Typically for this column, I write about my personal life stories, but today I pause to take a good hard look at our community and what I can be doing to make it a better place to live. Maybe it’s all the chatter in the world today that seems so polarizing, but I feel the need to take a stand on a subject that would benefit our entire region: increasing the supply of affordable, attainable housing. And, in my opinion, this is everyone’s responsibility.
Because of my profession, I am often at the center of conversations involving topics of greatest need in our community, specifically as it pertains to elevating the quality of life of others. I always enjoy these conversations as it fills my mind with collaborative opportunities, inspiration for growth and future optimism. I like to think we all want to live in a community where the vast majority of its residents are productive and thriving.
But I have to say that lately, no matter who the conversation is with or what population the target audience is, the barriers to elevation and assistance seem to stop at the available, affordable housing issue. Sure, we see many construction projects booming along east of Interstate 75, downtown Sarasota, the island communities, and even another plan for the controversial Long Bar Pointe area. But what about housing options for those who cannot afford to live in these typically more affluent communities?
Our regional area is dependent on those who are in the hospitality/service industry – hotels, restaurants, places of entertainment, lawn and pool service companies, and those in the construction field. Much of the available inventory in our local housing stock, both in single-family homes and apartments, is set at price points that are not attainable by full-time employees in the service industry.
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So as the housing inventory becomes increasingly favorable toward the luxury market, income inequality becomes even greater, and those who cannot afford the price of housing have an increased risk of slipping into homelessness. A safe, secure place to live for humans falls under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a basic physiological need, at the bottom of the pyramid. In other words, getting to the top (self-actualization) cannot be achieved until the basic needs are met.
No matter what your opinion is about those who are homeless or who is at risk, you might be surprised that their faces are all too familiar — families with children, our seniors, those living with disabilities, youth aging out of foster care, college students graduating from our local higher education institutions, young professionals, and your neighbors. Attainable housing matters, in a big way to an increasing number of individuals and families who live here. Supports needed during periods of homelessness or during at-risk periods snowball into creating a whole host of other issues that prevent people from living full, productive, healthy lives.
So here’s my gut-check call to my fellow friends, my neighbors, and my community: What can you do to advocate for more housing options? Think about how the people you depend on in your day-to-day life might be just one blown tire away from not being able to pay their rent. Think about how our region’s reputable builders can be part of this solution. Think about how much you enjoy the comfort of your home. Don’t you agree that everyone deserves the comfort and dignity of that basic need? Join me in the conversation.
Kameron Partridge Hodgens, Ph.D., CEO of The Glasser Schoenbaum Human Services Center, can be emaled at email@example.com