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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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Dave says: If you need a cosigner, you're not ready – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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How to improve your credit score in 2021: Easy and effective tips

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If you’ve ever wondered “What is my credit score?” it’s probably time to find out. Having a good credit score can make life a lot more affordable. If you’re about to buy a house or car, for example, the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate (and therefore, monthly cost) will probably be.

Your number may also be the deciding factor for whether or not you can get a loan and ultimately determine if you are even able to buy something you want or need.

So, yes, the goal is to have the highest possible credit score you can, but increasing the number doesn’t just happen overnight. There are important steps to take if you want to increase your score, and the sooner you start working on it, the better.

“If you’re trying to increase (your credit score) substantially to accomplish a goal, you’re really going to have to have as much lead time as possible,” said Thomas Nitzsche, director of media and brand at Money Management International, a nonprofit financial counseling and education provider that advises people on how to legally and ethically improve their credit score on their own.

If you have fair credit and you’re trying to improve the number for a house purchase, for instance, you’ll want to start working on it at least a year in advance, he explained to TMRW.

But even though that sounds like a long time away, you can (and should!) start doing things right now to bump that number up. Below, see seven things you should do — and not do — to help improve your credit score:

1. Review your credit report

Review your credit report and look for errors that might be hurting your score. Morsa Images / Getty Images

The first thing you’ll want to do is pull up a copy of your current report so you know where you stand. You can get free reports from all three agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — at annualcreditreport.com. Nitzsche said it’s important to take a moment and understand the financial snapshot of where you are today and where you want to be.

You’ll also want to take some time and look for any errors on your report, which could negatively impact your score. “If your name is misspelled, that’s not going to hurt your score,” he explained. “But if you see a late payment or missed payment (that’s in error), or maybe you have an account that should be reporting but isn’t, then that’s a problem and that will impact your score.”

If there is an error, you should dispute it and try to provide as much proof as you can.

One other thing: You can also ask a creditor to remove an issue if it’s been corrected (i.e., if you paid off a collection debt). Nitzsche said it doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst thing they could say is no.

2. Have good financial habits

“The biggest part of your credit score is payment history, so the most critical thing is never missing a due date,” Nitzsche said. Set up a monthly autopay or add all due dates to your calendar so you never miss a bill.

You can also achieve a higher score when you mix different types of accounts on your credit report. It may seem counterintuitive to get extra points for having debt in the form of student loans, mortgages and auto loans, but as long as you’re paying them off responsibly, it shows that you’re reliable.

3. Aim to use 30% or less of your credit at any given time

Know your credit limit and aim to only use 30% or less of it for a better credit score.Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Know your credit card limit, and try not to use any more than 30% of that number each month, otherwise your score could lose points for too much credit utilization.

Another thing you can do is ask your bank to increase your limit. “That will give you more flexibility to spend more,” Nitzsche said. You could also pay it off twice a month to keep the balance low. But he does warn that you never know when the balance is going to be reported to the bureau. It can happen at any point during the month, so it might be the day after you make the payment or the day before. “You don’t necessarily want to use the card and pay it the next day because that doesn’t give the bureau the chance to know that you’re using it,” he said.

4. Avoid requests for new credit

If you’re looking to increase your score around the time you want to buy a house or car, you won’t want to open up a new line of credit, like a retail card, credit card or loan. That’s because “hard” credit inquiries like those can lower your score, and sometimes it comes down to a few points over whether you’re approved or what your rate will be, Nitzsche said.

“Soft” credit inquiries, like when an employer checks your credit or when you pull your own report, won’t affect your score.

5. Keep all accounts open, even ones you don’t use anymore

Even if you don’t use that credit card from college, it’s a good idea to just keep it open because closing it could hurt your score. Nitzsche explained that you’ll be dinged some points for each account that is closed. If you want or need to mentally break up with a card, just cut it up instead.

6. Build your credit if needed

If you haven’t established credit yet, you might not even exist … in the credit report space, that is! “If someone has never fallen in delinquency on any subscriptions or utilities or never had collections on anything and they have not utilized credit cards or loans in the past seven to 10 years, they may not have a credit profile at all,” Nitzsche said. “That presents a challenge when you want to buy a home.”

If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a secured credit card where you put down a deposit, he advised. “You still have to make payments and use it responsibly. Not all banks offer them but you can usually check with your local bank or credit union.”

7. Reach out for help

If you want personal guidance on boosting your credit score, make an appointment with a credit counselor.kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

There are many apps and credit-monitoring services that can help you stay on top of your credit score. You could also reach out to a professional credit counselor who can help you navigate your specific situation. (Here’s a good resource about finding a reputable service.)

One last thing: Nitzsche warned that everyone should beware of credit repair scams that claim to be able to increase credit scores for an advance fee to get accurate negative information removed (even temporarily) from credit reports.

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Lifestyle News | ⚡How J&G Credit Recreations Assists Individuals to Gain Financial Stability Through Credit and Homeownership – LatestLY

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Lifestyle News | ⚡How J&G Credit Recreations Assists Individuals to Gain Financial Stability Through Credit and Homeownership  LatestLY

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