One of the terrible effects of our unaffordable housing market is an increase in the number of people living on our streets. According to unofficial estimates, there are roughy 1,000 homeless people in Berkeley. More than 600 are unsheltered.
This drastic rise in homelessness is due to a number of factors. While defunding of mental health services, as well as inadequate funding for support services for disabled residents are significant components, a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty are largely responsible for this crisis. As housing prices rapidly increase, there is an enduring lack of affordable housing.
20% of Berkeley’s residents are living below the poverty line (twice the national average) and many renters are paying more than half of their income on their housing, leaving little for other expenses.
Key to keeping our city diverse and affordable is the creation of new low-income housing. Unfortunately, we have seen shrinking funding from the federal government, and deep cuts to our Section 8 program. This makes it increasingly harder to provide affordable housing, despite the growing need for it.
It’s no secret that in recent years we haven’t been able to provide the services needed to adequately serve the homeless community - alleviate their suffering - and to move them from the streets to building.
This is simply unacceptable. It is a great failure of our society that we have allowed this humanitarian crisis to grow so far out of hand - not just in our city, but across our country. It is a top priority of this administration to address the crisis of homelessness in our city.