Affordable Housing Crisis… What Does It Mean?

Affordable Housing Crisis…. What does that even mean?

And why are we always talking about it? I’ll share some quick bullet points here, but first I want to share a research brief written in May 2021 and published on the Urban Institute’s website. It’s an interesting read and explains the issues really well. Here’s a quote:

“Contrary to popular belief, owning one’s own home is frequently more affordable than renting. Nevertheless, many people cling to the idea that homeownership is reserved for people who achieve some arbitrary level of financial success and that it is not “appropriate” for people who are still on their path to financial security. … This brief reveals how the typical homeowner spends significantly less of their income on housing than the typical renter…”

While it’s absolutely true that homeownership is not the only answer to affordable housing, the author of this paper makes and defends the argument that owning a home can be more affordable for low-income households than renting. Public policy is heavily focused on programs for rentals. More emphasis needs to be given to resources that assist people with owning their homes.

If you don’t live, eat, breathe and sleep data and advocacy around affordable housing, or you’re not personally impacted by it, you might not understand what all the hype is about when you hear stories about the affordable housing crisis our country is in. Here are a few things to note about the situation in Jackson:

  • 7,249 households in Jackson spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
  • $17.42/hr. or $36,227 annual wage is required to afford a market rate rental. Minimum wage in Michigan is $9.65/hr. The median household annual income in Jackson County is $33,404.
  • There is an average of 37 homes available for every 100 low-income households. (This number is dropping and getting harder to track by the day due to the inflated real estate market we’re currently in.)

Other housing-related issues we’re facing in Jackson due to the pandemic and the inflated real estate market:

  • A fast-growing number of critical home repairs are needed for low-income homeowners so that people can “age in place” and to accommodate people with disabilities, in addition to the general aging of Jackson’s housing stock.
  • The cost to build new houses has inflated so much that developers are no longer building modest-price homes.
  • Landlords are opting to sell their houses because they can get premium prices for them due to the inflated real estate market, which displaces renters. There are very few available rentals on the market, which means displaced renters are now homeless.
  • Households that could be homeowners have trouble obtaining financing because of a lack of available down payment funds. If we could build new houses and assist those who are able in becoming homeowners, it would free up units for rentals.

Unfortunately, we’re only at the beginning of realizing the housing challenges resulting from the pandemic. The long-term impact could last 7-10 years. Fortunately, there is funding coming into our state, county and city from the federal government relief package, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Habitat is working with government officials at the city, county and state level to create programs that could help our citizens overcome these challenges.

If you’d like more information and to learn how you can support these efforts, please call or email Wendy Clow: 517-784-6620, wendyc@jacksonhabitat.org.

Advocating For Affordable Housing in Jackson

At Habitat for Humanity, we do more than build houses, more than critical home repairs, and more than helping people become homeowners. The issue of affordable housing is one that is too big for our programs alone to handle. Habitat’s vision is a world where Every One has a safe and decent place to live. We’re not going to get there by just building houses and creating homeownership opportunities. We must use more than our hammers; we must also use our voices.

Habitat for Humanity has a very strong brand and a very loud voice. Advocacy is a big part of what we do. We advocate for policy and funding that will help level the playing field for families who have little or no access to credit, no funds for down payments, no way to have their own voices heard…

Two years ago in June, Greater Jackson Habitat for Humanity  joined other local Habitat affiliates and Habitat for Humanity International to begin the Cost of Home (#costofhome) campaign. The campaign has specific, defined outcome goals. You can read about them here. Cost of Home raises awareness of the real-life decisions families face when they’re forced to spend more than 30-50% of their income on a place to live.

Every area of the country has its own challenges to affordable housing. The Cost of Home campaign empowers local Habitat affiliates like ours to advocate for the biggest needs of our community related to affordable housing. This year, our Jackson Habitat is leading the charge for a legislative change to a property tax code that will bring property taxes in line with affordability for qualified low-to-moderate income homebuyers. This legislation was championed by Representative Julie Alexander after she visited one of our homeowners and was made aware of the issue. Habitat’s Executive Director, Wendy Clow, and one of our partner families joined president/CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, Sandy Pearson, in Lansing to testify at the first committee hearing to get this bill passed by the House. At the time of this writing, it is still making its way through the House and Senate to hopefully be passed and sent to the governor’s desk for her to sign. If this bill passes, it will have an impact on families all over Michigan, not just Jackson. You can read more about the issue this bill addresses here.

