EATON — “Our Homes, Our Voices” was the theme of National Housing Week of Action, recognized May 1-8. Advocacy events were held across the country last week, and here in Preble County, a panel discussion on the issue as it faces the state and local community was held on Thursday, May 3.
The event was sponsored by Home is the Foundation (HIT) and was hosted in the Star Theatre at Eagles Point in Eaton. The Bistro provided refreshments following the activity.
Advocates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) encouraged lawmakers to reject the federal administration’s budget proposals and support greater investments in addressing homelessness and housing poverty in America, according to officials. More than 90 events and activities were planned for the Our Homes, Our Voices National Housing Week of Action, including rallies, teach-ins, site visits, performance art, press conferences with local policymakers, call-in days, letter writing campaigns, and much more.
”Far too many families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Nationwide, more people are renting their homes than ever before, but our investments in affordable homes have not kept pace with demand. Overall, more than 11 million families now spend the majority of their income on rent, and family and young adult homelessness rates are rising in many communities. Rents are increasing across the nation, while housing infrastructure deteriorates,” NLIHC officials said in a press release.
Every state and congressional district is impacted.
The local panel included Ohio 5th District Senator Bill Beagle, Ohio 43rd District Representative Jeff Rezabek, Coalition on Homelessness and Housing representative Gina Wilt, Director of Preble County Jobs & Family Services Becky Sorrell, Director of Preble County Mental Health & Recovery Board Amy Raynes and HIT Foundation President and Board Chair Mary Bullen.
The evening was emceed by Magistrate Steve Bruns.
Last year, advocates and congressional “champions” secured a 10 percent increase to federal investments in affordable housing. But threats remain, according to organizers.
”President Trump’s budget proposes to slash affordable housing by $11 billion compared to current levels — a move that could increase homelessness and housing poverty in our community,” the press release noted. “Lawmakers should ensure the highest level of funding possible for affordable housing in FY19.”
According to NLHIC, on a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the U.S., including: 184,661 people in families with children; 86,962 chronically homeless individuals; 40,056 veterans; 40,799 unaccompanied homeless youth.
Only one in four people who qualify for HUD assistance actually receives it.
Who are the lucky 1 in 4? According to NLHIC statistics, 36 percent are the elderly, 35 percent have kids, and 24 percent have a disability.
Rental assistance has demonstrably reduced homelessness for people with low incomes. It’s also proven that providing housing benfits is one of the most effective ways to help families, children, and youth escape poverty, according to officials.
Bullen, who began the panel discussion, said a 2016 housing analysis for Preble County included a forecast of what would happen. She noted, there was slow housing growth between 2010-2015, and it is projected to be even slower through 2020. Through 2015, the housing availability in Preble County grew by 144 houses. Eaton accounted for 134 of these. In Preble County, according to the study, only 77 new households were forecast from 2015-2020.
The greatest growth from 2010-2015 was in heads of households who were 55 and older, a fact Bullen said was “not surprising.”
The highest increase from 2015-2020 is expected in those aged 65-74, “Baby Boomers,” according to PC Council on Aging Executive Director Shelley Ratliff.
According to Bullen, the statistics continue to show that as people reach retirement age, the decrease in incomes will lead to a need for even more low income housing.
Why do affordable homes matter?
According to the NLHIC, federal investments in affordable housing have widespread and significant benefits in communities across the country. From employment and economic mobility to health and education, all areas of life are improved when individuals and families have access to a decent and stable home.
An NLHIC report states: in 2012 alone, housing assistance lifted four million people out of poverty, including 1.5 million children.
Low income kids living in a stable, affordable home are more likely to thrive in school, attend college and earn more as adults, NLHIC notes.
According to Bullen, the Preble County housing study showed there were 106 substandard homes in Preble County, homes which lack suitable indoor kitchen and plumbing facilities. Eaton was shown to have the most over-crowded renter-occupied units.
What is affordable when it comes to housing? According to officials, one can expect to spend approximately 30 percent of their income on housing. Of those in Preble County who earn about $30,000 per year, half pay more than 30 percent of the income for housing.
“42.6 percent are considered rent-burdened,” Bullen reported.
According to Janelle Caron, Preble County Community Action Partnership Director, her agency currently has a waiting list of 124 people needing Section 8 help with their housing. “We have a 5-year waiting list right now,” Caron said.
Currently CAP is helping keep 40 families in housing with Section 8 vouchers.
For individuals making less than $20,000 per year, there will be a housing gap of at least 320 homes in Preble County by 2020, according to the report. For seniors making less than $25,000 per year, there will be a gap of over 30 homes, and for those making $35,ooo, there will be a gap of 64 housing units.
“There is a need for housing which serves the traditional workforce,” Bullen said.
Panelists reported, there are very few affordable rentals in Preble County. According to Bullen, even HIT has a 2-year waiting list. And there is an emerging need for housing for seniors.
The Council on Aging is on top of this need, according to Bullen who said the PCCOA is working toward creating this type of housing in the future.
Other issues involved include the preservation of the current affordable housing units, of which many are old and in need of repair.
Building 100 affordable rental homes generates: $11.7 million in local income and 161 local jobs, according to NLHIC.
People who have an affordable home are able to spend: five times more on healthcare, and three times more on nutritious food.
“A child’s neighborhood and home life have a significant impact on their performance in school. For every additional year a child spends in a better neighborhood environment, their economic outcome as an adult improves, as indicated by measures such as income, likelihood of college attendance, and probability of avoiding teenage pregnancy,” NLHIC noted in the press release.
Investing in affordable housing infrastructure has numerous benefits for the economy, according to NLHIC officials — creating jobs, boosting families’ incomes, and encouraging further development. The shortage of affordable housing in major metropolitan areas costs the U.S. economy about $2 trillion a year in lower wages and productivity.
For more information regarding Our Homes Our Voices and the push advocating for support and funding for affordable housing, visit www.ourhomes-ourvoices.org.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.