City Rising is a multimedia documentary program that traces gentrification and displacement through a lens of historical discriminatory laws and practices. Fearing the loss of their community’s soul, residents are gathering into a movement, not just in California, but across the nation as the rights to property, home, community and the city are taking center stage in a local and global debate. Learn more.
A bus pulls up to a row of tan and red multistoried apartments in South Sacramento. As the passengers disembark, they comment on the well-manicured greenery, picnic tables, walkways and a children’s playground.
A property manager leads the tour group through the property’s community room and into one of three large courtyards, allowing full view of the play area. These homes, known collectively as Mutual Housing at Lemon Hill, defy much of what the visitors had previously thought of as “affordable housing.” Helping the audience to question their assumptions about affordable homes and the neighbors who live there is the main objective of this visit.
This group is participating in the annual Affordable Housing Bus Tour, facilitated by Sacramento Housing Alliance and one of the agency’s most popular events. Designed to engage, educate and communicate the need for affordable housing interactively, Affordable Housing Bus Tour dispels myths and misconceptions about affordable homes. The tour brings together local decision-makers and community members who are active in neighborhood associations and community groups throughout the city and county of Sacramento. During the course of an afternoon, the group will visit ten affordable housing properties throughout the county. The tour showcases a range of the best affordable housing in the region: LEED-platinum apartments located next to a light rail station; stately townhomes on a tree-lined street; and cheery, colorful single-family homes. Residents at each property come from all walks of life, backgrounds and age groups; they include seniors, families with children, veterans and people with disabilities.
Discussions about affordable housing can often get heated, divisive or bogged down in policy details that distract from the human need for a safe place to call home. Seeing real examples of these homes, embedded in their respective neighborhoods and a clear asset to their communities changes the conversation. Tour guides, who are experts in the field of affordable housing development, draw the group’s attention to the way these buildings blend into the fabric of already established neighborhoods and stand out as examples of well-constructed and maintained properties. Attendees see that affordable housing is indistinguishable from market-rate and often better maintained and more environmentally friendly. At least once a tour, someone exclaims, “This is nicer than my building!”
As the tour continues, the guides allow deeper policy questions to emerge and spur conversation organically among attendees. An attendee may ask, “Why can’t we build more housing like this?” As community leaders, tour attendees are too well aware that Sacramento needs 62,072 more affordable rental homes to meet the needs of its lowest-income residents, but the funding for creating those homes has become increasingly scarce. Sacramento County has lost 66 percent of state and federal funding for affordable housing since 2008. The redevelopment and proposition funding sources that made the buildings on the tour possible have disappeared. Meeting Sacramento’s housing need will require new solutions, including the support of the tour attendees, now informed to ally with Sacramento Housing Alliance and advocate for more affordable housing.
The Sacramento Housing Alliance (SHA) engages community members to find housing solutions every day. Our mission is to advocate for safe, stable, accessible and affordable homes for homeless and lower-income people in healthy communities through education, leadership and policy change. Since our founding in 1989, we have worked toward the vision that everyone in Sacramento has a home in a healthy and inclusive neighborhood. In recent years, like much of California, Sacramento has experienced a regional housing crisis, with affordable housing production slowing to a trickle, homelessness growing and rents soaring. According to a 2017 report released by Sacramento Housing Alliance and California Housing Partnership, nearly a third of very low-income households in Sacramento Housing pay more than half their income in rent, as do 77 percent of extremely low-income households. Each month Sacramento residents are making impossible choices between paying rent, putting food on the table or buying needed medication. The focus of our advocacy is meeting the housing needs of our most vulnerable community members so that no one has to face those choices.
SHA is meeting the challenges of Sacramento’s critical need for homes by mounting a campaign to identify new creative and sustainable local funding sources for constructing and preserving affordable homes. SHA believes all Sacramentans deserve an affordable, safe and healthy place to call home. One of the best ways to make that vision a reality is expanding the dedicated sources of revenue for Sacramento’s housing trust funds, which will ensure that affordable homes are created and preserved throughout the region. Finding new ways to fund affordable homes requires that we work with a broad coalition of partners — our traditional allies in the faith and service provision worlds; our partners who work on other aspects of healthy communities, such as active transportation and environmentalism; and groups who may not yet be supportive of affordable homes. These conversations all start with what an affordable home means: safety and security; healthy, vibrant neighborhoods; environmental sustainability; and, in one case, a row of red and tan apartments down the block.
Top Image: Affordable Housing Bus Tour participants visiting an affordable housing property in 2015. | Sacramento Housing Alliance
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