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Habitat: Affordable Housing is a Crisis

Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives
Affordable Housing is a Crisis
by William L. Bulla

For most people in the United States, there is no housing problem. The housing sector has done well in our economic picture. Housing prices have increased rapidly. They have exceeded double-digit increases yearly.
Homeownership has become more illusive for many families. It is doubtful these housing prices will become more affordable, because of our population
growth and restrictions of building bans in many areas. Housing values are going up, while that is not true of the salaries of so many people.
Maryland's affordable housing is an example of the housing crisis facing America today! Studies by the National Low Income Housing Coalition show that the affordable housing crisis affects approximately one-third of the population. A housing unit is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30% of the renter's income. The 2004 figure for the Housing Wage in Maryland was $18.25 per hour. This is the amount a full-time (40-hours per week)
worker must earn in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the area's Fair Market rent of $949. A minimum wage earner ($5.15 per hour) can only afford a monthly rent of $268.
Habitat For Humanity of Washington County, an ecumenical Christian housing ministry, is a volunteer-based organization. It addresses the most basic of human needs, a place to live and grow, by providing decent, affordable housing for low-income families.
While most of the volunteers have no construction experience or building skills, they are involved in most phases of construction. Working side-by-side with the family who will live in the house, Habitat volunteers
experience the joys created when a family is able to realize its dream of home ownership.
Habitat homes are primarily funded by contributions of money and in-kind donations of materials, services and land. The homes are built with volunteer labor and "sweat equity" of 500-hours of labor by the family
taking title to the home. Habitat sells the home to the family at no profit and offers a zero-interest mortgage on the home. The money from the payments is used to build more homes.
Habitat for Humanity goal is to eliminate poverty housing. In Maryland, Habitat affiliates are participating in a "Building Homes; Rebuilding Lives" campaign that is designed to raise public awareness of Habitat for Humanity in celebration of the 700th home built in the State since Habitat came to Maryland in 1982. The campaign is seeking to attract new sponsors, find
available land, and recruit volunteers throughout Maryland in order to build another 300 homes by the year 2008.
This column about your local Habitat for Humanity affiliate will be published here bi-weekly. Its purpose is to keep the reader alerted to Habitat's mission of working, in partnership with the community, to provide
decent, affordable homes to approved, eligible, low-income families, thus ridding our communities of substandard housing.
For more information, call Habitat for Humanity of Washington County at 301-791-9009.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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