Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity Raises Awareness of Home Affordability Through Nationwide Cost of Home Campaign.
Somerville, NJ: July 7, 2020–
For a long time Andrea and her children couldn’t afford a decent place to live. Though Andrea was hard working, she had a low wage job and was barely able to afford the lowest rent in her area – an average two-bedroom apartment was over $1,700. She became caught in a punishing cycle of working two jobs to pay for a substandard, unhealthy apartment, that the family would tolerate for a while, and then pick up and move once the poor living conditions became too much. Her last apartment was prone to water leaks, which she believed caused her 5 year old daughter’s asthma. Andrea had a debate in her head every night as she laid awake: stay in the semi-affordable home that may be causing the asthma, so that she could afford groceries and put a little money aside each month, or move once again, pay more money for a “better” place and then cut way back on groceries, dental visits, and saving for emergencies. There was never a clear answer, so Andrea rarely slept well. The cost of affording a simple, decent place to live is a source of worry and concern for millions of Americans, but it shouldn’t have to be.
This summer marks one-year of Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity’s (RV Habitat) involvement in a nationwide home affordability advocacy campaign developed by Habitat for Humanity International called Cost of Home. The campaign involves Habitat organizations across the country united to educate the public and to invite them to advocate for action to improve home affordability for 10 million people in the U.S. over a five-year period.
Families living all across the country, and in New Jersey in particular, are paying too much to cover the cost of their homes, often foregoing basic necessities such as food and health care, and living in overcrowded, unsafe conditions to make ends meet. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1 in 5 households in New Jersey are severely rent-burdened, which means they spend 50% or more of their income on rent. The need for affordable homes is surprisingly urgent, even in thriving communities like Somerset and Hunterdon Counties, where it takes a minimum wage worker like an essential grocery store clerk or gas station attendant, 3.8 full time jobs to afford a $1,746 per month, two-bedroom fair market rental.
According to RV Habitat Executive Director Jan Holmstrup, “So many families in our area are forced to live in unhealthy, overcrowded conditions. It’s all they can afford in order to put food on the table. These families move often in search of a better place to live, which takes a toll on their children’s education, and social and emotional wellbeing. They’re often faced with making difficult choices, like whether to pay rent or take their child to see a doctor. No one should have to make these trade-offs.”
As the significant economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to unfold, the number of families struggling to make ends meet while still not living in a decent home is only growing. As lawmakers figure out future COVID-19 relief programs, they must be urged to include further support for families struggling to afford life’s essentials, as well as resources for nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity that serve our communities. RV Habitat urges the community to join in advocacy by taking some simple actions. You can go to www.habitat.org/costofhome and send a pre-written, customizable e-mail message to your state representatives to encourage them to prioritize the needs of low-income families and the organizations that work hard to serve them. You can also participate in the campaign on social media by sharing campaign support messages accessible through www.habitat.org/costofhome using #costofhome.
RV Habitat has provided home ownership opportunities and brighter futures to Andrea and her family, as well as 52 other families in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, including 139 children. All children deserve to grow up surrounded by the warmth, safety and comfort of a place they call home, where they can sleep at night in a comfortable bed, play in their neighborhood and celebrate their birthdays – a place that will become the backdrop to all of their childhood memories.
RV Habitat is beginning to build a home in Montgomery Township this month in partnership with the community and its 54th partner homeowner family, and expects to begin building in Hunterdon County in the near future. To support these projects by making a donation, please click the button below or mail a donation to Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 6275 Bridgewater, NJ 08807.
You can also get involved in supporting RV Habitat as a volunteer. RV Habitat is currently looking for help with construction projects and for assistance in our ReStore in Manville. Click the button below to find out more.
About Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity
Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity (RV Habitat) puts God’s love into action and brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. Our vision is a time when everyone in Hunterdon and Somerset counties has a decent place to live. Since 1991, RV Habitat has been building strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable home ownership opportunities for hard-working, local families. To learn more, explore our website and follow RV Habitat on social media by clicking the buttons below.