Peterson: Finding and providing a decent place to live
Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a place that’s affordable. Many people in our country believe that a decent place to live is a basic human right.
And yet, according to Habitat for Humanity, “housing insecurity touches nearly half of adults at some point in their lives.”
People like Veronica Harnish who wrote on vox.com about a four-year period when she “lived (three times) in my 36-year-old car that has more than 400,000 miles on it because I could not find affordable rental housing or a job that paid a living wage.”
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty is very clear: “insufficient income and lack of affordable housing are the leading causes of homelessness.”
We want to change that dynamic.
We know it won’t happen overnight. But, we do know there’s a significant need in our community for quality affordable housing that
also offers wrap-around services and case management for qualifying men and women.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers housing as affordable if the cost is at or below 30 percent of a person’s income. In the Prescott area, over 45 percent of renters are paying more than 35 percent of their income for rent or are severely cost-burdened, making the need for affordable, multi-family rentals particularly significant.
The challenge we face, not just in Prescott and Yavapai County but across Arizona and nationwide,
is a dramatically low inventory of that affordable housing.
Affordablehousingonline.com reports that there are seven low-income housing apartment complexes in Prescott and 13 in Prescott Valley for a population that continues to grow. In Phoenix, National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) research showed that for every 100 extremely low-income renters, there are only 20 affordable and available rental units. Even if someone gets on a waiting list, it could take months or even years for a space to open up.
Compounding the situation is that, as The Daily Courier reported, in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in Yavapai County, a renter would need to earn $17.13 an hour. A typical renter here earns an estimated hourly mean wage of $13.16.
For more than 80 years, Catholic Charities has provided supportive services to low-income individuals and families in central and northern Arizona. For the past two decades, that has included affordable rental housing for low-income individuals, families, seniors, veterans and special needs households.
The fact that funding for our proposed affordable-housing project in Prescott didn’t come through, though disappointing, means that we need to find new options for solutions and programs that lead to successful outcomes to address the growing need for affordable housing in our community.
To make that happen, our team of full and part-time staff members will bring significant experience and expertise to our commitment to engage with and work alongside community groups, employers, schools and residents and as part of the city’s “Change for the Better” initiative to alleviate homelessness and panhandling in Prescott.
Beyond our mission to help the community’s most vulnerable with solutions that permanently improve lives, it’s the right thing to do.
Cathy Peterson is Executive Director for Catholic Charities Northern Arizona Region.