As we see it, the biggest problem is that many working people are paid too little to be able to afford housing a builder can afford to build.* With a livable wage, people could pay enough for housing that it would be possible for a builder to build them good houses and make a profit – and worthwhile for a landlord to own and maintain good apartments. We figure that, if all wage earners were paid a livable wage, that would solve 70% of our housing problems.
But there will always be the other 30%: people with low income, unable to work because they’re elderly, disabled or lack training or child care, or because their jobs have gone overseas. To decently house these people requires public help – a need the federal government has acknowledged since 1937. But, since 1977, federal funding for low-income housing has shrunk by more than half. So, in addition to livable wages, we need re-commitment by the federal government to the needs of the ill-housed.
But no amount of government help or wage improvement will solve our housing problems if we neglect the housing we have. It’s our biggest affordable housing resource. It has got to be preserved – with public help where needed.
Basic solutions to the housing problem are mostly beyond our organization’s reach. But, working with others in Vermont and nationally, we make some progress sometimes.