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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

Neighbors in Need of Affordable Housing are All Around You

This letter-to-the-editor was published in the Pottstown Mercury on June 15.

When I think about people who are struggling with the cost of housing, I see a broad tapestry of different life stages, circumstances, and stories. 

They range from a senior citizen who lost a spouse or the ability to work, to a high school graduate just trying to get by in a studio apartment after starting her first job. One characteristic many of them share in common is that they do not come from wealthy families, so when they encounter a bad break or two in life – and who among us has not  – these neighbors may face eviction or the stress of losing their home, along with all that comes with a sense of “home.” 

So when an altruistic organization in Montgomery County steps forward to be part of the solution by offering housing that is safe, decent, and affordable to people of modest means, it breaks part of my soul when some neighbors start playing their all too familiar tunes of fear and loathing. 

Here come ‘those people’ from Philadelphia (I have political ads from Upper Gwynedd last summer to prove it). More recently, in Lower Providence, the opposition peddled tropes such as “illegal migrants” and “sex offenders” to muddy the waters of who may soon be living at Genny’s Place, should it be approved by the township. Muddy they did – our discourse and decency, at least. 

Yet decency will win here, eventually. Many suburban Nimbys' biggest fear is that we unite across racial and class lines. When we do so, we realize that the majority of people – and the majority of voters – want the same things:  economic opportunity, good schools for their kids, a chance to get out of debt, and contribute to their communities. We are not asking for “handouts” – just a chance to afford to live in a wonderful county with endless opportunities. One should not have to purchase a home for $400,000 to do that. 

We are the entry-level teacher making $50,000 a year and looking to live within a short drive of a school in Montco. We are the grandparents living solely on Social Security and taking care of their grandkids left behind by opioid addiction or alcoholism. We are the essential worker who risked his life during the pandemic working in the food and retail industries, who simply wants an apartment that doesn’t cost 50 percent of his monthly earnings. 

We are Montco. We are your neighbors, and when everyone has an affordable place to call home, we can all prosper together. 

Mike Hays 

Director, Montco 30% Project 

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