OPINION

Perry Says: Help is here

Perry Lundon
Local Columnist

Housing is the biggest issue that DPCAA deals with each year. DPCAA assists income eligible households with security deposits, rental payments, mortgage payments, minor rehabilitation, limited major home rehabilitation, home weatherization, furnace repair/replacement and limited cooling assistance. Up to 75%, there are some annual fluctuations, of the annual funding expended by DPCAA has some connection with housing. The income eligibility requirements vary by funding source and activity.

Housing has been among the highest priorities in needs assessments that have been conducted by the agency for decades. Access to safe, sanitary affordable housing was a priority when I started my employment, in the mid-1970s, with Community Action in Crookston, MN and has never vanished as a priority need among lower income households. Most of the survey respondents deal with the affordability of rents as the greatest need and DPCAA has little ability to directly improve affordability, but we do assist households secure rental housing that is as affordable as possible given their specific economic situation.

The federal government provides more than $45 billion to help Americans pay rent, maintaining services for HUD-assisted households and constructing 1,000 units of housing for elderly and persons with disabilities. In addition, the federal government commits more than $2 billion to work toward ending homelessness. The fact that the purchasing power of minimum wage peaking in 1968 has a great deal to do with the need to federally fund methods of subsidizing the rental housing needs of millions of Americans.

Had the purchasing power of minimum wage been maintained the current minimum wage would be around $13 per hour and more households would be able to afford their rental housing without federal subsidization. As you may well see I believe that the failure to maintain the purchasing power of minimum wage for the past 50+ years has negatively impacted many aspects of society. Had that one policy decision, to maintain the purchasing power of minimum wage, been enacted our society and the overall well being of our country would be much better today and we would be much closer to forming a more perfect Union.

In 2020 DPCAA assisted 645 individuals obtain or maintain safe and affordable housing. Some type of action, home weatherization, furnace repair replacement, cooling assistance, was completed to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the energy burden to over 370 homes during 2020. A total of 480 individuals received assistance that helped them avoid eviction. A total of 85 homeless individuals were assisted in obtaining safe temporary shelter. In addition to these direct housing services provided to lower income households in the DPCAA service area over 300 individuals received utility assistance that help avoid a utility shut off. These activities involved the expenditure of over $800,000 in federal funding. Additionally, DPCAA expended over $120,000 on various home rehabilitation activities during 2020 to improve the housing stock and meet the needs of lower income homeowners.

Shelter is one of the basic needs of any individual. Having safe, sanitary, affordable housing that meets the needs of any household is essential to the overall wellbeing of society. DPCAA does what we can to assist individuals and families deal with housing issues that arise from time to time and help those seeking assistance take a long-term view of their housing needs and any affordability issues that could cause a reoccurrence of the housing issues.

If you are experiencing any financial situation that puts at risk obtaining or maintaining safe and affordable housing, please contact the DPCAA office at 701-662-6500 or 1-800-321-5943. The DPCAA web site at www.dpcaa.org will provide additional information about housing assistance and services. There is funding available, providing you meet the much higher than normal income guidelines, that can help you make sure your household will have housing for today and in the near future.

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