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Why Should You Care about Affordable Housing?: Get to know JONAH’s Affordable Housing Task Force

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A city’s story of inequality is told according to who can pay the rent. In Eau Claire, that story shows a city in crisis. Our task force answers the question of who is worthy of a home—everyone deserves safe affordable housing.

JAHTF began it’s work last fall by advocating for a City Council Public Hearing to address the urgent need for affordable housing in any our community. In a standing-room-only hearing on Sept 24, 2018, Eau Claire City Council members heard the personal stories of many citizens who attested to the increased struggle to find and keep affordable housing. Press coverage of that hearing and the work of a regional affordable housing task force in which we participate has helped to raise awareness and create momentum, elevating the issue to the #1 priority of our City Council for 2019.

According to the United Way ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Restrained, Employed), 46% of our neighbors in the city of Eau Claire are housing insecure–they pay more than 30% of their income for housing. When our neighbors struggle, we all struggle.

At the same time, gentrification in the city has seen millions of dollars invested in developing high-end luxury housing that only benefits the wealthiest and drives property values of neighboring homes up to a point where even an average single family home becomes unaffordable for most families.

Our community does not have to make a choice between luxury housing and affordable housing. It is completely possible to integrate all types of housing and all price points into a vibrant, economically diverse and culturally rich city. JAHTF is dedicated to advocating for an increase in the number of affordable housing units across a spectrum that includes very low income families, seniors and disabled individuals on fixed incomes, and a workforce that need affordable housing.

JAHTF is building relationships with developers who are interested in creating new affordable units, and we are happy to be a part of the collaborative venture known as “The Devney Project.” This is a joint venture with the City of Altoona, C & M Builders, and JAHTF to remodel an unused commercial building on the south side of Altoona into 24 micro-apartments with community space. This project is our area’s first intentional affordable mixed housing development and will serve as a collaborative model.

JAHTF has also built relationships with neighbors in a fragile community, who need support and advocacy to maintain their current affordable housing. Linking them with their city council member, supporting listening sessions to identify their concerns and barriers, and assisting them in advocating for themselves within existing systems has seen small, incremental increases in the security of their neighborhood.

Systemic change is necessary to sustain an affordable housing mindset; thus we advocate for an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee to the Eau Claire City Council, comprised of stakeholders across a spectrum who are committed to nimble and creative ideas to advance affordable housing in our city. City Council members are currently moving forward with the creation of this committee.

You are invited to join us in our work, or to learn more about the issue. Our meetings take place the first Thursday of each month, 5:30 pm at First Congregational Church. Contact Judi Moseley or Susan Wolfgram to join our email  list.