The Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission supports the creation of a comprehensive plan to address the chronic need for affordable housing across the state.
We cannot look the other way while our brothers and sisters subsist in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and unsafe and unsanitary dwellings. We can not watch the elderly live in fear of endless rent increases and growing violence in what was once their safe neighborhoods. New families are shut out of the American dream of home ownership when rents are too high that it is impossible to save for down payments on properties with skyrocketing prices. Each year the available supply of public housing declines as neighborhoods deteriorate. Initiatives to move the chronically mentally ill out of institutions are thwarted by a lack of community housing, and while prisons are overcrowded, the lack of halfway houses makes it a long step from the cellblock to the street. Persons with disabilities become a source of anxiety as parents wonder “what will happen to my child when I die?”
These problems are complex and we must seek a variety of solutions to address the issues before us. We must take steps to preserve available housing through greater neighborhood preservation and revitalization, but we must also increase the production of affordable housing in both urban and rural areas. The development of single room occupancies, or SROs are a viable option for shelter in some areas, and should be encouraged along with halfway houses and supportive living facilities. Creative partnerships between not-for-profit developers, financial institutions and governmental agencies should be created to take advantage of existing housing development programs. Technical assistance to faith based community development agencies across the state should be made available. Tax relief programs for the elderly should be more widely publicized. Home-buyer education programs and down payment assistance could help first time home owners successfully move into their own homes, and impact fees charged to developers of high dollar value subdivisions could be used to establish a pool to fund low income housing.
Decent, affordable housing is not a temporary problem. It is a large-scale issue, and demands a large-scale response from our state’s leaders.