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‘Because housing is built with ballots:’ Affordable housing in 2020 elections

Jason Marshall
Vine City One public policy issue around the replacement of blighted houses, like this one facing Rodney Cook, Sr. Park in Vine City, is the cost of housing in neighborhoods with a history of low rent. Credit: David Pendered

By Guest Columnist BAMBIE HAYES-BROWN, president and CEO of Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc.

Across America, individuals and families are struggling to find safe, decent, accessible and affordable homes. There are far too many people who cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads and are spending far too much of their income on rent, leaving little to no money left for other life necessities such as food, medications and childcare.

Bambie Hayes-Brown

Bambie Hayes-Brown

The affordable housing crisis is a choice. We have the resources to solve it. Elected officials must garner the political will and work to end this crisis. The 2020 elections are the focus of a national effort by housing advocates with the motto – Because housing is built with ballots.

Georgia Advancing Communities Together (Georgia ACT) is proud to support Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020. It’s a non-partisan effort to raise the profile of affordable homes in the 2020 presidential elections and to register, educate, and mobilize more low-income renters and affordable housing advocates in the voting process. The program is sponsored by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, founded in 1974 by Cushing Dolbeare, a renowned policy expert on housing for the low income.

Renters, especially low-income renters, are underrepresented among national election voters. To ensure low-income housing interests are represented, organizations must engage these renters and other low-income people in the voting process.

The affordable housing crisis continues to worsen, making it nearly impossible for seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and low-wage workers to pay rent and make ends meet. Every state and community in the country – urban, rural, and suburban – is impacted. In Georgia, there is a shortage of 204,083 affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters – households with incomes at or below the poverty guideline or 30 percent of area median income. An astonishing 73 percent of these same households in the Peach state are paying more than half of their income on rent.

Vine City

One public policy issue around the replacement of blighted houses, such as this one on Elm Street, facing Rodney Cook, Sr. Park, in Vine City, is the cost of housing in neighborhoods with a history of lower rent. Credit: David Pendered

Atlanta has the largest wealth disparity in the United States in three of the last five years, according to a 2018 report by the Brookings Institution. In the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell HUD Metro Fair Market Rent Area, an individual making minimum wage must work 2.9 full-time jobs to affordable a modest 2-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent, according to results in the NLIHC’s 2019 edition of the Out of Reach report.

According to an Opportunity Starts at Home poll commissioned by the NLIHC, 85 percent of people in America believe ensuring everyone has a safe, accessible, and affordable home should be a top national priority, and eight in 10 want to see significant action from Congress and the White House.

Within that same poll, 76 percent indicated that they are more likely to vote for a candidate with a detailed plan on making housing more affordable. Voters want to see change and they want candidates to share substantive information on how they will affect change.

Affordable housing is on the minds of voters across the country, and frequently is raised by them as a key issue on the campaign trail. Yet, moderators have neglected to address this issue. We challenge the moderators to change this troubling trend of ignoring a topic that impacts all aspects of a person’s well-being – affordable housing. Ending the shortage of affordable homes is a crucial issue voters care about and want to hear solutions discussed on the national debate stage.

Newer residences that likely have higher prices than the decayed houses they replaced are visible across the Rodney Cook, Sr. Park, in Vine City. Credit: David Pendered

Supporters of the Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020 project call on candidates to address how they would preserve and build more affordable homes, increase rental assistance, prevent families from experiencing evictions, protect renters from discrimination and abuse and end homelessness and housing poverty in America once and for all.

We urge all voters to ask the 2020 candidates: “What would you do to make homes affordable for our nation’s lowest-income people?” And we urge all eligible voters to show up to the polls – because affordable housing is built with ballots.

Note to readers: Key election dates are below, and more information is available from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Election Division, and Georgia ACT:

  • Monday, Feb. 24, last day to register to vote in the March 24 presidential preference primary;
  • Wednesday, Feb. 26, Housing Day at the Georgia State Capitol;
  • Monday, March 2 – advance voting begins for the presidential preference primary;
  • March 19 – Georgia ACT’s annual membership meeting, in Macon.

 

 

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