Another round of statistics on the worsening affordable housing crisis hit reporters’ inboxes in June. Rising costs and stagnant incomes mean the number of households with severe housing cost burdens will just keep growing, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
The good news is that incredible affordable housing projects are going up all over this country. We hear about them every day, and in this issue, you will read about some of the very best, the finalists in our Readers’ Choice Awards contest for 2007.
We received nearly 150 entries in this year’s contest, and I have to tell you, most of them are very attractive and well targeted projects. It was very difficult to reduce the field to the 36 finalists profiled in this issue.
Now it’s your turn:
Remember, you choose the winners, so please take the time to vote.
I want to thank the sponsors of all the projects that were submitted, including the finalists and those that were not selected. I thank them not only for participating, but for hanging in there against the odds to get their projects built.
Most of the projects we reviewed could not have happened without excellent cooperation from state and local governments, and private funding sources. And even then, none of them were easy or inexpensive.
The entries in this year’s contest illustrate what’s possible. But they also remind me of how much more needs to be done to keep up with the continually increasing need that Harvard’s Joint Center cited.
State and local officials increasingly get the picture of how the housing shortage hurts their communities and their citizens. But as we enter a new presidential election cycle, housing is, once again, low on the list of priorities for national politicians.
The one very notable exception is Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. His panel has produced an impressive amount of smart housing legislation, including a bill to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and have them fund more affordable housing, and a housing voucher reform bill. Now the panel is working on a bill to create a National Housing Trust Fund.
Frank and his committee are to be commended for their accomplishments. Now it’s up to you to take action to make sure the Senate does not let those bills die, which is a very real prospect, judging from the apparent lack of activity by the Senate Banking Committee and its subcommittee on housing.
We all need to make the case for putting housing higher on the political priority list.
First, let’s look beyond the constant flow of statistics on housing needs. The statistics in the Harvard report and other studies are useful. But data is very abstract—it has no power to motivate the media or opinion leaders.
We need to find a way to dramatize the impact of the growing number of families with high housing cost burdens and inadequate, poorly located or overcrowded housing.
Do kids get sick more often or do badly in school? Do families fall apart? Does it put greater burdens on the courts, the schools, the police? Do longer commutes increase traffic? We also need to put out more information on how it helps society as a whole to help people get decent housing at an affordable cost.
Help us document the negative impact of the housing crunch on your community as a whole, and the positive benefits of providing affordable housing. Tell us your stories. Better yet, tell your members of Congress, especially your senators.