After the Fredericksburg Chapter completed its successful campaign to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, they began a process of discernment about what to do next. What did they want to see change in their community?
Leaders in the chapter focused on affordable housing as an issue that united a large number of them. Seniors who had lived in the area for many years were forced out of their homes by increasing real estate taxes. Low wage workers found they couldn’t afford to buy any homes in the area. No one could find good rental homes or apartments they could afford.
All of the issues related to cost of living, such as lack of a living wage and high cost of health care, affected them. They chose housing because it was something the city planning commission and other local agencies could address.
The forum created an opening where local groups and residents could understand the need for affordable housing and what the obstacles are.
“As a pastor of a local church in a working-class neighborhood,” said Rev. Doug McCusker, “I see what happens when people get priced out of their apartments and homes. It is devastating to them and the community. We are at a critical juncture in the economic story of Fredericksburg. I believe it is imperative that City Council work with community groups, developers, employers, and houses of worship toward creative solutions that retain affordable housing while enabling responsible, balanced economic growth.”
Panel participants included Beth Klein from PAH, Inc., Mike Taggert from the Fall Hill Civic Association, Sarah Walsh from Rappahannock United Way, Froncé Wardlaw from Project FAITH, and Daniel Turczan from Legal Aid Works.
More than twelve Virginia Organizing leaders worked together to make the forum possible, and Duane Edwards, a member of the State Governing Board, moderated the discussion.
The campaign has just begun. Now the chapter will decide what to ask local decision makers to do about the problems that have been identified. For more about the Forum, see this article in the Fredericksburg Freelance Star.
55% of households in Fredericksburg do not earn enough to pay all of their daily living expenses.
At the minimum wage of $7.25/hour, a worker will earn enough to pay a monthly rent of $377, but the average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Fredericksburg is $1600. Four adults working full-time at minimum wage could not afford this rent!
On average in Virginia, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, workers need to earn more than $23/hour to afford a two bedroom rental home.