Flores: Pima Community Land Trust responds to fair housing crisis
This year, Fair Housing Month comes smack in the middle of a housing crisis of great magnitude. For the past two years, many members of our community, particularly the disadvantaged and underserved who were already housing-challenged, have experienced an even greater hardship as a direct result of skyrocketing prices and rents that have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The median sales price for a single-family home is up 22.4% from this time last year. Rents have increased 25% over the last three years. There is tremendous urgency in the drive towards solutions for sustainable housing.
We celebrate Fair Housing Month in recognition of the Fair Housing Act which was included in the 1968 landmark Civil Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968.
The act called on our country to ensure safe and secure housing for all. It prohibited discrimination "on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin in housing sales, rentals or financing." While great strides have been made, barriers persist, and the current crisis has exacerbated housing availability and affordability.
Tucson is rich in culture, history, community, and so much more. Being a native Tucsonan, and a 6th-generation Mexican-American, I take pride in our "Old Pueblo."
Something that has started to shake that pride, is seeing the number of people that need affordable, equitable, and fair housing. I want to first say that I am impressed and excited to witness the efforts that the city of Tucson and Pima County have been and are continuing to make for the people of our Old Pueblo, especially our most vulnerable.
However, as a community, we need to be doing much more.
In my role as a HUD certified housing counselor at the Pima County Community Land Trust, I hear daily from individuals who are experiencing housing crises. Some are timing out of their Section 8 housing voucher because there are no rentals they can afford. There are people being evicted, because the "new owner" will not accept a housing voucher. People are forced to purchase houses that are not in good shape that are already "money pits" because they are the only houses they can afford. These individuals choose to buy because they would rather pay less on a mortgage than what market rent has become here in Tucson. Tragically, many are also being displaced from their current neighborhoods because the rent is now too high.
At PCCLT, we are a HUD certified housing counseling agency, where we help people with these very problems.
We advocate for homeowners, tenants, and those looking for a place to live. We are able to help with local resources where individuals and families can possibly find equitable and affordable housing opportunities or be able to sustain their current housing situation.
PCCLT has developed extensive community and municipal partnerships to be part of the solution, participating in task forces for accessible dwelling units, or casitas, housing and development, and eviction prevention.
Over the past three years, PCCLT also has engaged in significant community outreach around gentrification and displacement. These relationships with barrios and neighborhoods help to inform our work.
PCCLT serves low- to moderate-income individuals and families and the majority of our participants are people of color. Since its inception, PCCLT has been an advocate for equitable solutions for affordable housing, providing homeownership opportunities to communities historically barred from such wealth-building tools.
In fact, the first community land trust grew out of the Southern civil rights movement as a tool for establishing a new form of land tenure for black farmers and their families.
The CLT model relies heavily on community support. We currently have a few board positions open for those interested and willing to work for equitable housing solutions. Join us and become part of the solution!
Olga Flores is a member of the Pima County Community Land Trust and the city of Tucson’s Commission on Equitable Housing and Development.