In the past year, we have heard much about Lynchburg’s poverty rate. Housing, or more specifically, housing that is unaffordable, is a major factor in not only perpetuating poverty but also in causing household instability, both dramatically impacting our entire community.

Lynchburg has a significant affordable housing shortage, one that the Lynchburg Regional Housing Collaborative is addressing on a daily basis.

Here is what LRHC knows about affordable housing in Lynchburg:

» The 2018 Lynchburg housing study, “Housing Stability In Lynchburg” prepared by Enterprise Community Partners, indicates that 2,340 Lynchburg households with extremely low incomes ($25,750 or less for a family of four) could not find affordable housing. The vast majority of these families pay more than half of their income for housing. Housing that is not affordable causes higher levels of family stress, health issues, job instability and poor school performance, all costing our community, indeed all of us, real dollars and negatively affecting the Lynchburg economy. Affordable housing done well is a solution that reverses these losses.

» The shortage of affordable, quality housing results in hyper-mobility, the need to move frequently from house to house in order to maintain a roof over one’s head. Approximately 5,530 Lynchburg households with incomes of less than $25,000 moved in 2016. The median income of these households was $12,278. The negative impacts of hypermobility are many including increased crime, poor educational achievement of children, poor community cohesion, decreased home values and increased cost to the court system. Affordable housing is a solution to hyper-mobility.

» Unaffordable housing is a major cause of homelessness. In any given year, more than 800 men, women and children become homeless in Lynchburg. If housing is affordable, homelessness is reduced.

» Affordable housing does not negatively impact property values. Study after study shows that affordable housing has either no impact or, at times, actually increases surrounding property values. In addition, the property on which affordable housing is constructed or rehabilitated increases that property’s value, adding to the local tax base.

» Affordable, attainable housing is an economic engine for the city, providing many jobs and economic activities that improve the city’s tax base. One local housing nonprofit brought more than $18 million into Lynchburg in the past nine years alone.

We believe that housing is the basis for family stability and that a stable home is critical to improved family health, mental health, income and community involvement.

We applaud the city, in response to the Lynchburg Housing Study, for its development of the white paper “A Place to Live, A Place to Thrive” regarding housing needs and potential solutions to these needs. This is an excellent start, one that the city and LRHC will build upon to expand housing opportunities for all Lynchburg citizens. LRHC looks forward to working with the city toward a future where everyone has a decent, affordable place to live from which they can achieve their greatest potential.

The Lynchburg Regional Housing Collaborative (LRHC) works to set the stage for, encourage, and provide quality, affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities for people with low incomes in Central Virginia. Members of LRHC are Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity, Lynchburg Community Action Group, Lynchburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Miriam’s House, Rush Homes and the City of Lynchburg.

Smith is the executive director of Rush Homes. He wrote this column for The News & Advance. Learn more about Rush Homes at RushHomes.org.

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