Thursday, January 17, 2008

a voice for affordable housing

Last night I lent my voice to IMPACT (Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together) to advocate to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to address the affordable housing crisis in the area. It was kind of a big deal to me (I like writing words, but not so much speaking them, especially to a room full of people), but putting it into perspective with those struggling with this crisis every day, I felt it was the least I could do.

Want to find out more about this crisis, I'm collecting resources @

My name is Kim Wilkens and I am also with IMPACT. In the past few months we have come to these meetings and shared some of the struggles of those directly affected by the affordable housing crisis in our area.

I want to give you another perspective. I am not directly affected by the affordable housing crisis. My family lives in what local realtors call a "prestigious community" on Pantops mountain. We don't worry about paying the mortgage each month or being able to go to the doctor when we need to or putting food on the table or sending our child college. You could say we are living the good life in Albemarle County, BUT at what cost. Through the research process at IMPACT, I am learning that the cost is high:
- From the poverty report published in November, we learned that about 20% of Albemarle County citizens live below the "self-sufficiency standard" and 27% of our children age 5 and under also live below this standard.
- From Albemarle County schools we have learned that 320 children became homeless in the 2006/2007 school year.
- From the TJPDC State of Housing report, we learned that there is a deficit of almost 4000 affordable housing units in the area for extremely low income households earning less than 30% AMI.

Bottom line, we've learned that there are citizens in Albemarle County struggling to meet their basic needs of food, health and shelter. We know that when those basic needs aren't met, the stress placed on the individual, the family and the community have repercussions that are costly. We know the affordable housing gap will only get worse, especially with the recent subprime mortgage crisis.

A recent Housing Study from Harvard University suggests that "living in decent, affordable housing may provide a platform upon which low-income families can get jobs, build their incomes, and achieve financial security" The report goes on to say that if the affordable housing crisis is not addressed, "other economic, social, welfare, educational, and environmental priorities will be undermined".

IMPACT strongly encourages the Board of Supervisors to take the lead in addressing the affordable housing crisis in our community. In this year’s budget cycle we would like to see monies from specific funding streams for affordable housing to address the crisis for families that earn under 30% AMI. We want to see you take proactive steps to show that solving this crisis is a priority for the County and consistent with your mission to "enhance the well-being and quality of life for all citizens through the provision of the highest level of public service consistent with the prudent use of public funds".