Guest Columnists

A safe, decent place to call 'home'

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA, USA (6/07/16)-Jeff Capps, Executive Director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, at Habitat for Humanity’s 2016 Home Builders Blitz in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Jason Asteros
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA, USA (6/07/16)-Jeff Capps, Executive Director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, at Habitat for Humanity’s 2016 Home Builders Blitz in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Jason Asteros

At Habitat for Humanity, we believe that all people, regardless of their economic status or station in life, should have a safe, decent place to call “home.” This has long been the organization’s guiding principle, and the adoption of that audacious vision by thousands of communities across the globe has allowed Habitat to grow into an international movement in just 40 short years.

I feel blessed to be a part of this powerful, life-changing work. But I’m equally proud to work alongside a number of partner organizations here in the Cedar Rapids metro area with shared aspirations for our community and its citizens. Stable, affordable housing provides a foundation for family and individual success that can’t be achieved through any other singular kind of intervention. We are fortunate to see the far-reaching results of this important work play out each and every day.

Last month’s bus tour provided my colleagues and me with a tremendous opportunity to showcase the remarkable breadth and diversity of affordable housing built in our area over the past decade. It also gave us the chance to remind our riders that those in need of this housing are hardworking, contributing members of our community who simply seek a “hand-up” not a giveaway. We were pleased to receive a great deal of positive feedback and encouragement from those in attendance.

Beyond the good vibes, though, the tour allowed our group of more than 60 elected officials, business and nonprofit leaders, neighborhood advocates and concerned citizens to learn about not just a lingering, post-flood desire to build more, but an intensifying need for affordable housing. We’re seeing rental rates rise, while wages remain stagnant — housing conditions worsen, while household needs become greater. We challenged our riders to take something they had learned and share it, or, perhaps even better, turn it into something actionable.

On the other end of the Corridor, our neighbors in Johnson County have come together recently to form an affordable housing coalition. It’s an area where the work of building affordable housing is arguably more challenging than it is here in Linn County. I applaud my colleagues there for taking that important step, and I hope that our local group can build on our recent collaboration by formalizing our partnership in the months and years ahead. I strongly believe that we can, and will, be better together.

But there is no doubt that our continued success will depend on more than the work of the several dozen organizations and individuals who took that sunny bus ride. Perhaps for many people, a moral argument is strong enough to be inspired and take action. For others, they might need their eyes opened to the fact that supporting efforts to develop a range of healthier, safer and more affordable housing options — from multifamily rentals on the edge of town to affordable single-family homes for sale in core neighborhoods — will make life better not just for those households who directly benefit, but for all of us.

• Jeff Capps is executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity.



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