The Dire State of Latino Housing (and How to Deal with It)

By Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH Director, Salud America!, UT Health San Antonio


Where you live is linked to how healthy you are.

Sadly, U.S. Latino communities are marked by lower-quality, unaffordable housing, as well as high risk for eviction and displacement. This contributes to health inequities in this population.

That’s what we found in our new research review, The State of Latinos and Housing, Transportation, and Green Space, released on May 14, 2019, by my team at Salud America!, a national network for health equity at UT Health San Antonio.

But there’s good news.

Policymakers and community leaders can adopt dynamic land-use methods, transit-oriented development, public-private partnerships, and community involvement to create and revitalize Latino neighborhoods with more affordable housing, and thus opportunities for health equity, where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to achieve the best health possible.

Here are some of the key findings.

Housing impacts health

Latino and other families who struggle with rent, move often, or have any history of homelessness are “housing insecure.” These families have a high risk of food insecurity, energy (utility) insecurity, household and child foregone health care, and health cost sacrifices.

Physical conditions within the home, such as the presence of lead, particulates in the air, and allergens, can shape health outcomes for adults and children.Housing-Latinos-and-Cost-Struggles (1)

Neighborhood conditions surrounding the home help determine access to health-related resources including healthy foods, recreational spaces, medical resources, transportation, and educational or employment opportunities.

Latino families are burdened by high housing costs and eviction

The amount of Latinos who are “housing cost burdened”─spending 30% or more of household income on housing costs─grew from 42.4% in 2000 to 56.9% in 2015.

More Latinos rent their homes (54%) than their White peers (28%).

Housing-Keep-Renters-in-HomesThe rate of Latino renters forced to move involuntarily was significantly higher (23%) than for white (9%) and black (12%) renters, according to a Milwaukee study. One in 12 Latinas reported being evicted in their adult life, compared to 1 in 15 white women.

Housing inequities are causing Latino migration to suburban and rural areas

For many Latinos, living in urban centers is not sustainable if they cannot afford a place to live or easy way to get to work. This pushes low-wage workers into non-affluent suburbs or rural spaces, where housing is affordable but further away from jobs, transportation, and amenities.

Housing-Latinos-and-GentrificationLatinos are increasingly settling in new destination states of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Utah, and others primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, where jobs in agriculture, construction, and service are plentiful and housing is more affordable.

Since 1990, the Latino population in the rural United States has more than doubled.

This urban to rural shift leads to segregated Latino communities in areas that lack established Latino populations and have high rates of poverty.

 Increasing affordable housing options can improve Latino communities

Cities and community partners are increasingly pushing for more affordable housing, using tools like eased zoning standards, buying land to give to affordable developers, and setting up affordable housing trust funds for future projects.

Cities also are putting the issue of affordable housing to voters:

  • Voters in Austin, Texas (34.5% Latino), approved municipal bonds for affordable housing projects.
  • Voters in Charlotte, N.C. (13.7% Latino) approved an affordable housing trust, an ongoing public funding source for low-income housing developments.
  • Voters in Bellingham, Wash. (8.3% Latino) approved extending an existing property tax for new construction of affordable housing and the preservation of such homes.

Localities also can help keep renters in their homes with rental housing assistance or repair programs. For example, in 2009, Milwaukee tenants facing eviction were given access to emergency housing aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The city’s formal eviction rate fell by 15%.

Latinos benefit from transport-oriented development in their neighborhoods.

These developments improve affordable housing near public transit, jobs, and other amenities (retail, civic, social, etc.).

More-affordable-housingSuccessful transit-oriented developments in Latino neighborhoods in California have engaged advocates to push for affordable housing. They also added health care, child care, and plaza space, promoted public art, and formed groups to protect local interests.

What’s Next

Community leaders can increase the number of affordable housing initiatives using:

  • strategic land purchases for affordable housing developers;
  • inclusionary zoning, fee waivers;
  • efforts to repair and maintain existing affordable housing, acquire and repair vacant and abandoned homes, and rehabilitate mixed-income properties; and
  • Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), development incentives, and housing trust funds to ease developer maintenance and expansion of affordable housing units.

