My adopted hometown of Asheville, NC, is physically beautiful, politically progressive, and socially aware. It’s a rare occasion that I don’t bump into friends and acquaintances several times a day at work, the grocery store, jogging in the park, or on a hiking trail. As the single mother of a three-year-old daughter, I consider myself lucky to call such a vibrant, vital, artistic town our home.
As a future Special Education teacher, I’m looking forward to contributing to the city’s culture by working to provide services to some of its historically under-served residents. The very things that I find attractive about this community – the mountains and trails, the diversity of people, the music and art – have drawn more and more residents to Buncombe County seeking the same experience. This has had some predictably negative results. According to our hometown newspaper, the Asheville Citizen-Times, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment has now topped $1,180 per month. This makes Asheville the most expensive town in NC in which to rent – for the first time topping even Charlotte. It’s something that’s a topic of constant conversation amongst my friends and co-workers. Rarely does a week go by that there isn’t an editorial or opinion piece written about the lack of affordable housing in the local newspapers. The situation has become so dire that public- and private-sector officials regularly refer to our housing crunch as “a crisis.” I feel incredibly fortunate to be the beneficiary of one of the relatively new affordable rental units whose cost is kept low through tax credits and government subsidies. Without this resource, I would never have been able to pursue a college degree. I would be stuck in a cycle all-too-familiar to working families in towns and cities across the nation – working multiple low-wage service jobs to pay increasingly exorbitant rents with nothing left over at the end of the month for my or my family’s future.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be the beneficiary of one of the relatively new affordable rental units whose cost is kept low through tax credits and government subsidies. Without this resource, I would never have been able to pursue a college degree. I would be stuck in a cycle all-too-familiar to working families in towns and cities across the nation – working multiple low-wage service jobs to pay increasingly exorbitant rents with nothing left over at the end of the month for my or my family’s future.
Affordable housing has given me the opportunity to provide a stable, loving home for my daughter. I’m able to be present in her life – eating meals together, reading books, and playing games – rather than having to work a second or third job that would take me away from her just to pay the rent.
I’ve worked hard my entire life. It is part of who I am. Waiting tables, arranging flowers,tending bar. These are all honest jobs whose workers deserve to be treated with respect. Affordable housing has given me the opportunity to return to school and prepare for a professional career that, ultimately, will benefit the entire community in a way I never could have
as a service worker. In this way, I’m also able to provide a positive role model for my daughter. She sees mommy studying and writing in the evenings, instead of putting on a uniform and walking out the door.
My personal experience is one that I know is mirrored in other communities across the country. Affordable housing is a vital component that promotes diversity and upward mobility. In my own apartment complex, I’ve become friends and neighbors with a whole range of people – from different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds – whose lives may not have otherwise intersected my own. These connections make our community stronger as we support one another and our families.
My interest in special education has also highlighted for me another concrete benefit of affordable housing: providing an opportunity for residents with intellectual disabilities to live largely independent, dignified lives. Affordable housing units equipped with assisted technologies (automated voice reminders that help residents remember to cook meals, get up in the morning, and keep track of daily tasks) are becoming viable options to the incredibly expensive group homes and live-in home care aides of the past.
I have seen first-hand how access to affordable housing changes individual lives and positively impacts the community as a whole. By promoting diversity, encouraging upward mobility, and providing the opportunities for families to take charge of their futures, affordable housing has become a vital component of the health and well-being of our communities. It’s a benefit that I don’t take for granted and I hope my life and professional career will stand as an example of how this resource can benefit not just the individual, but our nation as a whole.
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