Finding housing, creating home in JeffCo | Housing Hub

Justine Gonzalez-Berg
Posted 4/6/22

Last week we convened a group of young professionals to hear about their experiences with securing housing. 

It was one of the few times in my work life that the table was full of young …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Finding housing, creating home in JeffCo | Housing Hub

Posted

Last week we convened a group of young professionals to hear about their experiences with securing housing. 

It was one of the few times in my work life that the table was full of young voices, working voices, and the voices of those who are committing their time and talents to make this community their home. Those voices are not often heard in Jefferson County, where we have had the highest median age in the state for over a decade. So, I’d like to give them some space to speak in this month’s Housing Hub column. 

The first thing that struck me was how emotional this topic is. 

Before we had completed our round of introductions, in which most participants shared their current living situation or recent housing history, several participants were nearly crying. I heard the frustration at feeling disempowered in unhealthy landlord-tenant relationships, the stress of having to move frequently, not feeling secure even with a year-long lease, and the sadness of facing the possibility of having to leave work, community, and life here if long-term, adequate housing options aren’t available. 

When we asked what kinds of qualities they would seek in a different housing situation, if they had the opportunity to move, I was surprised by how utterly fundamental the responses were. 

People wanted basic utilities: running water and electricity. People wanted safety: homes that were not hazardous to live in, and landlords who were more caring and respectful. People wanted security; to know that they could set down roots, commit to this community, and build a life here. 

A common theme was the inadequacy of the spaces that are available and affordable. Several participants had built tiny homes to live in as a path to some housing security. And several also reflected how small or overcrowded living spaces had worked well in their 20s, but as 30-somethings, with partners, pets, and adult lives, these situations had become unsustainable. 

Yet these young professionals were clearly so committed to finding a way to stay here. They had built tiny homes to live in, they were dealing with cramped quarters and challenging landlords, and they were living without basic utilities. Several were actively trying to purchase a home, or had interest in buying land with others to achieve affordability, but they listed the steep obstacles to co-buying: no financing available for land (or the older manufactured homes that are actually affordable), the cost of installing utilities, the lack of mechanisms for buying or financing with multiple parties, and the inability to simultaneously pay for rent while investing in a longer-term situation. 

I was left with a fresh sense of urgency to create better housing and home-ownership opportunities for these and other young professionals who are seriously wondering whether this community is a place they will be able to invest in for the long term. 

I was also left with a sense of inspiration at the vision these folks had for the lives they want to create; the interest in cooperative ownership models that balance privacy and community, their desire to help each other overcome the challenges of such limited housing options, and the support they found in just being reminded that these struggles aren’t theirs alone. 

Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Director of Housing Solutions Network and a volunteer board member of Olympic Housing Trust. 

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here