Hope Community Development Association (Hope CDA) is the newest of the organizations that sponsored the affordable housing bus tour on May 25. We began after the flood when Serve The City, a coalition of about 60 churches and Christian nonprofits, collected funds and helped people get back into their homes. Through the flood recovery efforts, the vision to use the rebuilding of houses to rebuild lives was formed. Hope CDA began a construction jobs training program for men with employment barriers in September 2015. We use the refurbishing of older houses as the training and work experience for our job training participants. Hope CDA partnered with a local contractor to build 6 Rebuilding Ownership Opportunities Together (ROOTs) houses. Since the ROOTs program has ended, Hope CDA has refurbished and sold two older houses and is currently working on its third.
Our experience with the guys in our jobs training program is that those who do not have a stable living environment are highly unlikely to succeed at work. Living with friends or relatives often results in conflict and difficulty getting a good night’s sleep to be able to function well at work.
Our desire with the bus tour was to help spread the word that affordable housing is not what some people picture. Affordable housing can be for those working hard in lower paying jobs. For example, the purchasers of our houses have been a fast food worker, a nurse, factory workers, a college tennis coach and a retiree.
A couple of the challenges facing potential purchasers of affordable housing are qualifying for affordable payments and saving the funds necessary to acquire financing. The ROOTs program was very helpful in this regard as the buyer received a forgivable grant as a second mortgage. Since that program ended, there seems to be little support for those who have steady jobs and reasonable credit but no down payment. Some type of assistance for homeownership would help both families and the neighborhoods where they could be owners.
Of course, not all people needing affordable housing are candidates for homeownership at this point in their lives. Without quality lower income rental units being available, families are forced to rent low quality units that are not maintained. Some of these units become eyesores in their neighborhoods. If tenants forced into these units had better alternatives, these poor quality units would either need to be improved or sold with the possibility of being refurbished by organizations like Hope CDA.
It is important for all residents to welcome new affordable housing units, such as the Crestwood Ridge apartments. The entire city will benefit when the gap between the need and the supply of affordable housing units narrows.
• Ron Ziegler is executive director of the Hope Community Development Association.