Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives! The Housing Crisis Continues!

Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives!
The Housing Crisis Continues!

As I wrote in this column back in May 2005, for most people in the United States, there may be no housing problem. But as home construction costs continue to rise, nationally, this picture begins to change. Many more families are beginning to be affected. The median home price in the U.S. has passed the $219,000 price. That is an increase of 15.5 percent in the last year. The average price has reached $268.000. This does not brood well for families making the median family income of $58,000. And, costs seem to continue to shoot skyward.
Home prices have increased at a rapid rate, while wages have increased very slowly. As a result, those workers at the lower economic levels find themselves being forced into undesirable housing, and substandard living conditions.
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.
And those conditions exist here in Washington County. Increased building costs create a challenge for Habitat for Humanity of Washington County. The local affiliate has experienced soaring land prices, which have affected the donation of lots for building new homes. Habitat is having a hard time finding suitable property in the price range it can afford. Also, building restrictions on agricultural land, or because of sewage limitations, have prevented Habitat to build in certain areas. Recently, Habitat was able to purchase a couple of lots because the sellers agreed to a reduced price and to take the balance in tax reductions.
The natural disasters of 2005 have affected fund raising similar to what we experienced following the 9/11 attacks upon our nation. People and corporations are reaching out to help with the devastation, and understandably so. Yet, it does affect local funding of much needed projects such as providing affordable housing to the citizenry of Washington County.
Habitat for Humanity of Washington County is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign. It needs funding to reach its goal of eliminating poverty housing. In Washington County, more than 11,000 people, half of which are children, are living in poverty conditions. Most of these households are single parent homes, with female heads of household. Donations to Habitat can help provide safe housing where children can grow and flourish. Without a decent place to live, people cannot be productive members of society, children cannot learn, and families cannot thrive.
Contributions may be sent to Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, 20 South Prospect Street, Hagerstown, MD 21740. For more information call 301-791-9009.

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