Two weeks ago, Rebekah and I closed on our house. It is the first house we have owned and we spent more than four months looking at houses. When new houses hit the market in our price range, we raced with our realtor to visit them because there just were not many options. We are fortunate to have steady income, good credit, and supportive families which all contributed to make purchasing our home possible. Unfortunately, for many in our community, the dream of owning a home is unattainable and finding safe, reliable, affordable housing is immensely challenging.
Affordable housing is not a new issue, nor is it unique to Greensboro. The reasons for this are legion and include such factors as low inventory, high interest rates, and corporations outbidding families for properties. For middle class families and individuals, the housing crisis is frustrating and exhausting; for families and individuals in poverty or low income, the lack of affordable housing is debilitating. For example, many of the guests that come to Hot Dish & Hope are among the working poor who have to make choices every month about paying their rent or purchasing food. When housing costs, including utilities, take up 50 percent or more of a person’s or a family’s income, we know that all aspects of a person’s life are impacted from mental and physical health, to nutrition, to social stability.
Access to affordable housing doesn’t solve all the problems people in poverty face, but it goes a long way.
So, what can we do as First Presbyterian Church? Our leadership has used its energy, intelligence, imagination, and love to discern new possibilities for the Shetler Building which could see a major change to our campus with the addition of 40 units of affordable housing for seniors 55 and older. Partnering with DHIC, a nonprofit based in Raleigh, this transformation of a part of our property would create safe and affordable housing for some of our neighbors. (DHIC owns 18 senior communities across the state, and their typical resident is a widow in her 70s.)
We are also a part of the Interfaith Affordable Housing Initiative (IAHI), a collective of faith communities in Greensboro who have come together to address issues of affordable housing. Together with St. James Presbyterian, West Market UMC, Temple Emanuel, Westminster Presbyterian, Holy Trinity Episcopal, First Lutheran, Starmount Presbyterian, and others, we are exploring how faith communities in Greensboro can be a part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis.
IAHI is still in the early stages as we build a coalition of faith communities and establish relationships with other organizations in Greensboro, but at the Greensboro Housing Summit last week, hosted by the Greensboro Housing Coalition, there were four tables of people from our faith communities, including five of us from First Presbyterian. As we discern where God is calling us, I am excited that we have the opportunity to partner with other faith communities committed to making a difference in our community, particularly in the area of affordable housing!