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This year, we’ve reformed the Index to focus on unhoused youth and young adults (YYA), aligning it with their experiences and policy needs. Shifting from harm reduction to transformative change, some jurisdictions may see lower scores than before. This is a deliberate strategy, not a setback. Lower scores should motivate, not discourage, jurisdictions. They present an opportunity to adopt policies that effectively tackle and prevent youth homelessness, fostering meaningful progress.

Code Enforcement for Uninhabitable Housing

  • Habitability of housing
  • Shifting power

A remedy for uninhabitable or substandard housing is complaint submission to state/territorial or local code enforcement

Lawsuits are not only costly and time-consuming, their slow pace makes them a very bad option for remedying harms that are, by their nature, emergencies. Administrative remedies were originally created to provide an alternative to filing in court. They typically involve submitting some sort of complaint, at least one hearing, and some sort of appeals process. But mandatory exhaustion of administrative remedies similarly slows tenants down from remedying harms that are urgent. Unfortunately, many of the remedies available to tenants to deal with uninhabitable housing require going through some kind of court or administrative process. One idea for reimagining this requirement is to allow tenants the option to submit a complaint to code enforcement and let that government agency handle the rest. This could take the burden off the tenant in dealing with habitability issues and place it on a government agency that has more power and authority over the landlord.

NOTE: Many cities and towns have a code enforcement office and some provide assistance to tenants in addressing issues in rental properties. This map does not address that. It only highlights jurisdictions where the state or territory law provides for code enforcement as a remedy.

Key Metric Score Type of Policy Description
1.0 Reform A remedy for uninhabitable or substandard housing is submitting a complaint to code enforcement
0.0 Status Quo No law found

Cite: National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United. "State Index on Youth Homelessness, Code Enforcement for Uninhabitable Housing" https://youthstateindex.com/maps/code-enforcement-for-uninhabitable-housing/. Accessed: February 24, 2024.

Habitability of housing

A habitable dwelling is one that is safe, clean, and suitable for living in. It is an essential component of the right to housing. In general, landlords have a legal obligation to maintain habitability in their rental properties, including working heat, hot water and electricity, and addressing issues like broken locks or infestations. However, jurisdictions vary in how much power renters have to hold landlords responsible to fix unsafe or unlivable conditions.

“It’s one thing to get housing, it’s another to have to feel uncomfortable in that housing. NYCHA supportive housing can be dangerous, too many repairs, infestations. People going through housing insecurity are expected to deal with these things. Housing is often seen as a profit maker and not a basic right. Landlords and property managers should care more and keep up on their buildings.”– Kemi Adebisi-Oke

Shifting power

Shifting power in housing refers to a change in the dynamics of control and decision-making regarding housing. Historically, power in housing has been concentrated in the hands of wealthy individuals and corporations, leaving marginalized communities with limited say in the development and management of their homes and neighborhoods. However, there has been a growing movement towards shifting power towards these communities, with a focus on community-led development, tenant rights, and affordable housing.

Shifting power in housing can also help us move towards the decommodification of housing, which is when housing is treated primarily as a place to live rather than a financial asset or means of accumulating profit. There are a few types of decommodified housing, such as public or social housing (housing owned by governments or other public entities) or shared equity housing (housing owned by a group of residents, community members, or community organizations). But decommodified housing today constitutes less than 1 percent of US housing stock. The Index tracks a few policies that jurisdictions can enact to support shared equity models but action is needed on the federal level to reinvest in public housing and to support efforts like a Homes Guarantee.

“Autonomy in housing choice – I think about subsidized housing and what I had to give up to access it. Privacy was lacking when accessing certain things, like refrigerators had to be looked in. Over policing in these spaces removes privacy and autonomy and the impact on mental health in spaces that lack autonomy and privacy is devastating. Constantly looking for notices, constantly anxious about conditions of housing and maintenance checks. This causes stress and anxiety with my son, as well. MULTIGENERATIONAL stresses, constantly on the defense. Housing should preserve dignity and respect.” – Tiffany S. Haynes