The skyrocketing costs of housing in Boulder County is pricing out low-income families and, now, some middle class families are feeling the pinch too. Higher rent rates are forcing families to spend more on housing and less on other life essentials such as food, medical needs and transportation.
An example of a working, middle class family unable to make ends meet in Boulder County, is Sandy, a newly divorced mother with a teenage daughter. Two years ago Sandy made the brave decision to leave an abusive marriage that left her and her daughter in a tumultuous transition and homeless for a few months. Sandy was working with Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence and they referred her to SCCC for additional services to support her during this challenging transition.
SCCC held an event illustrating the dire need of affordable housing in our community. Many landlords are taking advantage of the strong rental market and increasing rents to amounts that working, low and middle-income families can just not afford. Long-time donors of SCCC, the Flannigans attended the event and decided to take action on a very personal level. They were in the process of purchasing an investment property and decided they would reserve it specifically for Section 8 Housing referrals from the Sister Carmen Community Center (In brief, a Section 8 Housing voucher guarantees the landlord a portion of the rent every month, and the tenant is required to pay the remainder that is affordable for their particular situation.) When asked why, the Flannigans replied:
“We feel a responsibility to help others in our community. We don’t want to look back on our lives and say, ‘Wow, we did a really good job of setting ourselves up while not helping others.’”
When their property was ready for a tenant the Flannigans contacted SCCC for a referral. The initial aim was to provide a rental property for a family with a Section 8 Housing voucher. However, unexpected to the Flannigan’s, SCCC was not working with a participant with a Section 8 voucher at the time. The Flannigans learned that there is a finite number of Section 8 vouchers available. Additionally, there is a multiple-year waitlist to apply for Section 8 county housing and cities only accept applications once per year by lottery.
“Learning about Section 8 made us re-think who are the deserving poor.“ – Flannigans
Instead, SCCC referred Sandy to the Flannigans. Sandy was selected for her demonstrated commitment to getting her finances organized, as well as vitally needing a safe place to live within close proximity to her daughter’s school. The Flannigans’ property offered all of this, and, after reconsideration about the new information they learned about Section 8, the Flannigans decided to rent their property to Sandy at an affordable rate.
“We are so grateful we could provide this for her. We would not be able to enjoy the income we receive from these properties if we were not sharing it with others. “–Flannigans
And, thanks to a low rent rate, Sandy is not faced with the monthly dilemma of choosing between buying food or paying rent.
“We hope that by sharing our experience it will inspire others to take action.” –Flannigans