Editor’s note: Today’s editorial was written by Longview council member Mary Jane Melink. Guest editorials are provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Longview, like so many other communities across the state and nation is facing the challenge of affordable housing and homelessness. Housing demand and affordability has dramatically outpaced development and wages. Fortunately, 43 years ago the City of Longview established what has grown to be one of the most successful and experienced housing authorities in the state to address these challenges. That’s why I was surprised to hear a fellow council member recently say the Housing Authority has failed this city. But what I know is ….that they are a qualified and experienced agency doing incredible work.
Housing Opportunities of SW Washington (HOSWWA) officially known as the Housing Authority of the city of Longview currently assists over 1,500 vulnerable families and individuals in the communities they serve, including over 870 families in Longview alone. They have created 53 new homeowners and 198 successful graduates from their Family Self-Sufficiency program. This year alone they housed 116 formerly homeless vets with 67 currently participating in volunteer and employment programs. But most importantly 890 children have a chance to succeed in school and life because of safe, affordable housing.
Seventy-five percent of the people served are elderly or disabled and 70 percent of them are households headed by females. The average annual income of all households served by the Housing Authority is $12,000 while the monthly average gross rent in the community is $801.
The Housing Authority works to ensure that hardworking seniors, families and people with disabilities have a safe roof over their head and can still afford groceries, prescriptions, gas and childcare. Data tells us that providing a hand-up to keep people housed and in stable environments is a solid investment.
The Housing Authority has implemented many opportunities for those in our community including: The Veterans Integration Program, Read More-Learn More, Supportive Services for Veteran Families, UW Dental Clinics for seniors and veterans, all which create accountability and support success. They have also created community gardens, targeted rental assistance programs for domestic violence victims, families in the foster care system, homeless families with children and created a pilot program for veterans aging in place. This has all been accomplished with increasing regulatory restrictions and declining financial resources from the local, state and federal level.
Economics matter: Annually $8.5 million dollars are injected into local economies through the Housing Choice Voucher Program, over $6 million of that goes to landlords serving low income families in the City of Longview. Millions have been invested into the community for construction and rehabilitation of properties like the Sylvester Apartments serving the elderly and disabled and Stratford Arms Apartments which serves formerly homeless veterans. Blighted houses have been replaced with new homes in the Highlands for low-income families, and an Outreach Center for homeless youth has been created.
All of this has been accomplished under the leadership of a talented, experienced and dedicated staff, a talented and diverse board of commissioners appointed by the mayor of Longview and their executive director, Chris Pegg. Board members include Gus Nolte, retired executive director of the Drug Abuse Prevention Center, Linda Brigham, who brings her experience and knowledge as a resident commissioner, Wayne Ostermiller, retired engineer from Kalama Chemical whose longevity and institutional knowledge from over 30 years of service on the board are invaluable, Lori Bashor Sarancik, the executive director of Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Legal Aid, Bruce Fischer who works everyday with kids in the Longview School District and Peter Bennett, a Longview businessman.
The city of Longview and our community partners are well served by the leadership and expertise of the Housing Authority as they work with the city to create a strong, vibrant and healthy community by providing housing, hope and opportunity for those in need.
Please join me in thanking them for a job well done.