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Miami's Affordable Housing Crisis Is Also Making Dade's HIV/AIDs Problem Worse

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Finding affordable housing in Miami has never been harder, and the problem affects the whole city: It worsens traffic gridlock by forcing workers to live at the edges of the county, drives out bright college grads who would otherwise stay, and can even prevent domestic violence victims from leaving their abusers.

A new study points to yet another complication: The crisis might be preventing more HIV/AIDS patients from getting treatment. According to data from 9,500 Miami residents with HIV/AIDS, 30 percent of those who were homeless or in impermanent housing had high viral loads, suggesting that housing stability highly correlates with better health outcomes. The statistic was included in a report from the county's new task force, Getting to Zero, which was convened last year after Miami-Dade was ranked number one in the nation for new HIV infections.

"Housing and transportation are extraordinarily important factors impacting people living with HIV/AIDS and affecting their linkage to (and retention in) HIV care," the report says.

Miami receives federal funding specifically meant for housing people with HIV/AIDS, but as rents rise, fewer people can be helped. As of last year, an estimated 10,787 of them needed housing assistance, but the city was able to hand out only 1,032 vouchers.

That's a problem, because according to a recent county survey, the average income for a person living with HIV/AIDS was just $1,204 a month, barely enough to afford a studio apartment and still pay for necessities such as food and electricity. Twenty percent of survey takers said they were in impermanent housing: either homeless, bunking with family or friends, renting a room by the week or month, or in other transitional living quarters.

Many said they did not have enough money for a security deposit plus first and last month’s rent, while others had no credit or bad credit. Some said they didn’t have transportation to look for housing. If given the opportunity, most (60 percent) said they'd like to live in the city of Miami; others chose Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, and Hialeah.

Even those who had secured housing weren't out of the woods. Thirteen percent reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of their HIV/AIDS status, sexual orientation, or status as an ex-offender, while 11 percent said their landlord had disclosed their HIV/AIDS status to others without their consent. In fact, one of the top three reasons for moving was a desire for more privacy about their status.

For now, though, it appears the problem is primed to get worse before it gets better: Due to a change in federal housing law last year, Miami-Dade will lose $600,000 to help house people with HIV/AIDS, according to the county.

In response, Getting to Zero member Roberto Tazoe says the county has discontinued a program that once helped those sick residents catch up on rent or avoid foreclosure.

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