Low Income Latinos’ Housing Stability: The Small Rural Town Perspective

Annie Roberts
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This study investigates the characteristics and causes of housing related problems for Latinos/as in low-income neighborhoods in rural small cities such as Walla Walla, Washington. Specifically, what factors foster rental stability or instability in Walla Walla? Also, what is the quality of housing in Walla Walla like? Is there substandard housing in Walla Walla? What are the issues that impede or prevent home-ownership? Finally, why are things this way in Walla Walla? I partnered with Commitment to Community, a Walla Walla neighborhood-based organization, in this effort.

Methods: In order to study housing issues I conducted separate surveys for renters and for homeowners. The issues I wanted to know more about were different for homeowners and renters: what problems renters faced and how homeowners were able to own.

Findings: Although the Latino population is relatively permanent in Walla Walla, there is still a low level of education about homeownership and tenant rights. The respondents with unstable rental housing are generally very active in society. They may be more likely to identify problems they have and try to fix them by moving because the resources available do not offer solutions to housing problems. There is a dearth of groups and organizations in Walla Walla County that cater specifically to the Spanish-speaking community’s housing needs. However, community organizations could play a powerful role in helping foster rental stability and increasing the likelihood of becoming a homeowner by developing programs that educate about housing rights and possibilities.

Recommendations: Specifically, I advocate for the formation of groups, classes, or clubs that educate about the rights of tenants and also offer concrete tools for how people can improve their housing situation. Second, I suggest that Walla Walla County expand the program Crime Free Rental Properties to replicate some of the successful aspects of the rental inspection and licensing program that Pasco, Washington currently uses. This program licenses all rental properties to certify that the housing is suitable and up to code. Through these inspections, the program simultaneously educates tenants about what the state requires of landlords. Tenants are thus more aware of what they can demand from their landlords. Walla Walla does not need to add this entire program because the incidence of substandard housing is lower in Walla Walla than in Pasco.

 

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