Diocese focuses on housing issues - Catholic Courier

Diocese focuses on housing issues

Affordable housing is the focus of this year’s diocesan-wide Public Policy Weekend, which will take place Feb. 5-6.

Based on the belief that all human life is sacred, the Catholic Church views decent, affordable housing as a basic human right, noted a statement from Bishop Matthew H. Clark.

“Adequate housing provides a foundation for individuals and families to live dignified, healthy, productive lives. Currently, too many of our sisters and brothers live without the stability provided by housing they can afford,” the bishop’s statement noted.

Information provided by the diocesan Public Policy Committee indicates that 65 million people — or one quarter of the nation’s population — experience housing problems ranging from overcrowding and homelessness to high costs and such substandard conditions as a lack of plumbing or kitchen facilities.

Rent or mortgage costs must take up no more than 30 percent of a family’s monthly income to be considered affordable by government and business standards, PPC materials note. According to a chart provided by the committee, substandard conditions can be found in at least 22 percent of housing units in each of the 12 counties of the Rochester Diocese. At least 37 percent of the housing units in each of these counties do not meet the standard for affordability.

In early January, diocesan parishes are encouraged to begin educating their parishioners about the importance of affordable and adequate housing. A panel presentation providing background on the realities of affordable housing will be presented via video-conference technology on Jan. 10. The presentation also will provide information about Public Policy Weekend and its goals.

The presentation will be offered from 1-2:30 p.m. and again from 7-8:30 p.m.at each of these locations: St. Mary Our Mother Parish, Horseheads, St. Alphonsus Parish, Auburn, St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, Pittsford and the diocesan Pastoral Center, Gates.

During the weekend of Feb. 5-6, parishioners will be invited to sign petitions urging state lawmakers to appropriate funding in the 2005-06 year to create more units of affordable housing. The petition calls for 5,000 new units to be created through new construction, the renewal of previously subsidized projects whose initial period is expiring, and the addition of state funding to the federal Section 8 program. Section 8 is a federally funded housing-subsidy program that enables low-income families to afford decent, privately owned rental housing by supplementing what the families could pay on their own.

After the petitions have been signed, they should be returned by Feb. 28 to Catholic Charities Justice and Peace staff, who will then deliver them to state lawmakers.

Two agencies affiliated with diocesan Catholic Charities are dedicated to helping low-income families and individuals find affordable housing. Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation, Inc., a joint effort of Rochester’s Catholic and Episcopalian dioceses, works to provide safe, decent and affordable housing through home-ownership programs, home rehabilitation and housing development, as well as education and advocacy. Providence Housing Development Corp. develops and maintains affordable housing for several different populations, including families, seniors, and those with physical handicaps, developmental disabilities, mental illness and drug addictions.

“Scripture readings of the Christmas season remind us that the first human problem Jesus faced on earth was a lack of shelter. There was ‘no room in the inn’ for the Holy Family in Bethlehem. Today, we can see the face of Christ in the faces of the men, women and children unable to find decent, affordable housing here in the counties of our diocese,” Bishop Clark said in a statement about Public Policy Weekend.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Public Policy Weekend, contact Judy Taylor at 585/328-3210, ext. 1303, or the regional Catholic Charities offices at 315/789-2686, ext. 327, or 607/734-9784, ext. 135.

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