In addition to this property tax legislation, there are 6 other priorities Habitat in Michigan is pushing at the state level.

  1. Funding for critical home repairs in the state budget
  2. A revolving mortgage loan fund in the state budget
  3. Initiatives for land bank redevelopment and other tools for the state to partner with developers to create affordable housing
  4. Create a revolving loan fund to provide capital for developers to build low-to-moderate-income housing
  5. Funding for down payment assistance for qualified home buyers
  6. Reinstate the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund

More information about these 6 priorities can be found here.

You can add your voice to ours by letting our state legislators know you support these 6 priorities plus HB4812 (the property tax legislation mentioned above). Feel free to download the documents and send them an email asking them to move these initiatives forward. For your convenience, the legislators in the Jackson area are listed below with their email addresses linked.

The DeLand Legacy in Jackson

The DeLand family name is alive and well in Jackson, Michigan today, and the family can be proud of its heritage.

Charles DeLand

Charles DeLand, born in 1828 in Massachusetts, was a Civil War hero and settled in Jackson after the war.  His homestead was located on the northeast corner of the intersection of S. Mechanic St. and W. Franklin St.

DeLand homestead jackson michigan

If that location sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the location of our new Habitat neighborhood development slated to break ground this spring (2021). You can read about that project here.

DeLand was a pioneer, humanitarian and writer. In his day, he was well-known for things like editing a newspaper called the American Citizen, which evolved into the Jackson Citizen Patriot. He was an anti-slavery advocate. In his newspaper, he fought against slavery with his words. In addition, DeLand was one of the founding members of the Republican party in Jackson in 1854.

But he also participated in an activity that he had to keep secret for obvious reasons. Charles DeLand was a ‘conductor’ in the Underground Railroad and harbored runaway slaves in his home and transported them to safe houses along their route to freedom. For this he is now known as a true hero who risked his life and the lives of his family to take part in righting an extreme injustice done to the ancestors of people who live among us in our county today.

We just passed through Black History month, and we’re honored to be picking up the pace on a project named after someone who stood up for black people during a time when doing so meant risking his life. This legacy of Charles DeLand is in line with the values of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat was born on a farm in Americus, Georgia, called Koinonia. Koinonia was an inclusive homestead that welcomed people of all races and backgrounds, something that was not only unpopular at the time, but outright dangerous. Koinonia’s commitment to racial equality caused retaliation from the surrounding community, including shootings, boycotting, bombs, and harassment from the KKK.

We’re honored to share values with someone who courageously took part in a risky movement that saved countless lives and helped put an end to the worst practice of inhumanity our country has ever known. In that honor, we named our first Habitat neighborhood after Charles V. DeLand.

We Celebrate Black History Month

 

black history month banner

Black History Month is especially significant this year as events from 2020 highlighted how far we still have to go to create a world where there is equal opportunity for everyone. People of color, African Americans in particular, are behind by generations in terms of equality. This disparity can be seen in every sector: health care, education, employment, and especially housing.

Discrimination in US housing policy as recent as a few decades ago kept Black people from being able to have access to credit, buy homes, live in better neighborhoods, move up in class and build wealth. Because of this, there is a wide racial gap in homeownership rates today: 74% of White people in the US own homes vs. 44% of Black people. The wealth gap is even greater.

Historic discrimination in U.S. housing policy — particularly discrimination against Black Americans — is one of the chief drivers of racial inequities that persist today. Organizations like Habitat that work on housing must understand that history, and it must inform our work moving forward. … We must commit to doing the work in our practices, our programs and our networks that brings equity to our efforts and helps bring justice to the communities in which we work. We must, throughout our ministry, do a better job of connecting issues of racial and social injustice with historic barriers to affordable housing and working to eradicate those barriers. … In addition to being a space where people of all races, all faiths and all backgrounds can come together in common cause, we commit to being actively antiracist and to affirming, through word and action, that Black Lives Matter and that our communities and systems must further this fundamental truth.

–Jonathan Reckford, CEO Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International published a policy paper in August 2020 that describes the history of housing discrimination in the US and how that history still impacts Black families today. The paper includes recommendations as we look to find meaningful ways to create a more racially equitable and just society.

Click here to read the document, and please reach out to let us know your thoughts. 

Habitat’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. It’s going to take more than building houses to make that happen. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. With your help, we believe we can get there.