Help Needed Now for People Losing Homes to Pandemic Evictions, Foreclosures

Naperville Sun guest column by Dave Neary, DuPage Habitat director

Cost of Home

NAPERVILLE (November 4, 2020) – As we move past the 2020 elections, it may be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and put politics behind us. But now is no time to take the foot off the gas. Millions of families across the country, including right here in Chicago’s suburbs, are facing a real and immediate housing crisis, and they need our help now.

Following Election Day, Habitat for Humanity outlined a set of immediate priorities for Congress to undertake to provide immediate housing relief, including mortgage and rental payment assistance that will help stave off a looming eviction and foreclosure crisis, and long-term housing investment.

We’re also calling on Congress and leaders at all levels of government to finally start treating housing as infrastructure and economic recovery as they set their 2021 legislative agendas.

As the executive director at DuPage Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs and a member of the community, I have witnessed the crippling effect the lack of affordable homes has had on so many families in the region.

Unfortunately, I too, have witnessed how much worse that crisis has become following the pandemic. For the majority of 2020, families have faced economic hardship from lost wages or layoffs. Yet they are forced to continue making impossible choices between paying their rent or mortgage and basic essentials like food, health care, education and transportation.

Families like that of Shaniese, age 46, who was laid off from her job publicizing conventions and special events when bans on mass gatherings across the country took hold. Before COVID-19, Shaniese and her children were already faced with tough lives.

With three special needs children with limited mobility, accessibility is key to a good quality of life. Living in a 600-unit apartment building has created insurmountable social distancing obstacles for Rashai, 26, Ranece, 24, and Raniya, 11, forcing them both to be mostly confined to their home. Since COVID-19, Shaniese has realized that while she was able to make their living situations work in the past, that is no longer the case.

This story is not unique. It takes place in homes across our nation: red and blue, urban and rural. Millions of families are facing the very real and very dangerous challenge of a future without affordable, adequate housing. The reality is, action is needed now to find solutions to the nation’s housing challenges.

Election season is over. Policymakers must quickly shift focus from campaigning to the needs of the American people because we have no time to waste. Studies like one done by the Aspen Institute show that 30 million to 40 million people in the U.S. are at risk of eviction and the risk of foreclosures and bankruptcy have “sharply increased,” with federal housing protections set to expire on New Year’s Eve. There is a critical and immediate need for housing relief for American families.

It’s time to act now for housing.

Habitat is currently advocating for optimizing land use for affordable homes and ensuring access to and development of communities of opportunity.

But the Chicago suburbs needs more. The United States needs more.

Together, people across our region will apply pressure on our federal state and local elected officials to support policies that will improve housing affordability. We are asking supporters to join our cause. We must continue to raise our voices on the need for affordable housing in the region and across the nation to show our elected leaders that they should prioritize policies that will put safe, decent housing in reach for more families.

Act now for housing. It’s an issue that can’t wait.

— Dave Neary is the executive director for DuPage Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs.


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