Hold industry accountable on affordable housing
It is remarkable that a community world-renowned for its hospitality is unable to provide its own residents affordable housing. With over 125,000 hotel rooms available for visitors, it is a sad state of affairs that many of the same workers who enable our economy are unable to find affordable housing within the community they support.
With less than a year in office, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings quickly began moving our economy into a place that honors all of our neighbors. In the community I serve, Commissioners Mayra Uribe and Maribel Cordero faithfully attend to the needs of the underserved and neglected parts of the county.
Sadly, our new county officials inherited agreements and a system of corporate welfare that places the wants of profitable corporations above the needs of our neighbors. This relic from previous administrations invites industry to meet with government at boardroom tables instead of uniting everyone to meet and find solutions at a common table.
Our county is in a unique position to bring equity to a system that has failed our neighbors. I applaud Mayor Demings in tackling these issues.
As an Episcopal priest, I am part of a faith community that vows to protect human dignity. Ensuring human dignity entails that everyone should have access to affordable housing. This also means that wealth created locally should not only pay dividends, but also enable working people to afford housing and still meet their family’s basic needs.
Today 715,000 renters pay more than 50% of their wages on housing. Locally, corporations are stripping families of the basic right to affordable housing.
Creating wealth through new development, fostering entrepreneurship and strengthening local industry is the right move for our community. Responsible partnerships between industry and government must work for both industry and all our neighbors. It is cruel to create jobs while keeping workers out of the community they strengthen. The same opportunities that draw corporate investment into our communities are the same opportunities our workers rightfully want for their families.
As of this month, the average apartment in Azalea Park rents for $1,264 a month, according to rentcafe.com. The gross monthly paycheck for a minimum-wage employee, working 40 hours a week with no vacation or sick time, is $1,466. Most landlords require families in these apartments to earn at least $3,792 a month (three times the monthly rent) or a least $21.87 an hour. A single working parent in our neighborhoods cannot easily overcome this economic barrier. The numbers are stacked against our working families.
This rent-to-wage gap, together with unreasonable qualification requirements for housing, wounds our neighbors. Numerous fees, unjust evictions, housing deposit theft, discrimination, and landlords who collect application fees knowing they have no apartments to rent make matters worse. This contributes to the rising numbers of homeless neighbors in our community. This must stop.
All of us should be vigilant of policies and corporate greed that shackle working families. We must reject the false narrative that the burden for housing solutions rests alone on the taxpayer and our families in need.
If local industry continues to use tax dollars to drive profits without equitable reinvestment into our communities, then we must step up to protect our neighbors. Our elected officials must hold industry accountable for honoring the dignity of our workers and neighbors. They should only collaborate with developers and landlords who use our generous tax incentives to prosper our neighbors through a Renters’ Bill of Rights. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has championed such a bill and it is available for the County to consider.
If we continue to permit corporate players to come in and take resources from our community, our elected officials have a sacred duty to ensure developers give back to the very same people that enable our local economy. Access to an affordable home is the heart of this. Every Orange County resident deserves to thrive.