When we bought a house in our neighborhood seven years ago, it was a relatively diverse place, but it is rapidly gentrifying. In reading “The Dallas Morning News” several weeks ago (yes, I read the actual physical newspaper), I saw an article about an apartment complex not far from me that had been sold to a developer, likely to be transformed into an expensive condo. The current tenants had 60 days to vacate. The tenants responded by having a protest, highlighting the plight of low-income renters.
At the end of last year I read Evicted by Matthew Desmond. It is an important, illuminating and heartbreaking book about how hard (and expensive) it is to be poor in America, never being able to put down roots anywhere, always being required to search for the lowest rent or go homeless. I don’t know the people who have been basically evicted in my neighborhood, but because of this book, I am now familiar with the sad path that this might take them.
We recently had to vacate our house for about a week because of a mold problem. We moved in with my parents who live on the other side of town. It just about drove me bonkers (not because of my parents) but because it just wasn’t home and our schools, our jobs, our activities were now 30 minutes away. But I had a safe space to go for a limited period of time. I can’t imagine having to pick up and move so often because of not being able to make rent or getting evicted.
Most low-income earners spend 60% or more of their paycheck on rent. That is just absurd. One, we don’t pay people enough and two, the cost of paying for a place to live has become astronomical, not even just for renters. Because the housing market has been booming, even my husband and I could not afford to buy in our current neighborhood now. Basically, we need more affordable housing in all our neighborhoods.
You might be thinking that Section 8 vouchers could cover this. Well, most people are on a wait list for years and even then, many properties do not have to take these vouchers. We had a friend who (after waiting three years) got the coveted Section 8 voucher, but it took him another year to find a complex that would accept it…in Ennis. Dallas needs to require new developers to make affordable housing right along with these fancy, expensive condos. Dallas needs to require that more landlords take Section 8 housing. And we all need to see that housing is a basic right.