Last year, the Federal Bank of New York created a Community Advisory Group (CAG) to provide a real-time view of the issues faced by a diverse set of communities across the Second District. Family Promise CEO Claas Ehlers is one of the members, helping the NYFED assess the impact economic policy has on housing and homelessness.
Last month, at the final meeting of the CAG attended by outgoing president William Dudley, Ehlers and Mike Armstrong of Community Hope presented to NYFED leadership about affordable housing and its impact on economic mobility. Drawing upon the experiences of Affiliates in communities including Buffalo, Rochester, and multiple New Jersey counties, Ehlers discussed the common factors that cause family homeless in the district, such as inflated housing costs and lengthy waiting lists for public housing.
A key measurement of housing affordability—the housing wage—figured prominently. The housing wage is a calculation of the amount a household needs to earn per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the recommended limit of 30% of income. As CAG members from upstate New York attested, even the lowest-cost housing demands a $14 wage—a rarity for low-skill workers. In New Jersey, the housing wage is routinely in the $30-40 per hour range; an unattainable income level for a large portion of the population.
Solutions were discussed, with more protections for low-income renters being the most prominent. However, spending on housing rehab and development is another critical step. As Ehlers notes, “Homes are where jobs go at night.” The current economic success is only sustainable if the workforce has safe, affordable housing.
While it is sad to see a visionary leader like President Dudley leave, The NYFED remains committed to working with the CAG as its new president, John C. Williams, comes aboard. Family Promise looks forward to continuing to give voice to those without housing and advocating for policy that empowers low-income families.