The American dream means different things to different people. For many, it means owning a home in a community with amenities close by.
Your home is your castle; it’s where you should be safe and live comfortably. For some, that may mean a large home, while for others it can be a tiny house, but it needs to be affordable.
As our world changes, however, it’s becoming harder to achieve this American dream.
Median home values are increasing faster than our incomes. This means that fewer people can afford to own their homes.
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At the same time, rental costs are also rising. Current market rents in our area are between $850 and $1,250 per month. As these costs go up, people are either forced into housing that costs less, or are pushed out of housing altogether.
Having housing that is secure, well-maintained and located in a safe neighborhood that allows for active transportation (walking or biking) improves a person’s health. The reverse is also true: Cheaper housing that is damp and poorly insulated can lead to indoor air quality issues and cause asthma and other health issues. Additionally, living in neighborhoods where housing costs are less may mean living in areas with higher rates of violence and crime, where it is unsafe to walk or bike. All of these can lead to social isolation, which negatively impacts health further.
In addition, as housing costs (rents, mortgages and utilities) climb faster than our incomes, we have less money for things like healthy food, reliable transportation, education, and health care, which not only affects our health, but also our future earning potential.
If housing costs keep going up faster that our incomes, younger generations will find it even more challenging to find affordable housing. To help keep incomes growing, developing an educated workforce, creating new economic opportunities, and providing well-paying jobs has to be a priority. In doing so, we will ensure the American dream can be a reality for more of us, which will improve our health and quality of life.
Thurston Thrives calls for the development of “affordable, adequate and safe housing for all,” and envisions a community in which “every child has skills to find living-wage employment,” and “people are economically secure.” It promotes conditions where we are all “healthy, safe, valued and successful.”
Accomplishing these goals will form the foundation of a strong, vibrant and healthy community.
To make this possible, we must support new and innovative public-private partnerships like those taking place in Virginia; in Dublin, California; and in San Diego to create affordable housing for the future. These places may not look like where we live today or be what we are used to, but our children will thank us when they get their piece of the dream.