Issues 2016–June

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: HOMELESSNESS AND THE REST OF US

For many people finding an affordable safe place to live is difficult, if not impossible. Many find themselves without any shelter.

Here are some statistics about affordable housing from the North Carolina Housing Coalition. (link below).

 

HOUSING COSTS
$1,216: Median monthly homeownership cost (2009 dollars)
$764: Fair Market Rent for two-bedroom unit [i]
$14.68: Hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent
$7.25: Minimum wage in 2015
$3.88: SSI income as an hourly wage in 2012 (assuming 40 hours per week)
42.9%: Percent of renters that don’t earn enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent

Several local initiatives that are trying to increase the number of affordable housing options or towards ending homelessness caught my attention in May. They are, indeed, worthy of examination. Too many people are without shelter from the elements or a place to find rest.

Tiny Houses

One solution that seems to be working in other states and in limited trials in North Carolina is providing “tiny houses” to individuals without homes. These are, by definition, very small. They allow people to sleep, cook, and have toilet facilities available at little or no cost. In addition to safety from weather and possible physical assault, these homes build self-esteem. They can also create a history of rent payment when nominal rents are charged. When coordinated with other services such as mail box access, medical care, and employment assistance, these can make a great difference in many lives.

It isn’t, after all, much different than buying a large outbuilding for grandparents, returning adult kids, or work space. Insulated, plumbed, and wired, these make good options for many families.

It is worth noting that many people are choosing to downsize their lives and often find tiny houses to be a good alternative to expensive homes with more square footage than they actually need or want to care for.

Repurposed Urban Center Structures

Walking through a few cities and small towns that I visit regularly, I’ve noticed how many have urban centers or smaller business areas that are virtually abandoned. Even those buildings that have street-level tenants often have empty upper floors. I can’t help wondering if changing zoning laws would encourage more people to buy or rent there. I know many entrepreneurs, especially younger ones, who would love to live where they work. Many would like to have downstairs businesses and upstairs apartments. For that matter, with elevators and other adaptations, many retired families might like to live in such housing.

These might work for families that have fallen into homelessness, too. As either temporary or long-term housing, these are centrally-located and would make accessing services a little easier. Transportation, often a major problem, would be far less limited than in suburban areas.

Many suburban and rural areas are rehabilitating abandoned structures into affordable housing. These range from unused warehouses, churches, and storefronts to unlivable older homes and apartments. By upgrading these buildings and offering them at reasonable rates, living communities can grow. These social groups can be as small as a single home or quite large. Some have private rooms or small apartments with communal cooking and living areas. These are particularly useful for people who have lost their sense of acceptance by society, enabling them to build friendships and connections that make transitioning back into the larger community of their town easier.

One of the additional benefits of rehabbing older buildings is that neighborhoods in need of revitalization are provided with people happy to have homes.

Strange Possibilities for Interim Stability

I’ve also seen strange-but-workable use of the space between billboards, especially the large digital ones. This space can be enclosed, wired, and have simple plumbing installed. There are many other creative housing ideas online. These include tree houses, shipping containers, and houseboats. I’m waiting for dirigibles to find their place!

Really Mobile Homes: RVs

A surprising number of people are living in recreational vehicles, or RVs. I find it interesting how many people choose to live in them permanently or for the major portion of a year. This allows the “residents” to travel, a perk for those who are retired or, conversely, whose work requires traveling to fulfill obligations.

While new RVs are as costly as homes or apartments, used ones can be had for about the same cost as a used car. If assistance were available to refurbish and update these truly “mobile homes,” perhaps on the same model as accessing homes through Habitat for Humanity, I have no doubt many people would take advantage of this option.

Quite a few of RV parks allow long-term space rental. This can allow children to attend the same school throughout the school year. It can provide stability for those in need of medical help who might not be able to find traditional housing near their care facility. The cost of space rental isn’t cheap unless special long-term rates are available. However, this seems like a good way to stabilize many families until more permanent solutions could be found. For some, it is an adventurous option permitting easy travel.

 


North Carolina Housing Coalition

http://www.nchousing.org/research-data/facts_stats

North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

http://www.ncceh.org/pitdata/

 

DO POLITICIANS STILL BLUSH?

I long for the days when candidates were embarrassed by evidence of their ignorance and greed.

There was a time when we judged candidates on their perceived character. If it was “good,” if the individual was deemed compassionate, honest, educated, and trustworthy, they were seen in a positive light. Those who were “bad,” judged to be cold-hearted, prone to lies, ignorant, and untrustworthy, were considered poor choices for public office.

It goes without saying that this election cycle appalls me. How could it not?

Having lived through many elections I know that there are certain bellwethers that indicate when we have crossed into a danger zone. In this case, our nation is frighteningly divided. The status quo no longer works for the majority. One cannot help worrying about the future of our children as our country spirals further and further into a depth of darkness that seems intractable.

A half-hour or so online helped me to remember how important character was in elections a few decades ago. Here are some quotes I found illuminating, even knowing that these words often weren’t followed by actions.

*****     *****     *****

John F. Kennedy

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

“For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

“Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

“Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.”

“I’m an idealist without illusions.”

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.”

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

“I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

 

William J. Clinton

“Work is about more than making a living, as vital as that is. It’s fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people.”

“I want American Dream growth – lots of new businesses, well-paying jobs, and American leadership in new industries, like clean energy and biotechnology.”

“Well, first of all, I think that a lot of the voters who are voting for the tea party candidates have really good impulses. That is, they believe that for years and years and years, the people with wealth and power or government power have done well and ordinary people have not. That’s true.”

 

Jimmy Carter

“I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over.”

“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

“Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing… you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world.”

“It is difficult for the common good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.”

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”

“I can’t really criticize the Tea Party people, because I came into the White House pretty much on the same basis that they have become popular. That is dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Washington and disillusionment and disencouragement about the government.”

“It’s very difficult for the American people to believe that our government, one of the richest on Earth, is also one of the stingiest on Earth.”

“We must make it clear that a platform of ‘I hate gay men and women’ is not a way to become president of the United States.”

“We cannot be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of the weapons of war.”

“We can’t equate democracy with Christianity because the largest democracy on earth is India, which is primarily Hindu. The third largest democracy is Indonesia, which is Islamic. Democracy and freedom are not dependent on Christian beliefs.”

“Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. People have the right to expect that these wants will be provided for by this wisdom.”

 

George H. W. Bush

“The day will come – and it is not far off – when the legacy of Lincoln will finally be fulfilled at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, when a black man or woman will sit in the Oval Office. When that day comes, the most remarkable thing about it will be how naturally it occurs.”

“We don’t want an America that is closed to the world. What we want is a world that is open to America.”

“You have to understand that people that are hurting are going to criticize.”

“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”

 

George W. Bush

“Use power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.”

“We don’t believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans.”

 

Imagination

There is much truth here. If we are limited to what our eyes see, we cannot envision anything better.

TuKawaii

The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it’s only money… they don’t know how to enjoy it, because they have no imagination.

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