Every since I joined Habitat over 24 years ago, I’ve heard the refrain, “It’s not rocket science. We have the ability and knowledge to eliminate poverty housing, but do we have the will?”

I can say, sadly, that I haven’t seen much change over a generation in terms of the will to have all people in our community living in safe, affordable, and decent dwellings. Overall housing conditions have improved due to strengthened building codes and enforcement, but those regulations add cost to housing and affordability has become a major issue.

Millard Fuller, Habitat’s founder, spoke once of when he decided to stop allowing Habitat employees to smoke at their desks. Back in the 1970′s in south Georgia, this was controversial. Workers protested the new rule. Thirty years later, this sort of protest seems ridiculous. Our thinking has changed.

We need that sort of change in thinking in regards to housing. When the public is polled about the important issues of the day, housing doesn’t even show up on the list.

The people we partner with in Habitat for Humanity work in a variety of essential, low-wage occupations that are critical to our community, yet the wages they earn are not sufficient to enable them to acquire decent housing in the marketplace.

Checking out the LIVING WAGE CALCULATOR (http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/37183) from MIT, you’ll find that in Wake County the living wage for a single parent and one child is $17.99 per hour. The living wage is defined as the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family, if they are the sole provider and are working full-time. The living wage is nearly triple the state’s minimum wage.

We need to work to bring our systems of compensation and cost of living closer together so that our well-developed housing markets can serve more of our citizens. Habitat’s work help fills the gap, but the gap is much too large. Just sayin’!