Jo-Ann Duggan, the Director of Outreach at St. John Neumann Parish, knows there are people struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
“Yesterday, I was speaking to someone who was trying to find housing for a friend of hers who has three children and earns $23,000 a year,” Duggan said Wednesday. “She works in retail. She’s a single mother.”
St. John Neumann Parish (11900 Lawyers Road) will play host Thursday to a meeting with the Housing Matters program, opening the conversation about the need for affordable housing in Fairfax County.
The goals of the meeting, which will take place from 7-8:45 p.m. at the parish’s auditorium, include helping residents understand how housing can affect other facets of a community. Other related topics will include a discussion of how much affordable housing is needed for an economically sustainable Fairfax County.
Duggan is hopeful that the Housing Matters program will receive lots of community input to help alleviate the housing struggles of many residents. Duggan first heard of the program from John Horejsi, who works for Social Action Linking Together, a legislative advocacy group. Horejsi attended a Housing Matters program and thought it would be worthwhile to bring to the church.
“Housing Matters is all about safe and affordable housing so that communities can thrive,” Horejsi said. “When you achieve that — when you have safe and affordable housing — the families do better, there’s more upward economic mobility, the kids do better in school. We all benefit.”
Horejsi explained that when there is affordable housing, more businesses are attracted to the area due to its stable workforce. He said that currently, the average rent in Fairfax County is $1,700-$1,800 a month, while half of the jobs in the area reap less than $50,000 a year. Rents are increasing while salaries are not. Horejsi explained that as rent gets more expensive, workers start to move away.
“If the workers in our community whom we need can’t afford to live here, then they’re just going to clog up all the roads and that’s going to create more air pollution,” said Horejsi. “Doing nothing [for affordable housing] is going to cost a lot more in the long run.”
Thursday’s meeting will feature a presentation from Vin Rogers, the division director for the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development. After Rogers speaks, facilitators will help lead conversations among groups of attendees. Feedback and input will be encouraged during these group discussions.
“It’s going to be a dialogue first of all,” Horejsi said.
Duggan said she anticipates 50-100 people to turn up at the meeting. Anyone interested in the meeting is encouraged to fill out a survey about housing in the area.
Chart via Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development