Housing-Entire-Affordable-DevelopersSalud America! is working to showcase opportunities for equitable change.

For example, Janet Houser cultivates healthy living and affordable housing in Colorado.

The city of San Antonio has adopted an affordable housing framework that will add an executive position to oversee housing, address restrictive zoning rules, help fund payment assistance and housing rehabilitation programs, and incentivize developers who build low-income housing.

These are emerging ways to prioritize investment in affordable housing.

We must pull together and address housing and other underlying social, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to health than to address the health disparities directly if we are to hope for long-term changes in Latino health and well-being.

Explore the new research review at

Amelie G. Ramirez is an internationally recognized researcher in Latino health promotion and behavioral change. She is director of Salud America!, a national Latino health equity promotion organization based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. Learn more about Dr. Ramirez here. Follow Salud America! on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Lessons from California’s Successful Statewide Ballot Campaign for Housing

Contributors: Nur Kausar, Housing California; Alina Harway, Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH); Jeannette Brown, Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH); Tom Collishaw, Self-Help Enterprises and Rob Wiener, California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH)

This article was originally published on April 12 in Shelterforce: The Voice of Community Development

In November 2018, Californians voted with their values when they passed Propositions 1 and 2, a combined $6 billion for affordable and supportive housing for lower-income Californians and for people chronically struggling on the streets while living with mental illness. Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, received 56 percent of the vote. Proposition 2, the No Place Like Home Act, received 63 percent.

California’s unique model for running a statewide campaign that relied on regional coordination and the voices of the people most impacted offers relevant insights to organizations around the nation. Offering views from statewide to regional, and spanning varied political climates and cultural contexts, here is a sample of unique strategies and tactics from what became known as “The Year of Affordable Housing” in California’s 2018 election cycle.

The State

California is home to more than 25 million registered voters spread across a diverse geography, each with its own unique political climate. The California Legislature placed Propositions 1 and 2 on the ballot, so a public campaign for these investments needed to be created from scratch and pushed out quickly, dissimilar to campaigns that may have started with a public signature gathering and education process.

Four diverse organizations spearheaded campaign coordination and fundraising: Housing California, California Housing Consortium, State Building Trades of California, and Silicon Valley Leadership Group. This statewide Props 1 and 2 team hired consultants, approved materials, secured major donors, and pumped relevant and cohesive information to each major regional artery that then branched out to local communities. This was done by creating four committees: Executive, Advisory, Fundraising, and Coalition and Communications – all of which included key allies and legislative leaders.

The campaign raised our top goal of $6 million thanks to a smart, multi-sector strategy for endorsements and contributions that included financial institutions, agriculture, health care, unions, and large businesses.

The Residents United Network was also an integral part of the campaign. This is a network of advocates who live and work in affordable housing developments across California. RUN conducted outreach within affordable communities to educate current and potential voters on the issues. This tactic allowed the campaign to reach voters that otherwise might get ignored, and expanded the leadership of low-income communities to use their powerful voice to continue to push for change.

Below, you’ll find more context and tactics for three regional arteries of the Props 1 and 2 campaign, written by regional leads.

Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area covers nine counties, 101 cities, and more than seven million people.

NPH activated Bay Area communications collaboratives to leverage the Prop 1 and Prop 2 content; grew an existing fundraising program, having demonstrated the value to our donor network through previous campaigns, and quickly folded in the Props 1 and 2 education and engagement content into our ongoing resident engagement programs.

Working with developer members to share targeted voter information across affordable housing properties, NPH distributed slate cards in four languages and voter registration posters in seven languages, to every county in the region. NPH also sent Get Out the Vote mail to registered voters living in affordable housing communities and employed a robust digital advertising campaign partially targeted to affordable housing residents.

Southern California

SCANPH serves the Southern California region of Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Together, these counties represent the largest population base in California, the greatest concentration of poverty and housing need, and a vibrant mix of communities with diverse resources and approaches to providing affordable housing.

Los Angeles historically has low voter turnout and the large geographic terrain of Southern California presents challenges for voter mobilization. Nevertheless, Los Angeles voters in recent years had already shown a strong commitment to addressing the housing crisis at the ballot.

