Population Health Blog

Population Health Blog

Why It Matters

Where’s the political will to create low income housing?

By Dennis Archambault
With the domination of international, political, and sex scandal coverage in the news media (actual and “fake”), it’s difficult to get a reading on domestic U.S. human service policy. For example, what is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) up to?

HousingWire https://www.housingwire.com magazine offers a glimpse into what HUD Secretary Ben Carson may be up to with an interview in its current edition. Secretary Carson quantifies a problem that has been evident for some time – 11 million renter households in America are severely cost-burdened, spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing. There are nearly 500,000 homeless families and 40,000 homeless veterans. Carson noted that essentially, HUD’s response its Rental Assistance Demonstration https://www.hud.gov/RADprogram, which allows localities to leverage public and private funds to ensure that public housing units are maintained and improved. However, there doesn’t appear to be funding for new development.

There are 11.4 million extremely low income (ELI) renter households in the United States, about 26 percent of all U.S. renter households and nearly 10 percent of all households, according to a 2017 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Gap-Report_2017.pdf. The U.S. has a shortage of 7.4 million affordable and available rental homes for ELI renter households, resulting in 35 affordable and available units for every 100 ELI renter households.

Certainly, many of those households are in Detroit and scattered throughout Southeast Michigan. Yet there doesn’t appear to be any new housing units planned. With all the abandoned apartments in the city, and certainly the gaps in the built infrastructure of the city, there’s plenty of space to house folks. All we need is the political will to make it happen. That requires considerable hope.

Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, for Authority Health.

Detroit fugitive dust management ordinance represents necessary tactic for environmental health

By Dennis Archambault

Critics of environmental health advocates will often point to the absence of  “sound science”  or “conclusive evidence.”  The problem is, most advocates don’t have time or money that industry has to evaluate claims.  And conclusive evidence is seldom available. Although the evidence for the human impact on climate change has met the scrutiny of several legitimate scientific authorities, still the critics express doubt and procrastinate as long as profit can be made.

The resistance to an ordinance drafted by Detroit City Council Member  Rachel Casteneda-Lopez to implement tougher regulations on the transportation and storage of carbonaceous materials, such as  “pet coke,” has featured similar complaints: lack of scientific basis, existing federal, state, and county regulations on managing fugitive dust, a lack of complaints, and the potential impact on jobs. The ordinance originated with the discovery of mounds of pet coke stored in the open along the Detroit River.

As one researcher pointed out recently, decisions to act in support of public health should not wait until there is 100 percent certainty of the validity of the risk and the source of the problem. In event of public health and safety, decisions are made with the best information and greatest likelihood they will protect life.

Industry complains that increased regulation is unnecessary, will contribute to reduced profits and/or increased product costs, and possible job loss. Regarding the latter, some residents may question whose jobs would be lost, given that relatively few Detroit residents work for these industries.

The environmental quality in Southwest Detroit/Downriver Delta communities is much better than it was decades ago, but remains bad, especially as it pertains to lung disease. Industry research and development is generally oriented to maximum efficiency of production systems and worker safety. However, it should also include environmental impact. Industry can afford it. Advocates can’t. Academic researchers may contribute with grant-funded research, but by the time permit requests and other environmental actions are posed, there isn’t sufficient time for research to be undertaken.

The action by Council Member Casteneda-Lopez and other Detroit City Council members who passed the ordinance on Oct. 29 takes another step toward protecting their constituents and improving environmental quality for the region. It may cost industry a little more to implement, but it’s the cost of doing business in a healthy community.

For an account of the proceedings, read this Detroit Free Press article: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2017/10/31/detroit-pet-coke-regulations/817246001/

Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, Authority Health.