HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Thousands of people are moving to Madison County each year, but affordable housing is a growing issue for low-income residents still living in Huntsville as development projects expand the city.
Last week, Huntsville Community Development Manager Scott Erwin revealed to News 19 that funds from the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program have dried up.
“We don’t have funding to disperse at this time,” Erwin explained. “We do hope within the next couple of weeks that we’ll have the money available.”
That could pose a huge problem because landlords are no longer willing to wait for rent money or accept Section 8 vouchers. As the city’s population grows, the population of its homeless citizens has grown over the past four months. As evidenced by the city’s closure of its largest homeless camp on Derrick Street which was repopulated in less than 72 hours after the shutdown.
“The same issues that we were saying was a problem a couple of months ago are going to be the same issues that are occurring if we don’t do something now,” said Tia Turner, the founder of Love Huntsville, an organization committed to ending local homelessness.
What exactly is the answer?
The fact remains that Huntsville has a deep affordable housing shortage that disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable populations: low-income households with low wages. That coupled with rental assistance instability has made the prospect of securing housing a greater challenge.
“We can’t house people if we don’t have the supply and services can’t do their job if they can’t get people into housing,” said Turner.
Turner has petitioned the city for more support services for affordable housing and the homeless.
“We are telling people, telling our city government, telling whoever else who would love to hear the story that this is urgent, and lives are being lost every single day,” Turner said. “Cities all over the country are getting ahead of the issue of affordable housing. They are building hundreds of units for affordable housing and for low-income homeless populations and things of that matter. With the city being the No. 1 city in America now, we too can get on the forefront to be the laboratory of change within policy.”
Turner hopes that a new partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center will put Love Huntsville directly on the frontlines of the housing and homelessness, major issues that Huntsville is facing.