As an advocate and resident for many years, I know how desperate families and individuals are for this rental assistance.
While we all may breathe a collective sigh of relief — I must remind you that this respite is appreciated — but will be short lived. Housing instability and insecurity is a persistent and chronic problem in our community. As research nationwide has shown, wages have not kept up with the growing demand for stable housing. The price of a 1 bedroom monthly rental unit is almost two-thirds of the gross monthly pay of the average worker. The price of a 2-bedroom rental unit is nearly three-fourths of the gross monthly pay of that same worker. And that is considering that the worker is earning a minimum of $12 per hour and can work 40 hours every week!
For the elderly, disabled or single income households with children, the cost of housing is simply unaffordable. These individuals and families are not residing in our community, they are surviving in our community from -month to month. One set back such as an illness or loss of a job can lead to the trauma of an eviction and in most cases homelessness.
Why should we all be concerned? Research shows that housing insecurity has negative effects on entire communities. People who move from place to place cannot forge strong bonds or networks. Businesses cannot maintain loyal customers and employers cannot find dependable employees. And what about our schools? It is no surprise that schools with the highest transient rates perform the lowest on standardized achievement tests and have the most challenges when it comes to parent involvement, attendance, and even graduation rates. Simply, put housing stability is the foundation for any successful community.
So, Cobb County, I challenge ALL of you to join me in advocating for real and longterm housing solutions. Yes, the pandemic relief will help a lot of families. But for how long? In just a few months, when the money is gone and only a fraction of eligible families are able to be assisted, we will be back in this same place. Eviction courts will be overflowing once again with elderly and disabled individuals and with black and brown families who simply do not earn enough to maintain the rent.
Our solution is subsidized housing where families and individuals can pay rent based on what they earn. Research has shown that this is the ONLY solution to our housing dilemma. What individual or family wants to pack up and move every six months or year just because they get behind on rent and cannot catch up? What individual or family wants to go to bed at night knowing that a few days missed from work could mean not being able to keep a roof over their heads? What child wants to be afraid to make friends in school or to become fond of their teachers because they know they will most likely be in a different school next year?
Housing (like water) is one of our most basic but most crucial needs. Also, like water, people don’t only need it during a pandemic. Housing is something they need every day, every year and in Cobb County, we can work to make that happen!