Food on the table, or a roof over your head

On April 18, NWSHC Housing Organizer, Ernie Lukasik, gave the following plea for affordable housing to the Chicago City Council. Following his speech, Ernie and the Mayor had a frank discussion about the need for affordable housing in Belmont Cragin and the northwest side. Here are Ernie's words to the Council:

“Housing woes not just urban,” study finds. “California Jobs outpacing affordable housing.” “The Crisis in “Affordable” Housing.” “Crisis For Poor Called Worst in 20 Years.” “Plea Made for More Affordable Housing.” These are the headlines in articles that are running in newspapers across our nation and city every day. “Plea Made for Affordable Housing.” That’s why we are here.

Half of homeowners in the Chicago area and just more than half of renters are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. In many cases up to 38 to 44% on housing. 14% of local homeowners are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing. It’s food on the table or a roof over their head. And you should know this better than most. After all, your body has raised taxes on your constituents 6 times in the last seven years. 

To drive down poverty and promote economic mobility we need to make a major investment in affordable housing. Trump’s preliminary 2018 budget includes a 13.2 percent reduction to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the elimination of the Interagency Council on Homelessness-- cuts that will almost certainly result in the loss of hundred of thousands of housing vouchers and leave families rent-burdened and homeless. 

While we used to think about affordability as something that affected low-income families, it’s really moving up the economic ladder. Middle class families are having a hard time finding housing they can afford. Some of them have had to trade higher-wage jobs for lower-wage service sector jobs. Working households have had a harder and harder time finding housing they can afford.

You have a choice. You have a vote. You can make this affordable housing a reality. This housing has substance. You have a chance of backing an equality promoting initiative. Don’t miss your chance.

There is a movement happening in this country and believe me when I say in this city. I knock on doors and hear the frustration of your constituents. Since January 2017 there has been a successful women’s march. A louder Black Lives Matter. Sure candidates that were thought to be unbeatable have lost their elections. A womens' Me Too initiative, teenagers in Florida actually raising a voice to the NRA and being listened to. Teachers in Kentucky and West Virginia standing up for unions. To quote Bob Dylan, the “Times They Are A Changing.”

You have a chance to NOT do business as usual. To take politics out of the issue. To make affordability a reality and not just rhetoric. I hope you make the right choice. I thank you for your time.


Laura Slabaugh