Why are we here? Why did Habitat invite you? Have we gathered today at the future home of the Campos family simply to help this one family? Or is it something more? For us, it is because advocating for policies that promote housing affordability matter for our entire community!
B/CS Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a community where everyone has a decent, affordable place to call home. We take our inspiration from the bible verse where Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Galatians 5:14). Since 1989, we have done just that. We have built almost 300 homes for families in need of decent, affordable housing. These homes benefit these families by helping them do their work in our community. We believe in the intrinsic value of this work, and that these homes provide transformative opportunities for better health and wellbeing.
In Brazos County, there are thousands of families who live under the poverty line and struggle day to day, living in dilapidated or unaffordable housing. If we build an average of 10 homes a year, it would take this affiliate hundreds of years to achieve this vision on our own. And that’s only if the problem of affordability does not get worse!
What must we do to help those who are not served by our homeownership program?
We must focus on not just building homes, but advocating for policies that affect housing affordability at all levels – local, state and federal. This is why we invited you today.
Local policies, such as restrictive zoning and ordinances, reduce the supply of housing and federal policies increase housing demand through expanding access to credit. It may have been a while since any of us has taken an economics course, but you remember what happens when supply decreases and demand increases – prices go up!
These policies impact the price and availability of decent, affordable housing, and ultimately put the price of a good home out of reach for too many of our neighbors. Policies that hurt the many and benefit the few must end, and we need leaders at all levels who care more about the livelihoods and long-term success of the people they serve than about the special interests of a select few.
By its very nature, Habitat is a nonpartisan organization. We will not endorse any political party or candidate over another. However, I want to make this very clear: we intend to solve this problem, and will actively work to encourage you to be a part of this solution.
We strive for the day when we do not have to exist at all, where there is no need for an organization like Habitat. We look forward to a day when a working family with kids can afford to go out and get a loan to build a home in a decent part of the city, even though they are not wealthy, and a day when a young couple can rent a townhome or apartment in a walkable neighborhood and not have to choose between paying their extravagant rent or their student loans.
We will continue to be vocal in our support of policies that truly promote affordability. We will pursue that outcome, and will support policies that represent that bible verse “love our neighbors as ourselves.” If you are elected, we ask that you keep housing affordability in the forefront of your mind as you work for the people who elected you. We implore you to not ignore the suffering of your people but to support policies that increase good affordable housing supply in our community. A stable, affordable home is necessary for your constituents (our neighbors) to not just survive but thrive and we cannot solve the problem of unaffordable and substandard housing without your partnership.
Thank you for what you are already doing. You would not be here working on this house for your neighbors if you did not care about them. We challenge you to do more, always keeping in mind the command (not a suggestion) Jesus gave to His people to “love your neighbor as yourself.” If you do this, and you truly fight for those policies that help all our neighbors in B/CS, you will have a partner in B/CS Habitat for Humanity. We look forward to collaborating with you to make this community one where everyone has a decent place to call their own.
[This is a rough transcript of the opening remarks made by Charles Coats, B/CS Habitat staff member and affordable housing advocate, at the Oct. 4, 2019 Habitat Candidates Build in Bryan, TX. Candidates for local, state and federal offices were represented at the build.]