 On the grassroots level, SCANPH conducted training sessions at member housing developments and across Southern California to advance civic engagement, greatly increasing the voter turnout rate.

Lessons Learned: The collective strength of SCANPH’s political reach is greatly amplified by member engagement via a committee framework, including a steering committee specifically for the campaign and a policy committee engaged on the substance of the measures; Southern California’s expansive geography requires consistent messaging dispersed in varied formats to reach necessary levels of magnitude; the power of storytelling has greater media resonance; voter education of residents represents an exciting opportunity to build an inclusive 21st-century democracy in the most populous region of the state and speaks to the importance of ongoing field work for future campaign work.

Rural California

“Rural” varies in California.  Interior counties tend to be the most conservative politically and view government as untrustworthy, invasive, and inefficient – although they depend on government in many ways. Coastal rural counties tend to be more liberal but are faced with strong push-back from environmentalists and wealthy residents who don’t want lower-income people and people of color to live in their exclusive enclaves.

Bond funding from Props 1 and 2 was treated just like taxation from a local conservative perspective. Because of this, we needed to work to make the issue personal and local. The Propositions 1 and 2 rural coalition went to service clubs and selected city councils to make the pitch, and in all cases localized the message, telling stories of people affected by the housing crisis.

On Election Day, the rural coalition was disappointed with the Valley results, where only two of eight counties approved the two measures by a 50 percent+ vote. However, if we consider support for Prop 2, the statewide and rural county margins actually increased.  Messaging here made a difference.

Rural lessons learned: Keep the message clear, don’t clutter the ballot with multiple housing asks, focus more on getting a majority of voters and less on counties less inclined to support, and personalize and localize the impacts.

Through the energy and hard work of dedicated organizations across the state, residents of California are now able to benefit from an initiative that provides robust funding for housing for low-income households. We look forward to building on California’s momentum with other ballot wins across the country. In 2020, we expect to elect a president who will expand housing affordability and work to decrease the severe shortage of affordable and available homes.

Gather additional tips and resources on voter and candidate engagement and education by checking out: Be sure to track this campaign on Twitter and Facebook with #OurHomesOurVotes2020.

#PutHousingFirst Campaign

By: Andreanecia Morris, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance

After Hurricane Katrina devasted New Orleans’s infrastructure, nonprofit housing builders and community development corporations came together to form the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) to collaborate in working to rebuild the housing stock. HousingNOLA grew out of our work at GNOHA. It is a 10-year partnership between community leaders and dozens of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve the city’s affordable housing crisis. This group crafted the city’s first-ever 10-year Strategy and Implementation Plan.

We at HousingNOLA support this plan by continuing to provide opportunities for local leaders to listen to the community, the community to educate policymakers on their housing needs, and bring diverse groups of people together to address the changes and challenges to affordable housing throughout New Orleans. Together, GNOHA and HousingNOLA launched the #PutHousingFirst campaign in 2017 to connect residents as partners in efforts to advance affordable housing policies. The campaign facilitates resident advocacy, skill building, and has secured several major policy victories since its launch.

Specifically, advocacy efforts led to Governor Edwards vetoing a bill that would have prevented New Orleans from implementing its Smart Housing Mix Ordinance, a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy, and would revise other voluntary programs. #PutHousingFirst has also impacted local and statewide elections making affordable housing a campaign issue for the first time. This includes its launch of HousingLOUISIANA, a statewide networking alliance linking nine Regional Housing Planning Areas across the state, which engages voters around housing issues to hold policymakers accountable.

Finally, the most recent #PutHousingFirst win came on Thursday, March 28, when the New Orleans City Council approved Ordinance 32,573. This approval was the next step to ensuring the Smart Housing Mix is implemented and a step towards putting housing first in New Orleans.

GNOHA and HousingNOLA’s #PutHousingFirst campaign was nominated for this year’s NLIHC Organizing Awards. Check out previous years’ blogs from Organizing Award winners and nominees.

To learn more about #PutHousingFirst, please visit:


This post is part of a series featuring blogs from NLIHC Organizing Awards winners and top nominees. 

