It is no secret that the shale extraction industry has, in many ways, proven to be an economic boon to the areas in and around Washington County. Region-wide, tax coffers which once bordered on becoming bone dry now overflow. Land-poor families who struggled for generations now forego climbing and, instead, ride royalty checks up the economic ladder. Many area residents - as well as those who have followed the industry to the region - have found good-paying jobs.
While some might benefit more than others, surely everyone must, in some sense, share in this bounty. Surely no one would be left hungry in such a land of milk and honey.
Unfortunately, regardless of the situation, someone always goes hungry - and that someone is usually the poor. Or, as in this instance, a particular sub-section of the poor, namely low-income renters. The influx of transient workers has created a tremendous demand for temporary housing and resulted in a surge in rental prices.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), using data supplied by American Community Survey (ACS), almost two-thirds of Washington County renters paid less than $500 monthly rent for the period 2007-2011. Only two years later (2009-2013), that number had shrunk to barely half and the number of rentals garnering landlords $1,000 or more had nearly doubled.
Furthermore, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) determined that the Fair Market Rent (FMR) of $772 for a two-bedroom apartment in Washington County in 2013 was beyond the economic reach of 59% of the county's renters.
Sometime, over the course of the next month or so, two Washington County families will move into their new Habitat-built homes. Their anticipated monthly mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, will be around $500. They will have neither a landlord nor the fear that their monthly housing payment could skyrocket.
These families did not just work hard to get their own home. They also worked hard to help other families get their own home. Thanks to that hard work - and the support and generosity of others - they get to join in on the prosperity.
Unfortunately, the number of families who dream of following in the footsteps of our new Habitat homeowners far exceeds the number of families we can currently help. However, that need not be the case. The extent of our ability to help is limited only by our financial resources. An increase in our financial support translates directly to the number of families with which we can partner.
Now, more than ever, there is a need to offer families who are economically challenged a hand up. Now, more than ever, there is a need to help provide those families with a safe, decent and affordable home. Now, more than ever, there is a need for Habitat for Humanity.