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Solving the Housing Crisis for Low Income Communities

If you think of the most pressing issues that our low-income, marginalized communities face, everything is centered on access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing. Without this essential foundation, how can we expect our communities to live healthier lives, contribute to our economy, and be active members of our society when every day they are at risk of losing their homes and going hungry?

Affordable, accessible housing, particularly right here in Central Pennsylvania, was a major problem long before the COVID-19 crisis. Now it’s a front-burner issue that’s risen to a roaring boil. And communities of color are disproportionately impacted as rent increases and homes are much harder to purchase in today’s market.

Many people can no longer afford to live in the communities and cities in which they grew up and have called home for generations. Rather, they are being driven out into far worse living situations that perpetuate an even greater problem.

Compounding this problem is a lack of access to education focused on financial literacy. Individuals limited by their credit scores and financial situation are left completely helpless due to a lack of access to information and resources to help dig them out of a sinking hole of debt. To further exasperate the problem, migrant and immigrant communities are at a severe disadvantage due to language barriers and racial profiling. And this gap has only continued to widen!

This issue needs to be elevated to a forefront concern for everyone. Even if you’re among the very fortunate to have a stable living situation, it still concerns you. As everyday people lose their jobs and burn through their savings, they’re becoming a part of the marginalized and at-risk communities. And as this population rises, so does a whole other host of social issues that can quickly lead to a community’s downward spiral.

Owning a home is the foundation of the American dream and the true beginning of being able to create wealth in America and lay roots in a community. We must do better as Americans for each other. Those who are in positions of power and influence must prioritize creating solutions that focus on universal equity, especially for low-income housing. And first, we must remove all the unnecessary red tape! We must think outside of old solutions that are not moving the needle. And we must clear the path for progress by removing cumbersome and outdated roadblocks.

Counties right here in Central Pennsylvania can and should strive to lead by example, especially Dauphin County as the Capital of our Commonwealth. Township commissioners, code officers, and local government officials need to refocus their energy on maximizing the use of existing streets and buildings that are in disrepair and make it a smoother process for interested developers to revitalize these areas.

Right now, the roadblocks and red tape make it nearly impossible to welcome community revitalization projects to the region. I speak firsthand when I say that a dream and desire to help create low-income housing opportunities is no longer enough. Significant changes to policies, procedures, and mindset need to happen in order to overcome the major hurdles that stand in the way of community partners, developers, and well-meaning citizens who want to help solve this crisis. And for the sake of the thousands of people right here in Central PA who risk going homeless tomorrow, that change needs to happen today!

About the Author: Founder and CEO of Fernandez Realty Group, George Fernandez is passionate about creating safe, affordable, and uplifting living environments for those in need, which is fueled by his own personal experience. The Sycamore Homes development team is led by Fernandez Realty Group, a minority-owned development company with ties to the immediate community, and Latino Connection, a local social determinants of health agency that exists to meet the needs of diverse and underserved communities. Fernandez’s vision is much bigger than any one building, city, or person. It is the key that unlocks opportunity, pride, and a sense of belonging. Sycamore Homes is the first building block in this foundation.

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