Affordable Housing Shortage
With our President now using the complex challenge of homelessness as a weapon to stir up votes, we need to take a breath and ask ourselves what can we do to address this problem in our community. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless “A lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs have contributed to the current housing crisis and to homelessness.” They also site the lack of a livable income and the resulting poverty that is inextricably linked to homelessness.From our local perspective, we see that chronic disability, mental illness and addiction are prevalent in those individuals identified by our local homeless service providers. We also know that domestic violence survivors are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness. So I am confused….are these the individuals that President Trump suggests that we should fear or relegate to congregate living in government run homeless shelters?
We know that more affordable housing is a big part of the solution. An article published this week in the Atlantic, quoted an expert in housing as saying: “You can’t build low-cost housing at a profit and I wish you could. You can build it efficiently and economically as long as you have assistance and help from the government.And I wish we could get that help from the government because it’s desperately needed. When you look at the homeless, when you look at all the problems on the streets, a lot of that is directly related to a lack of housing.” That expert was Donald Trump, appearing on Crossfire in 1987.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but he was absolutely right. Unfortunately, each year our state legislature makes choices to allocate only a small portion (about 25%) of the available affordable housing resources in the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust fund for actual affordable housing solutions for our state. There are always competing priorities and our elected officials bend to the collective political pressure that makes affordable housing less than essential. Our City and County governments utilize the limited available resources as best they can, funding affordable housing construction and rehabilitation, with at least 30% of SHIP funds going to very-low-income households. Without additional resources, the collective impact of these efforts is very small.
We know that many more affordable, permanent housing units are needed to impact the nearly 1000 individuals who are identified as experiencing homelessness by the local Big Bend Continuum of Care’s Point in Time annual homeless count each January. This number is increasing locally as it is across the country. As we make systemic changes in our affordable housing stock, local shelters and basic needs providers are struggling to meet this burgeoning demand….So please, donate locally and let our legislators know that you think affordable housing is a priority that can help improve the quality of life for all of our neighbors.
Dan Moore is the Executive Director of Ability1st, a local human services organization serving people with disabilities.