The Impending Status of Fair Housing

Self-sufficient: able to maintain oneself without outside aid, capable of providing for one’s own needs


This is a term Action Pathways knows well, as it’s our goal to help the people of our community achieve and sustain self-sufficiency.     hand holding house.jpg

It’s also Secretary Ben Carson’s new aim for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Since its inception as a cabinet-level agency in 1965 amidst the advocacy of the Civil Rights Movement, HUD has focused on fair housing for America’s citizens. Of course, the agency has seen multiple phases and, many researchers can agree, must continue to address more of the issues faced each day by low-income Americans.

Like many components of life, housing is a social institution which influences and is, in turn, affected by an inestimable number of factors, one stretching over the other in a giant web, some strings taut with more stress for certain populations than others.

“Where families live is critical for their economic and social well-being,” explains Jenny Shuetz in a podcast for Brookings Institution. Shuetz, a David M. Rubenstein fellow in the organization’s Metropolitan Policy Program, researches housing policy and neighborhood change, among other public planning data.

Think about your own upbringing. Where you lived decided your schooling, which decided the friends or mentors with which you associated, which influenced your career decisions and personal pursuits. Where you lived decided if you took the bus or drove a car. If you picked out groceries at a national chain, farmer’s market or corner store.

And of course, where you lived was directly related to your household income.

HUD runs housing programs for various populations, but has most recently been mentioned in the news for its proposed rent reform. In April 2018, President Trump issued an executive order demanding welfare system reform and called upon cabinet secretaries to report recommendations for policy and program changes in alignment with the Administration’s Principles of Economic Mobility.

Secretary Carson’s proposal, estimated to affect over eight million Americans, would change the method of determining rent pricing for individuals in public housing units. Currently, individuals pay 30 percent of their adjusted income; the new plan would charge 35 percent of an individual’s gross income. According to analysis by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that means those in larger metropolitan areas will be spending 20 percent more each year. The change comes with other policies that hope to encourage upward movement, pushing families to earn more and eventually work their way out of poverty. For instance, planned work mandates being issued by the executive branch will penalize SNAP recipients with benefits cancellation if they don’t meet hourly requirements and if a lapse in employment surpasses three months.

Many researchers and nonprofit professionals have mentioned flaws in that thinking, citing the existing job market for the families living in federal housing. Often times, adults are working multiple low-paying part-time jobs to surpass a 40-hour work week. With positions earning between minimum wage and ten dollars per hour, missing one shift - whether voluntary (requesting off for an illness) or involuntary (being scheduled by a supervisor for five shifts instead of last week's six) - has big consequences.

Well, why work multiple part-time jobs instead of one full-time?, you might ask.

The answer is an unfortunate reality; and the question is but one moniker of great fortune. The cycle of poverty is not just generational, though that’s statistically factual; it’s also inherently circumstantial. It’s like the things young graduates say: No one will hire me without experience, but how do I get experience without a job? In a similar way, people can’t be expected to work their way out of poverty without being given the tools and education to succeed, and certainly not without empowered individuals and institutions understanding of the struggle and willing to give them opportunities to thrive. There are certain enigmas in society puzzle-pieced together by our own hands.

With changes coming to the way our nation approaches poverty, nonprofits will need to take new steps. The “safety net” instituted with President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was built through the creation of federal programs and community agencies to bring those initiatives into low-income areas. Established during this time, Action Pathways was created to do just that through comprehensive programs that tackle multiple aspects of life for low-income members of our community. Still, with limited staffing and funds plus continuous demand, all nonprofits may soon be asking themselves tough questions to meet the needs of our communities and do our part to move society forward.

Self-sufficiency, by definition, is a state of power owned solely by the individual. For clients to get there, though, they’ll need nonprofits and communities to work together. We must prioritize innovation and collaboration, and share the skills, expertise and compassion necessary to help individuals meet their goals.


#Housing  #Empowerment  #CCAP



Interested in becoming an ASPIRE participant to find YOUR pathway out of poverty? For more information, call us today: 910-223-0116.