The following speech was given before the Raleigh City Council on behalf of Congregations for Social Justice on July 7. The meeting was held to discuss the city’s proposed UDO.
I am Cathy Tamsberg, associate pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, and I am here today as the facilitator of Congregations for Social Justice. CSJ is multi-faith and multi-racial and includes members of nearly 40 congregations and nonprofits in Raleigh. We are committed to advocacy for public policies that will create a better Raleigh for all people, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. Affordable housing has been a focus of ours since our founding nearly a decade ago.
We are here today to affirm the efforts of both the council and city staff to seriously address the growing shortage of affordable housing in our city. We want to urge you to become pro-active, think and act outside the box, and perhaps even take some risks for the individuals and families who need your help the most – some of whom are employees of the city.
Between 2000 and 2012, Raleigh experienced a 97% growth in its poor population. (In 2000, 66,177 families were considered poor by federal standards. This number grew to 130,342 in the 2008-2012 count). This growth increases the need for workforce and affordable housing well beyond the number of units we have been able to develop in the recent past. As our city continues to grow and more and more affordable units are re-developed into high-end housing, we cannot just do a little better with the programs and funding sources we have in place and expect to solve this problem. Affordable housing is necessary for the health of our city. Economic segregation is no better for us than racial segregation.
How can you solve this problem? With political will and a commitment not only to doing the right things, but doing them in the proper sequence to ensure success.
First, approve your draft Affordable Housing Plan, draft Downtown Visioning Plan, and draft Scattered-Site or Housing Replacement Plan. All of these plans, when approved, will affect other plans and actions being considered by the council. Please begin your efforts to lead here, work out the details and put these plans in place before you approve more and more re-development in the city.
Second, adopt best practices and new housing ideas from around the country and push the current envelope. The number of units needed is huge. Do not be afraid of the real number. Start there, not with the idea of what we can do with current staffing or funding, or what we have been able to accomplish in the past. Determine the true need in the city and address it.
Third, housing leaders in our city are ready and willing to assist you. A housing commission or extended time task force is used with considerable success in many other cities. A commission would help you focus on this issue and assist with the work that needs to be done.
We are grateful for the attention you and the staff are giving to this issue and we will assist in any way we can. If Raleigh is going to be the fair, compassionate and dynamic community we all want it to be, we simply have to make decent, affordable housing available to all of our neighbors. We can’t honestly call ourselves a great city until all of us have a decent place to call home.