By Marianne Lynch, Chief Executive Officer
Over the last year, I have had the privilege of serving on the Montgomery County Affordable Housing Task Force. It has been an honor to be in the same room with so many representatives from Government, the private sector and other non-profits all gathered together to determine the challenges that so many families are facing in trying to find a home that is affordable. This week, some of the findings of the committee have been released and they are a bit daunting to say the least.
In Montgomery County, half of the renters in our community pay more than 30% of their incomes towards housing cost. At the same time, the price of a home in 2019 is $295,000, up from $285,000 just a year ago. Seniors are also struggling to age in place due to redevelopment and rising taxes and people who work in our area, like police officers or teachers can no longer afford to live here. In our area, a family would need to make $24.35 per hour in order to afford the average two-bedroom apartment.
These issues are not unique to Montgomery County, but are present throughout the region and in many places around the country. In places like San Francisco or New York City, the cost of having a roof over your head is rising faster than your income can compete. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, there is a shortage of 7.2 million units of affordable housing across the country.
So, what does that mean to our community and our quality of life? First, it means that families are sacrificing things like food and medicine to pay for housing. It means that they move more often, chasing affordable rents and communities, uprooting kids and creating instability that can lead to behavior issues, health problems and more. It means that seniors are being displaced due to gentrification and redevelopment of what were once affordable communities. This displacement means that many of them become residents in assisted living facilities funded by taxpayers. It means that the next generation is not able to pay student loans, build wealth or even meet basic needs. It means that all communities suffer from things like commuter traffic, community disconnection and apathy because people are unable to put down roots. For me, it means that my son, who is studying to become a secondary school teacher, probably won’t be able to live near me and won’t be able to purchase a home of his own for a very long time, if ever.
While much of the picture I paint seems hopeless, I think that there are solutions. First, people need to know the problem exists, second, they have to understand the impact to their own life and third, they need to feel compelled to act. I believe that if you are reading my blog, you already are on board, but probably wondering what you can do to help. Let me share some great places to start!
We are joining with 1,200 other Habitat affiliates around the country in rolling out Habitat for Humanity’s first national advocacy campaign, The Cost of Home. The easiest thing to do is to start following our efforts on social media and sharing them with others. Follow us at habitatmontdelco and be on the lookout for the launch of @costofhome on June 12 across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share our posts or create your own talking about how affordability is important to all of us.
If social media isn’t your thing, there are so many other ways to help bring light to this issue including contacting your local, regional and state political leaders as well as your congressional representatives. Send us an email and we can help you get started with postcards, letters and more to send to your leaders.
Not the political type? That’s fine too! We need help to tip the affordable housing scales back in our favor by building homes, addressing blight in our communities, helping fund repairs for seniors, and teaching people how to increase their incomes through financial education. To reach more people, we need you – as volunteers, investors, and advocates. There are so many ways to get involved that I can guarantee we have a place for you in helping solve this seemingly insurmountable issue. You can sign up to volunteer through our website, contact me for more information on getting or share my blog to get others involved as well.
The great thing about working with so many others on this issue is that, when we combine our efforts, it is very hard to ignore the voices of so many people calling attention to affordability in unison.
Stay tuned on June 12 for even more ideas on The Cost of Home.