Partnership Staff Spotlight: Samaila Adelaiye

Photo of Samaila Adelaiye By: Samaila Adelaiye, PhD, Research and Policy Fellow

I have always been intrigued by political processes and their outcomes. My undergraduate degree in international studies laid the foundation for my fascination with international politics, ultimately guiding me toward academia. Following my undergraduate studies, I pursued a master’s degree at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where I was first exposed to policy research. Initially, my focus was on international security, but my interests later expanded to encompass issues of international development. Subsequently, I earned a PhD in political science and sought to embark on an academic career. However, a little shy of two years after earning my degree, I transitioned into public policy research with a focus on housing.

Interestingly, just before moving to Buffalo, New York, to pursue a doctorate, I had a temporary role at the Aberdeen City Council, where I worked in the homelessness section. Although my responsibilities were primarily clerical, this experience provided invaluable glimpses into the administration of homelessness support. At the time, the city prided itself on its successful record of ensuring that no one who sought homeless assistance had to spend the night unsheltered. Digitizing client files allowed me to witness the diverse stories and circumstances that led to the loss of their homes. This was the first time I worked in a housing-related role.

Pursuing a PhD in political science has fueled my fascination with research and policy change. Over the years, I dedicated myself to exploring topics of academic interest, presenting my findings at conferences, and eventually publishing them. My interest in quantitative research methods, data analysis, and evidence-based approaches grew along the way. This inclination extended to my teaching methods, where I found myself drawn to understanding what research indicates works and what does not. So, transitioning into researching state policy, I carried this enthusiasm with me.

After completing my PhD and spending time in academia, I began exploring opportunities to transition into the public policy research space. Drawing from my volunteering experiences, which provided valuable insights into education and opportunity, as well as my research on issues of poverty and human security, I sought to apply my expertise more impactfully. This led me to join Connecticut Voices for Children.

At Connecticut Voices for Children, my initial project delved into issues I had long been passionate about from the sidelines. I applied my quantitative research training to a project focusing on education and justice, which provided valuable learning experiences. Throughout this project, I gleaned valuable insights from my co-author. Following the completion of this report, my focus shifted towards housing issues. Since then, I have immersed myself deeply in research addressing the challenges surrounding housing security.

As a research and policy fellow with Connecticut Voices for Children, I worked on housing reports that delved into topics such as eviction and housing displacement. These reports provided insight into the socio-economic outcomes and the significant racial impact of housing policies, along with the persistent historical patterns underlying them. Throughout these projects, I relied heavily on quantitative analysis of publicly available data to illustrate these patterns and analyze relationships.

My journey into housing research began with addressing evictions in Connecticut. The project shed light on the profound impact of evictions on families and communities and offered recommendations for addressing the crisis. As part of this endeavor, two reports were published, examining both short and long-term solutions to the eviction crisis. The reports underscored how housing affordability problems increase the likelihood of evictions for the most vulnerable in our communities, as earnings have not kept up with rents, rendering housing increasingly unaffordable. Additionally, the prevalence of evictions in communities of color was highlighted, emphasizing its disparate impact on families. Furthermore, we were able to emphasize how rental assistance and state intervention protected many renters from eviction during the pandemic.

Subsequently, I embarked on a project focusing on housing displacement more broadly. This involved exploring the relationship between housing supply, affordability, and displacement for both homeowners and renters, while also proposing policies aimed at mitigating these challenges. This report drew attention to how zoning and land use restrictions lie at the root of a cycle of high housing costs that displaces residents and makes it difficult for them to find stable housing.

The housing projects I worked on involved extensive literature reviews on pertinent issues, and I benefited immensely from the assistance of several housing professionals across the state. Housing is intricately linked to outcomes across various areas I deeply care about, including education, economic mobility, poverty, and public health. The profound racial impact of housing policies, along with the historical factors contributing to the persistence of these patterns, emerged as a significant area of interest.

Housing research in the advocacy sector differs significantly from academic research. As a mentor aptly put it, policy research is akin to working with live ammunition. For me, this transition to research directly influencing policies, while exciting, carries a new form of responsibility and provides an opportunity to witness the real-life impact of your work. The constant reminder of the importance of the work, beyond mere research intrigue, underscores the goal of addressing policy based on evidence.

In my recent exploration of evidence-based housing policy assessment, I have been particularly focused on rental assistance. “The Voucher Promise,” a book authored by Eva Rosen, has provided valuable insights into the effectiveness of federal housing choice vouchers in enhancing the lives of many individuals and families. The analysis in the book acknowledges that housing insecurity, the concentration of poverty, and the limitations of housing choice voucher programs are all deeply rooted in historical policies and laws. This serves as a poignant reminder that resolving the housing crisis demands more than just augmenting the housing supply; it necessitates addressing systemic issues at their core.

Through the narratives of individuals who, despite owning their homes outright, have found themselves in need of housing vouchers, as well as those who have suddenly become housing insecure, the book highlights the pressing need for a robust system of rental assistance. Despite the challenges outlined in these personal stories, the book also emphasizes how housing vouchers have lifted many individuals out of poverty and homelessness, providing them with stability. Moreover, the book effectively addresses misconceptions about people who use housing choice vouchers, countering harmful “folk theories” that are prevalent in society.

Active interventions aimed at ensuring housing security are a major interest for me. Having lived in various places with differing levels of housing regulations and income support systems for those struggling with housing costs, I have observed how housing profoundly influences one’s ability to advance economically and access important resources such as schools. It is evident that where there is more active support to address the issue of affordability, fewer people are harmed, and more individuals can find stability. As more people struggle with housing costs, the problem is particularly salient for young people.

CNBC recently aired a report highlighting the escalating rent prices in New York City. The report followed the stories of three individuals earning decent wages, highlighting how, within a short span of time, the city became financially unattainable for them. From receiving notices of rent increases to embarking on the arduous journey of finding new accommodation, the report vividly portrayed the challenges of housing affordability.

This depiction of the housing crisis hits close to home, prompting reflection on the plight of thousands of families earning even less. It paints a grim picture of the future of housing affordability, particularly for young adults. This struggle resonates beyond New York City and is indicative of the challenges faced by young workers across states, including here in Connecticut, where a considerable proportion of renters are cost-burdened.

Despite the diversity of places I have lived, there are similar patterns, particularly regarding societal attitudes towards individuals relying on government assistance for housing and varying levels of economic segregation. Here, policies that favor resource accumulation in certain communities while imposing barriers on access for others are challenging to overlook. The visible residential segregation based on factors such as race, ethnicity, or income often extends its impact to other aspects of life, including access to schools, job opportunities, and recreational amenities. This constant reminder emphasizes the importance of housing policy research and advocacy.

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