It All Comes Down to Affordable Housing

Blog by CSH President and CEO, Deb De Santis


Kate Abbey-Lambertz of Huffington Post has posted a piece that is spot on: "Cheap Rent Or A Good Neighborhood - Sorry, You Probably Can't Have Both."

The first sentence of her article sums it up: "Finding an apartment with reasonable rent is pretty close to hopeless, but it's an even more daunting task if you want to live in a neighborhood with good schools, good jobs and other fundamentals." And as Abbey-Lambertz shows so strikingly through accompanying graphic maps: "If you're poor, you just can't win."

Advocates for those experiencing homelessness, including CSH, have been saying for years now that the biggest obstacle we face to getting people off the street and housed is the lack of affordable rental housing across the nation, especially in larger metropolitan areas.

The fundamental challenge facing many urban centers such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC is an obvious one - rents in these cities are too high for too many. This dynamic only adds to homelessness and the risk of homelessness. It's simple - as housing costs go up so, too, does homelessness unless an environment is nurtured to create and maintain affordable rental units such as those found in supportive housing.

Yet in spite of this clear problem and a known solution - which would be for federal, state and local governments to aggressively pursue policies increasing the supply of affordable housing - too many of our policymakers seem ambivalent at best to the crisis. Creating more affordable housing in stable neighborhoods isn't even on the agenda of the Presidential campaign debates and few in Congress bother to bring it up on the floor of the Capitol or in their district town meetings.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro got it right recently when he highlighted how housing is the key to addressing most of the societal problems we see every day. He said, "Housing is a powerful platform for sparking opportunity in people's lives. When you ensure that an individual or a family has a good, decent, safe place to live, that is the fundamental building block for sparking other opportunity."

We need elected officials to wake up to the affordable housing crisis and the importance of ensuring that people have housing with access to quality schools and quality healthcare, jobs and transportation.

Let's hope other leaders get what Secretary Castro is saying before it's too late.

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