials owe $50,000 or more. 42% say debt is keeping them from buying a first or nicer home.

That's forcing a practical mindset, per the survey.

  • 82% would rather buy a smaller, more affordable home.
  • Single millennials are more likely to choose to fund a down payment on a home (82%) over having their dream wedding (12%).
  • When asked what they would be most likely to do with a $10,000 windfall, 40% would pay down debt, with 20% saying they'd put it toward a new home or invest in their current home.

One surprising thing: One-quarter of millennials have at least $100,000 in savings, which is a 16% increase from two years ago, per the survey.

Go deeper: Millennials are relandscaping the housing market

6. Urban files

Aïda Amer/Axios

The future of moving (Axios)

An artist used 99 phones to fake a Google Maps traffic jam (Wired)

An NYC commission's radical property tax proposal divides homeowners and officials (NYT)

How can China build a hospital in 10 days? (BBC) Also, watch the time-lapse video of the construction.

7. 1 fun thing: 🎮 Atari inks deal for game-themed hotels

Photo: Atari

As many as eight Atari-branded hotels will pop up around the country, with the first one breaking ground in Phoenix this year.

  • Austin, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco are also in line, reports the Phoenix Business Journal.
“I like rebooting stuff from the '80s from when I was a kid, and I thought it would be so cool to do real estate. Experiential is really popular right now."
— Phoenix entrepreneur Napoleon Smith III, who's pulled off other old-school brand reboots like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, told the Business Journal.

Among the hotel's amenities: An esports studio, gaming playground and a movie theater. Guest rooms will come with enough bandwidth for multiple people to stream and play online games during their stay.

  • Paris-based Atari will receive 5% of the hotels' revenue, per the announcement.
Kim Hart

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Have a great week!