Why housing matters: Building a world where everyone has an affordable place to live
At Flatirons Habitat, we believe that housing is a human right. A stable home lays a foundation for growth, success and health - it should be affordable and attainable for all. But, as the prices for homes within the Boulder and Broomfield communities continue to skyrocket, fewer of our neighbors are able to afford a home.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as costing less than 30 percent of a household’s income. However, one-in-six households in the US are spending half or more of their income on rent or mortgages, often forcing families to sacrifice nutritious food, valuable education or vital health care in order to keep a roof over their heads. We consistently see these sacrifices in our own service area.
And in Boulder, more than half of renters are spending over 30 percent of their income on housing, and 32 percent of renters are spending over 50 percent. In 2018, the average cost of a single-family home increased by 21 percent from the previous year.
Across our entire service area, the cost of housing has continued to rise while incomes have remained the same. Because of this trend, housing often become a source of stress rather than a stable foundation for families. Cost-burdened households are forced to make impossible decisions to pay their rent or mortgage. Do they give up the quality of their children’s education to live in a safe home? Do they give up nutritious meals? Necessary health care? When an individual who earns minimum wage has to spend more than half of their income on housing, they are likely to be left with only $124 a week, or $17 a day, to spend on all other necessities. This leaves households with very little money for food, health care or valuable education.
We believe that nobody should have to make these choices. And we know that individuals thrive when they have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing.
According to Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, financial stress can result in high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression and other mental health illness. She states that housing is like a vaccine, as a stable and affordable home can provide numerous health benefits to individuals and the community, including improved health care, access to nutritious food and positive developmental progress among children.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) demonstrated that low-income children raised in stable affordable homes score higher on cognitive tests than children raised in households with unaffordable rent. They also have a higher chance of attending college, as money can be set aside for tuition.
Affordable housing makes a clear difference for individual households - but we also know that it benefits the community at large. When people can afford to live near their workplace and school, traffic decreases, local businesses thrive and school enrollment stays up. Owning a home can empower a family, and empowered families build strong, long-lasting communities. Homeowners are 15 percent more likely to vote, 10 percent more active in solving local issues, 28 percent more likely to improve their homes and 4 times more likely to stay in their neighborhoods longer.