What about affordable housing?

As the presidential candidates debate over the finer points of Medicare and rising oil prices, one of the more neglected issues this campaign season is affordable housing. By many standards, we have been sliding into a housing crisis of large proportions. An unanticipated and unintended side affect of the nation’s booming economy is the increase in housing costs. The stereotype of a housing crunch affecting only low-income people is no longer applicable, as the current crisis is engulfing the middle class.
The housing crisis is partially caused by neglect of current housing units, a decline of housing production and soaring housing prices. The federal government defines “affordable housing” as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a family’s income. However, a rising number of families are spending more than half of their income to make sure that they have a roof over their heads. Increasingly, housing is becoming the limiting factor to many people’s prosperity.
Housing is an issue that is quietly affecting America. In response, though, politicians seem to have few answers or ideas to address the situation. A quick search of Vice President Al Gore’s Web site shows that “affordable housing” is a section within the issue of Urban Communities. The only other mention is Gore’s response to a Town Hall question about it.
Gov. George W. Bush’s Web site has no sections devoted to housing issues. A Web site search reveals mentions of housing, but only in passing and usually part of another issue.
James Gibson, running under the banner of the Independence Party, is the only senate candidate to mention housing on his Web page. None of the various third party candidates running for president or the other senate candidates in our state mention housing on their campaign Web sites. This is an issue that many people face, not only in the Twin Cities, but also across the nation. Apparently it is being ignored.
A lack of affordable housing has severely impacted Minneapolis and the University campus. The United Way of Minneapolis recently launched an affordable housing initiative to respond to the problem. One of their initiative’s main goals is to educate civic and community leaders about the problem, its impact and solutions. This is as vital as their call to produce and maintain affordable housing. Politicians must not only be aware of the housing crisis, but they must be willing to offer proposals that lead to solutions.
Although Bush and Gore have ideas about how to eliminate the housing crisis, their silence on the matter is troubling. Issues such as national defense, abortion and the economy are vital topics, but housing is a basic need and should be addressed with as much, if not more, passion. The American Dream of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” cannot be achieved if people are unable to even secure a place they can call home.