Lakeland Housing Authority on the Rise

By: Benjamin Stevenson, Executive Director at the Housing Authority of the City of Lakeland

Lakeland Housing Authority LogoSince being designated as a Financially At Risk Public Housing Authority, we at Lakeland Housing Authority (LHA) are turning things around and pushing towards our mission to provide quality, affordable housing and self-sufficiency opportunities in Lakeland and Polk County, Florida. We not only completed a Corrective Action Plan and Recovery Plan with HUD in 2012 and 2013 respectively, but we have also received four consecutive years of High Performer designations for our Public Housing and Section 8 programs by HUD from 2014 to 2017 and were named the 2018 Housing Authority of the Year for the state of Florida.

Facing the stigma of being classified as a financially troubled agency forced us to get in front of many challenges and difficult decisions. We began shifting our focus to solutions and learning how and when to spend the few funds available to continue moving development projects forward. Not to mention, the need in our region is great; there are only three affordable housing units available for every ten families that need it.

We have been actively involved in the affordable housing industry seeking ways to create additional affordable rental opportunities for low-income families. Because of our negotiations, a vacant lot of nearly 20 years next to an LHA site was turned into a Circle K and opened in 2017. It features a hot kitchen and has provided employment opportunities, scholarships to a neighborhood school, and a local job fair. In 2018, our newest development, the Micro-Cottages at Williamstown, opened. It is an innovative community design of 48 tiny homes for the elderly with a preference given to veterans and provides health care services on site thanks to a community partner. Finally, Youth-Build Lakeland is a program we’ve facilitated for 10 consecutive years offering education and job training opportunities.

The LHA staff has worked very hard over the past few years to turn the agency around. While we celebrate these successes, we still face a severe shortage of affordable housing in our area. We continue to seek ways to create additional affordable rental opportunities for low-income people in our communities.

Among organizations who were nominated for this year’s NLIHC Organizing Awards, some were nominated for best practices and services in their community. Lakeland Housing Authority was among these. Check out previous years’ blogs from Organizing Award winners and nominees.

To learn more about the Lakeland Housing Authority’s work, please visit:


This post is part of a series featuring blogs from NLIHC Organizing Awards winners and top nominees. 

How One Community Land Trust is Strengthening Its Community

By: Christina Olson, Programs Director at Kulshan Community Land Trust

At Kulshan Community Land Trust (KulshanCLT), we strengthen our community in Washington State by holding land in trust for permanently affordable homeownership and by offering financial services to low-income people. Our program improves the lives, well-being, and economic self-sufficiency of low- to moderate-income households by meeting the basic need of a home using the community land trust strategy. We also help low-income renters through our housing counseling programs and by freeing up rentals by assisting others in becoming homeowners.

The median value of homes in the past decade has increased by 96% while family incomes have increased by only 23%, according to the City of Bellingham. KulshanCLT has grown to meet the challenge of providing access to homes people can afford to buy in our community that are also close to jobs and services. By the end of 2018, KulshanCLT had acquired a total of 129 properties in the trust and served 194 homebuyers including 65 resales.


The average KulshanCLT home, upon initial purchase, has been affordable to a household earning 65% of AMI for their household size. Five resale homes in 2018 saw a 4% gain in affordability. Twenty-five homeowners (19% of our portfolio) have solar electric systems installed on their homes, providing the current and future homeowners electricity that is both affordable and sustainable.

As home prices have rapidly outpaced available down payment assistance in recent years, our program has had to adapt to include new construction to increase our supply of affordable homes. Habitat for Humanity has become an essential partner, enabling us to stretch our assistance with their donated labor and materials.

Though the political environment is becoming more aware of the housing crisis and there is some indication that more funding will become available, we will continue to advocate for additional resources for low-income housing at the state and local levels and to strive for more ease of permitting and higher density zoning to provide as many permanently affordable homes as possible.

Among organizations who were nominated for this year’s NLIHC Organizing Awards, some were nominated for best practices and services in their community. Kulshan Community Land Trust (KulshanCLT) was among these. Check out previous years’ blogs from Organizing Award winners and nominees.

To learn more about Kulshan Community Land Trust’s work, please visit:


This post is part of a series featuring blogs from NLIHC Organizing Awards winners and top nominees.