In my law practice as an immigration and transactional real estate attorney, housing and homelessness are major issues of concern to myself and my clients. It is imperative that we work on finding sustainable solutions now.
In 2008, when the real estate market crashed, many people found their homes to be overvalued and were “underwater” — they owed more money to the mortgage lender than their house was worth in the then-current market. Often they could not afford to pay the monthly amounts required on the hefty loans that often times had been “pushed” on them and many short sales and foreclosures ensued.
As the real estate market tends to do, there will eventually be another cycle where housing prices will drop and interest rates will go up. In anticipation of the downward cycle, buyers should be cautious at the present time to have manageable fixed monthly payments.
Renters are likewise finding themselves in a precarious position. Often working families find that with a slight change in their financial situation, such as a medical issue, accident, or employment change, their economic difficulties can lead them to eviction. Homeless working families are all too common, and finding affordable housing has become an issue for many in our neighborhoods.
Families look to relatives or friends to temporarily help them during these difficult times, but not everyone has a person or place to turn to, and so we ask, where can they go? Housing shelters are few in number and are problematic for families because men and women are separated for security, including boys 12 and older.
A nationwide program, Family Promise, has finally been launched in Hudson County. Thirteen congregations around our community house four or five families for a week or two at a time. Evenings and weekends, members of the congregations engage with the guest families.
During the day, families receive social services in a Day Center that offers job search assistance and housing resources.
Many guest families are single working mothers illustrating both income inequality for women and the prohibitive costs of childcare.
The Family Promise program provides a wonderful service as it temporarily helps families struggling to stabilize, but it can only serve four or five families at a time. So many more people are in need of assistance.
How else may we address this crisis that continues to grow as it remains unnoticed in the media and in most communities? Affordable housing and housing resources for the homeless can no longer be ignored.