Many of our clients discuss how the lack of affordable housing in our region creates a crisis on many levels. Health, employment, academic, behavioral, and a host of other outcomes are all impacted when a family is housing unstable.
Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics at both the Boston University School of Medicine and School of Public Health, created the movement of understanding how housing can act like a vaccine based on her work with low-income children and families.
“We have a new understanding of the interplay of how housing influences health in terms of stability, quality, and the effect on physical and mental health.”
And that was before the pandemic.
She spoke to a White House Forum last year, stating that because of the pandemic, “it has increased housing stability from a crisis to now, really, a pandemic in and of itself.”
To add to the concern about housing, reporter Yilun Cheng of The Columbus Dispatch recently profiled the added challenges to affordable housing access. Families who are able to secure housing vouchers, which for some can be after years of waiting, are being denied housing because of their source of income.
The article profiles families who live in housing funded by vouchers and are suddenly told the landlord no longer accepts that form of payment. After living stably for years, they now find themselves without a home. The stories are heart wrenching.
“I keep my apartment clean. My payments are never late. But every day, I live with the fear of getting kicked out,” Deria, a Somali immigrant, said in Somali through an interpreter. “I’ve tried to look for other places, but no one wants to accept Section 8 people. I never get a call back.”
Another excerpt is a Catch-22 as told in the story by Molly Hennessey of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
“…a 67-year-old woman, had been staying at her one-bedroom apartment on Columbus’ North Side with Section 8 subsidies for more than two years when her landlord decided to terminate her month-to-month lease in June.
The woman, who suffers from health issues, was not able to find another apartment immediately, and her old landlord filed an eviction case against her just a few days before she finally identified a new property owner who agreed to take her voucher.
Her rental application was denied due to the pending eviction case, which was later dismissed, Hennessey said. Right now, the woman is staying in temporary housing at a hotel. Her voucher has since expired, and she is negotiating with CMHA for an extension.”
As a community, we must do better. The impact of the housing crisis, which is now its own pandemic, has ripple effects that will last for years.
The Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio offers the following resource from a visit Dr. Sandel made to Columbus in 2015. Considering the state of our community’s health, and the increased lack of and barriers to affordable housing, acting on the recommendations to cut the affordable housing gap is as pressing as ever.
Increasing awareness and advocacy efforts, building partnerships, and impacting policy will create the solutions that our clients need to ensure all families have decent homes they can afford.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO