Helping Hands

Helping Hands | Low-income housing is topic worth discussing

September 25, 2013 

Our schools work hard to teach the value of different ideas, cultures, and people — the value of the melting pot that is our nation. Diversity, though sometimes an overused term, is considered an element that strengthens our community.

So why do we sometimes balk at the idea of diversity in housing opportunities? Why is there so much resistance to low-income housing?

That’s right, I said low-income housing. Not “affordable” housing. Not “workforce” housing. The truth is, we need housing that accommodates those with low incomes, even if talking about it sometimes makes us uncomfortable.

Some say that our neighbors who serve us fast food or clean our homes and offices should not complain if they can’t afford to live near their place of employment. This idea holds that they should be grateful for a job and grateful for a home, even if it’s a 45-minute commute from work.

The truth is, if low-wage workers live 30 to 40 miles from work, they’re probably spending upwards of $300 a month on gas. — almost a quarter of their gross income just to get to work. That’s like a median-wage-earning professional spending $1,000 a month on gas. This type of expenditure strains the household budget, which then affects spending on nutritious food, long-term savings, education and other necessities.

What — if anything — do we owe the members of our community whose work contributes to our quality of life but who are unable to afford housing near their jobs? What kinds of housing resources should our community make available to those who work hard but earn far less than the area median income? These and other questions are ones that our community must grapple with, and that the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition faces head-on at its monthly meetings and committee meetings.

The mission of the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition is to inform the community of the value, need and availability of housing for all residents. We encourage the public to learn more about our mission by visiting our website, attending one of our monthly meetings or coming to one of our free mini-summits. The next mini-summit will be held Oct. 25 and will provide important information for area landlords.

The coalition is composed of representatives from faith-based communities, banks and real estate developers, non-profit organizations and government agencies, as well as private individuals who simply wish to help make our community accessible to all. We invite you to join in the conversation and offer your opinions about the value, need and availability of housing in Centre County. Just as diverse housing options ultimately will enrich our community, so, too, will diverse ideas help us arrive at solutions to some of our biggest challenges.

Susanna Paul works for Housing Transitions and is a member of the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition, which meets at 2:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Calvary Baptist Church. Visit www.ccaffordablehousingcoalition.org for more information.

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