Georgia ACT Op-Ed on Housing
Across America, individuals and families are struggling to find safe, decent, accessible and affordable homes. There are far too many people who cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads and are spending most of their income on rent, leaving little to no money left for other life necessities such as food, medications, and childcare. The affordable housing crisis is a choice. We have the resources to solve it. Elected officials must garner the political will and work to end this crisis.
Georgia Advancing Communities Together (Georgia ACT) is proud to support Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020, a non-partisan effort to raise the profile of affordable homes in the 2020 presidential elections and to register, educate, and mobilize more low-income renters and affordable housing advocates in the voting process. Renters, especially low-income renters, are underrepresented among national election voters. To ensure low-income housing interests are represented, organizations must engage these renters and other low-income people in the voting process.
The affordable housing crisis continues to worsen, making it nearly impossible for seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and low-wage workers to pay rent and make ends meet. Every state and community in the country—urban, rural, and suburban—is impacted. In Georgia, there is a shortage of 204,083 affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters—households with incomes at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of area median income. An astonishing 73% of these same households in the Peach state are paying more than half of their income on rent.
Atlanta has the largest wealth disparity in the United States in three of the last five years (Brookings Institution, 2018). In the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell HUD Metro Fair Market Rent Area, an individual making minimum wage must work 2.9 full-time jobs to afford a modest 2-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent (NLIHC Out of Reach Report, 2019).
According to an Opportunity Starts at Home poll commissioned by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 85% of people in America believe ensuring everyone has a safe, accessible, and affordable home should be a top national priority, and 8 in 10 want to see significant action from Congress and the White House. Within that same poll, 76% indicated that they are more likely to vote for a candidate with a detailed plan on making housing more affordable. Voters want to see change and they want candidates to share substantive information on how they will affect change.
Affordable housing is on the minds of voters across the country and frequently raised by them as a key issue on the campaign trail, yet during the first four nationally televised Democratic debates moderators neglected to address this issue. We challenge the moderators of the next debate to change this troubling trend of ignoring a topic that impacts all aspects of a person’s well-being—affordable housing. Ending the shortage of affordable homes is crucial issue voters care about and want to hear solutions discussed on the national debate stage.
Supporters of the Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020 project call on candidates to address how they would preserve and build more affordable homes, increase rental assistance, prevent families from experiencing evictions, protect renters from discrimination and abuse and end homelessness and housing poverty in America once and for all.
We urge all voters to ask the 2020 candidates: What would you do to make homes affordable for our nation’s lowest-income people? And we urge all eligible voters to show up to the polls—because affordable housing is built with ballots.
Bambie Hayes-Brown, President and CEO
Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc.