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Editorial | Efforts chip away at the lack of affordable housing

Filling the need for affordable housing is a key way to decrease poverty among families.

The American Bar Association, in a report on “Solving the Affordable Housing Crisis,” uses the example of a 34-year-old single mother who spends 40 percent of her monthly income on a two-bedroom apartment. She’s a high school graduate but never had the financial wherewithal to attend college. For the past eight years, she has worked as a clerk in the payroll of a large corporation. Expenses for groceries, transportation, clothing and speech therapy for her son leave nothing extra for savings or a down payment on a home.

The association sums up the crisis this way: “With so many Americans suffering under these burdens, a foundational premise of our society is now under assault — the idea that every American, despite his or her initial station in life, has the opportunity to advance through hard work and forge a better future. Rising levels of income inequality only serve to exacerbate these concerns.”

Home1, a nonpartisan organization working to ensure every hardworking American has a decent home, calls housing “the silent crisis in America” as the workforce struggles to keep a roof over its head. The National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes,” using figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental homes for people with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of their area median income. It reports that Missouri has 206,108 extremely low income renter households and only 42 affordable and available rental homes per 100 extremely low income renter households.

In St. Louis, a coalition of mostly Catholic groups is behind the St. Joseph Housing Initiative, which is working on renovating its first house for a low- or moderate-income family. In addition to rehabbing houses, St. Joseph Housing is creating a program to match new homeowners with current neighborhood residents to build relationships and a sense of community.

Catholic Charities USA is partnering with five dioceses, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis, in the Healthy Housing Initiative placing homeless people into stable housing and providing essential supportive services to reduce hospital re-admissions while ensuring that basic needs are met.

Another recent initiative comes from Saint Louis University, which is partnering with St. Louis City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Habitat for Humanity St. Louis to build five new homes near the university.

While additional support is needed, these are just a few of the efforts in the Catholic community on the crucial issue of housing as it defends human life and promotes the dignity of the human person. At the same time, Catholics in Missouri are working hard for passage of the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act and other pro-life legislation. It shows that Catholics and Church institutions care for all human life, born and unborn.

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