Shelter is a basic human need without which other concerns cannot be effectively addressed. Once in stable housing, an individual has greater capacity to pursue education or employment, to work towards better health, or to focus on other personal goals to improve one’s quality of life. Research confirms that stable affordable housing provides low income individuals an increased chance of upward mobility.
All across the nation, cities are facing a serious crisis of a lack of affordable housing. The problem directly affects both homeowners and renters, who may struggle with meeting other needs such as food, health care, educational opportunities, child care, and transportation. This impacts whole communities. The limited ability of people to spend money on other consumer goods and services impacts job growth and economic development across all sectors of the local economy.
National Low Income Housing Coalition. 2019. Out of Reach 2019. https://reports.nlihc.org/oor.
Homeownership scored 33.00 – no change from baseline. Disparities in who owns homes and who is most impacted by the lack of affordable housing are explored in this topic.
Homeownership is an indicator that is both an outcome and an opportunity. It is an outcome because it generally indicates that an individual’s income is sufficient and steady enough to afford a down payment and mortgage. It represents an opportunity because it is a key tool for building long-term wealth, which enables the homeowner to leverage that wealth to save and invest money, to borrow more money at reasonable rates, and to pass wealth on to his or her children. Whites are almost twice as likely as African Americans in Tulsa to own their homes – making it more challenging for African Americans to accumulate wealth and to have greater control over location and home and neighborhood conditions.
Most people find it necessary to take out a loan to purchase a home – a process that is not always easy or successful. Among Tulsans, Native Americans are about two and a half times as likely to be denied a home loan as are Asians. Several factors determine whether a loan is approved or denied. An appraisal value lower than the purchase price, insufficient funds for down payment and closing costs, high debt to income ratio, and bad or no credit all contribute to a home loan denial.
The affordable housing crisis is possibly most apparent in the disparity regarding households spending more than 30% of income on mortgage – known as housing cost burden. In order to maintain a basic household budget, no more than 30% of a household’s income should go towards housing expenses; a greater share allocated to housing expenses means insufficient funds for other basic necessities like food, medical care, transportation, and child care.
This year’s equality score for Homelessness is 54.00, down 3.33 points from the baseline. Improvements in equality for homeless veterans were outweighed by growing disparity among youth and persons with disabilities.
The number of persons experiencing homelessness in Tulsa is growing, as it is all over the nation. In 2018 a total of 5,612 unique individuals stayed at emergency shelters and in transitional housing programs in Tulsa County. Many more slept outdoors, in vehicles, or on friends’ couches. Based on surveys of individuals staying in various homeless shelters in Tulsa County, 7% are veterans, 30% have physical disabilities, 45% report having a mental illness, 27% report a substance abuse problem, and 24% have experienced domestic violence. A third of those staying in shelters are chronically homeless, meaning that they have experienced homelessness for at least a year, or repeatedly, while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability. About 10% of Tulsans experiencing homelessness are young people aged 13 to 25. Of those, 29% are LGBT+ and 32% have been involved in the foster care system.
The lack of affordable housing is one of the major challenges to substantially reducing or even eliminating homelessness.
 Community Service Council. 2019. Homelessness in Tulsa. https://csctulsa.org/single-year-homelessness-data/.
The topic of Tenant Stability, with a score of 38.67, focuses on disparities in experiences of renters in Tulsa.
Like housing cost burden, rent burden is a serious problem across the country and in Tulsa that results from the lack of affordable housing. The shortage of affordable rental properties for low to moderate income Tulsans means that many are forced to spend more than 30% of their income on rent. As mentioned previously, a high rent burden could mean insufficient funds to pay for other basic necessities such as food, healthcare, child care, and transportation. With little room in a budget for emergencies or unexpected expenses, eviction is a possible outcome. At 7.8%, Tulsa has the 11th highest eviction rate of all cities in the nation. Renters living in non-majority White census tracts in Tulsa face higher eviction rates than do renters in majority White tracts.
Complaints made to the Tulsa Health Department regarding housing related issues typically are made by renters, and shed light on quality and maintenance of rental properties and responsiveness of property management to promptly meet tenants’ needs. Differences in frequency of complaints point to disparities for renters living in different parts of Tulsa.