Severin Saenz of MEDA’s Evaluation team needed to be creative and strategic when she decided it would be valuable to do a survey of clients’ housing arrangements. What would be the relevant questions that would provide needed insight? What would be culturally relevant to Latino respondents, her target audience.
To determine the best questions, Saenz headed to partner organization Causa Justa :: Just Cause, conveniently located one floor down in MEDA’s Plaza Adelante Mission neighborhood center. The result was a two-sided, bilingual survey featuring simple questions that could be answered in five minutes or fewer as clients waited for their appointments this past tax season. Saenz knew that with 3,700 tax returns prepared for free by MEDA, this was an idyllic way to capture an accurate glimpse of the community’s housing issues.
“The goal was to determine overcrowding and housing vulnerability. The survey comprised seven quick questions by which maximum results could be gleaned,” explains Saenz of her process.
An exemplary 60 percent rate of return translated to 2,042 completed surveys. There were 74 percent of respondents who identified as Latino.
It was time to dig into the data.
The data dive
Saenz took the surveys’ information and started her in-depth analysis.
On average, three to five persons are living in one unit, with the majority in one-bedroom units (41 percent). Twenty percent were single, with 21 percent a couple or single parent with one child.
Saenz knew that understanding the type structure people are living in would best determine housing vulnerability. A March 2015 report by NALCAB, “An Assessment of Housing and Housing Affordability in the Mission Promise Neighborhood,” showed that 73 percent of Mission residents overall were renters. That percentage is even higher for the Mission’s Latino community. The most vulnerable were those in a single-family home because of a possible new owner move-in (32 percent), followed by those in a boarding home or single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel.
Gauging by how many people per bedroom were denoted in the survey, Saenz found that 21 percent of respondents reported living in overcrowded conditions (more than two people per bedroom, per HUD’s definition); however, the rate of overcrowding was more than twice as high among Latinos than non-Latinos.
Interestingly, five percent of respondents claimed to have been “without shelter” in the last year.
“These results showcase the continued housing vulnerabilities of our families, many living in overcrowded conditions. MEDA staff can now use this information to drive policy — that’s the power of data,” concludes Saenz.
Read the full survey analysis in this report.