Millions of families in New York are struggling to find a quality home at an affordable price during our continuing housing crisis. This is a statewide crisis even though so much media attention is focused on the crisis in New York City’s five boroughs. Consider that 61 percent of renters in Greene County, just south of Albany, pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent—the same percentage as the rent burden for Bronx residents.
Solving this crisis requires that stakeholders of diverse backgrounds and locales band together to tackle these challenges head-on. It is encouraging to see a new faith-based coalition come together to expand affordable housing opportunities and educate communities about how they can help their neighbors. The New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) is proud to lend its support to the New York State Council of Churches in their leadership across the state with their “Who is My Neighbor” teach-in series.
The Council is hosting seminars across New York to bring together faith leaders, key affordable housing stakeholders, and congregants from multi-faith religious institutions. These seminars are designed to: inspire congregations to consider new ways of reaching their communities; draw upon rich theological foundations; and expand their mission to find more opportunities to create affordable housing and other community benefits.
Gatherings have already taken place in White Plains and Medina and were attended by dozens of participants from 10-20 local congregations. Three more are scheduled to be held over the next six months, with an event in Manhasset on January 28, in Saratoga Springs in March, and in Syracuse in May. This is truly a statewide effort.
The Council of Churches has experience hosting events that translate ways that complex public policy issues impact local communities. Last spring, Peter Cook, the Council’s executive director and leader of the housing initiative, hosted teach-ins across 13 cities statewide. He, along with the Fiscal Policy Institute and other partners, went through the state budget with local residents and provided a forum for participants to discuss key issues. By expanding these programs to address the housing crisis specifically, the coalition is on its way to accomplishing much more.
The housing crisis is impacting families of all backgrounds in many communities, posing a real threat to the long-term health of our state. Community leaders have a responsibility to proactively address this problem now on behalf of their neighbors and constituents. Faith-based organizations have long led the way in advocating for changes and opportunities for all New Yorkers and it is inspiring to see them do so again with housing. It is even more encouraging that the Council has partnered with leading experts like Goldstein Hall Attorneys at Law, the Pace University Land Use Law Center, and other well-informed and influential groups.
All leaders and advocates across the state have an opportunity to benefit and learn from these seminars. NYSAFAH strongly encourages community faith leaders, trustees, governing board members, religious congregants and other community leaders to attend upcoming seminars and spread the positive messaging to their communities.
We continue to support efforts that bring communities together in order to address the lack of housing security threatening individuals across the state. In order to tackle this crisis head-on, it’s crucial that we tackle it together. When we do so, we can collectively ensure that families across our state have access to the housing that they deserve.