18 Relatives in a Deadly Fire: For Some, Crowded Housing Is Not a Choice

“This is an older home in need of substantial rehabilitation,” said John Kromer, who was the city’s director of housing from 1992 to 2001 and briefly served as acting head of the housing authority. “Without sufficient funds to support a program like that, I think problems are bound to arise.”

With such a restriction of available housing, it is not easy to move from an apartment to a larger one, even when the needs of the family change. Shakia Miller, who lives in a three-bedroom unit at West Park Apartments, which are owned and operated by the housing authority, applied for a larger place when she was pregnant with twins. They are now 9 years old, but the family, which includes Miller’s three oldest children, still live in the same apartment.

“Emotionally, it affects everyone,” Miller said. “I don’t have space of my own, my children don’t have space of their own. It’s uncomfortable, it’s very uncomfortable, nobody has peace of mind. “

She has followed up with the housing authority numerous times over the years, she said, only to be told she was on the list. She didn’t have much hope.

“I’m not going to say I threw all in the towel, but it’s halfway there,” Miller said. “Because I realize that as time goes on, they don’t really care. They don’t really care. “

Still, there are hardly any other options for a low-income family, and those who have managed to find subsidized apartments are extremely reluctant to let them go, even if it means becoming desperately overcrowded as their families grow.

“Households do everything they can to stay housed,” said Vincent Reina, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. “They make dire concessions: they trade food, health care and other basic necessities.”

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