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Tight rental market worries local advocates for the homeless | News

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At the center of many efforts to address homelessness is the simple notion that, if society wants to get people off the streets, there need to be more homes and apartments people can afford.

Take that idea a step further and it’s clear that a tightening housing market like Bakersfield’s isn’t helpful: It drives rents higher while making it tougher for people with spotty credit to compete for what few leases may be available.

But fixing the imbalance between local housing supply and demand proves elusive for reasons such as high costs and strict rules about where apartment buildings can and cannot be built.

Advocates for people living on the street in Kern County say the time has come to reconsider. As the local apartment vacancies continue to drop to record lows and monthly rents soar to new heights in Bakersfield, they’re calling for substantial changes to local zoning laws and removal of costly state requirements for multifamily residential developments.

WORK TO DO

Also needed, they say, is more money to build affordable housing and better incentives encouraging new construction of multifamily residential projects.

“There has to be an intentional and aggressive investment in affordable housing. There has to be. And there has to be a plan,” said Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of The Mission at Kern County.

Progress is being made in Bakersfield as more public money is spent to develop subsidized apartment units. Market-rate units are also under construction, albeit at the higher end of local rents.

There’s a sense, though, that development of new housing has fallen so far behind in decades past that the pace of new construction needs to pick up — and that the best way to accomplish that is to make fundamental changes.

“We need to be willing to try different and new things,” Bakersfield Homeless Center CEO Louis Gill said. “Because we have to get more units online and available. Because there’s just a scarcity. And if we don’t do something about that we will continue to see the levels of homelessness that we have. … There’s got to be somewhere to go.”

ZILLOW STUDY

Research by residential real estate website Zillow has established a link between a community’s rate of homelessness and the affordability of its housing.

Higher rents relative to income lead to increases in homelessness, according to a report the company published in late 2018. Once median rents eclipse 32 percent of a community’s median income, the study concluded, its rates of homelessness accelerate.

Zillow’s summary of the research noted homelessness is worst where affordability is lowest, and that “in many areas (that have passed the 32 percent threshold), even modest rent increases can push thousands more Americans into homelessness.”

A May 2019 report by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness drew a strong connection between homelessness and access to housing that people can afford. It also linked housing stability with improved personal health and well-being.

HOUSING BENEFITS

The report said greater availability of housing not only lowers the risk of people falling into homelessness, but it also improves food insecurity and educational progress, lowers domestic violence rates and reduces child separations and psychological distress.

Data available at the time suggested markets haven’t responded to demand for housing and that the poor face the biggest cost-related challenges, the report said. It suggested increasing awareness of the problem, focusing services on at-risk populations, making it easier to get assistance, expanding the supply of affordable rentals and, funding interventions to housing stability with prioritization of people who are homeless.

Executive Director Anna Laven at the Bakersfield Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative said subsidized-housing vouchers for qualified people are in danger of falling short as rents increase in the city and the county.

Plus, at a time landlords are reporting long lists of applicants for every new vacancy, Laven said, people with bad credit, checkered employment and pets have trouble finding somewhere to rent.

Much of the new product that is being built, she noted, target middle and upper income levels.

“We need to think about some of the regulatory pieces at the local and state level that increase the cost” of providing more affordable housing, she said.

‘GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION’

Ian Sharples, a board member of the Income Property Association of Kern landlords group, said by email that the community has underbuilt multifamily housing for 40 years. He blamed public policy.

“Unaffordable housing and homelessness are the natural and obvious results of this sort of government intervention to oppose new housing,” Sharples wrote.

Asserting many people want to live in walkable, densely populated neighborhoods, he proposed overhauling zoning regulations to accommodate development of new apartment buildings.

Gill said the situation isn’t dire at the moment because of the evictions moratorium put in place during the pandemic. But he predicted new strains on the public safety net as soon as November following the moratorium’s end June 30.

The city of Bakersfield emphasized by email it has put plans and programs in place to address affordable housing and other factors affecting homelessness. It pointed to a recent, strong rebound in the development of affordable housing within the city.

NEW INVENTORY

After a multi-year lull that followed the closure of the city’s redevelopment agency in 2012, development of subsidized apartments rose strongly about three years ago. It went from three years of fewer than 600 new units every 12 months, to more than 1,000.

Since Bakersfield’s Measure N passed in late 2018, the city said it has spent $14 million from the sales-tax increase on affordable housing projects. That has provided 443 new units, 166 of which are now under construction.

The city also called attention to its appointment of a planner within Bakersfield’s new Economic & Community Development Department. That person will be responsible facilitating production of affordable housing.

Also, since the October opening of the Brundage Lane Navigation Center, it said, 62 people have been place in housing. Thirty-five more have been assigned a voucher and are waiting placement in a rental. 

No one at the Housing Authority of the County of Kern was available last week to provide comment for this story.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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