Supporters rally at Alabama State House to back affordable housing

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On the lawn of the State House in Montgomery Tuesday, members of The Right Place, an Anniston-based organization fighting homelessness in Calhoun County, pitched a tent on the statehouse lawn to illustrate the desperate situation facing many Alabamians.

Not far away, on the steps leading into the statehouse, members of the Low-Income Housing Coalition of Alabama (LIHCA) were addressing supporters on the dire situation many Alabamians are finding themselves in, facing a lack of affordable housing amid stagnant wages and rising costs.

“We have families living in tents, we have families living in cars,” said Ashley Kerr, Program Director for LIHCA. “These people deserve a safe place to call home.”

The two organizations were on hand to throw their support behind HB341, a bill sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) which would fund the Alabama Housing Trust Fund through increases to fees on the recording of mortgages and similar debts. Alabama is one of only a handful of states to have an unfunded housing trust fund.

The problem is real: Kerr noted that there are 95,000 Alabamians in desperate need of affordable housing, noting that the average cost of rent far surpasses the state’s minimum wage. Further, she noted that Alabama is the worst in the nation for child homelessness, with about 60,000 children living without a home.

“We believe every child deserves a place to call home,” Kerr said.

Proponents are hoping that Todd’s legislation will come before committee prior to spring break.

LIHCA works to increase housing opportunities for Alabamians with the highest needs, specifically the homeless and those living on a fixed income or minimum wage. Similarly, Right Place has made substantial gains in its efforts to quell homelessness in Calhoun County. The group built a duplex, which is now occupied by previously homeless residents, and is working on a “tiny home” project.

“We’re trying to actively give these people a place to live,” said Right Place President Matthew Tyson.

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