I went to a public meeting today my city put on to identify the housing market potential and needs of our city. It seems that there is a market for upscale housing in good locations. However, there is a problem obtaining housing for students and young people. That is the large print.
The fine print is that a person or family must make a good salary, pass a stringent background check (no felons or bad credit) to have access to the kind of place they can show off to their in-laws. That gets them into a home that has granite countertops, central air, and quite neighborhoods.
Students and young people (usually mobile) may want to have nice places to live, but they don’t have the incomes, credit history, and stability to do so.
The blue collars and elderly get by mostly from check to check, but they do okay long-term.
But there is a category somewhere between the homeless and moderate incomes that is hardest hit. They most likely fall under the 25.7% poverty level that exists in our city. Let’s do some math: in a city with a population of 19,031 people, multiplied by 25.7%, that means 4,891 people are at or below minimum wages! That means they probably have poor credit ratings, and have gotten in trouble with the law. Now that causes a big problem with the apartment managers who insist on strict background checks. So what does their meager income get them?
It gets them an older apartment or house that may or may not be in good condition. It needs to be furnished much of the time. It may or may not have air-conditioning, roaches, and a cable hookup. There may be people walking to work or stores, dodging hot-rodders in the streets that have multi-asphalt patches. But that is life happening, and there are a bunch of good people caught up in this way of life.
I asked the consultants if anyone was interested in building intermediate housing that would give this segment good quality “tiny” apartments until they could move up to better housing. Before they could answer in depth, several rental owners/mangers said there would not be a profit in it. It would have to be a ministry. One consultant came up to me after the meeting and told me of a building firm in Houston, Texas, New Hope Housing, that did just this thing, and was very success at it.
I went home and looked it up online. New Hope Housing had built units that cost about $455 a year for singles, as compared to $2,257 to live in a homeless shelter, and $800 a year for a family, compared to $11,627 for a homeless shelter. “New Hope Housing is a key component in the 46% drop in homelessness Houston experienced since 2011.”
So when you figure in the costs of Food stamps, Medicaid, about $28,000 a year to house an inmate in jail, not to mention the cost of human potential in our children, I think it would be a good idea for our city to address the needs of this group of people. It might not make good “profit” sense to the rental market, but it just might to the government.
Take a look at the people in your city. Do the people who need it the most have a voice supporting them? Start a dialogue. God has a special place in His heart for the downtrodden.