Friday, December 21, 2012

Housing money for storm victims underscores lack of commitment to low-income housing

The state is providing 1,000 housing vouchers to low-income people displaced by Hurricane Sandy. According to a press release from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, the Christie administration "will set aside 1,000 vouchers from the state-administered Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program to assist low-income households that were displaced by the storm in moving into permanent housing." The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, "will provide vouchers that will be used as 'Special Admissions' for households that cannot return to their homes. The vouchers, which average approximately $9,840 per year per household, will total $9.84 million."

The vouchers are good news for those displaced by the massive storm that ravaged the area at the end of October, but they also point to the failure on the part of both the state and the federal government to make a meaningful monetary contribution to battling homelessness.

I've spent a lot of time over the last six months talking with advocates and people who run shelters and the major takeaway from those conversations is this: You need to build housing if you are going to battle homelessness. And that takes money.

New Jersey has a huge deficit of affordable units -- and not just of the Mount Laurel sort. We need an array of housing types that would be affordable to those living at and just below the sustainable wage level of $22 an hour, to be sure, but we also need housing for the large group of people who have not been able to hold down jobs.

Rather than leave the most vulnerable population to shelters -- or to places like Tent City in Lakewood -- we need to find the resolve to get people into real homes. We have a responsibility as a society to ensure that the people left behind, people who are the byproduct of our economic system, have someplace healthy and safe to live.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for keeping us informed. You are absolutely right, we need to get these people out of those tents, and into apartments or houses.