Statistics Never Define a Community

Earlier this month, I participated in a speaker’s panel at Baylor University. The following is a response I had concerning the implications of local poverty statistics.

What an honor to participate in a small way in a significant week for our community. A few facts I shared while on 1/3 of a Nation (a play that illustrates the challenges of safe, decent and affordable housing in early 20th century America) Panel:

Affordable housing is defined as no more than 30% of a household’s gross income is spent on housing.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports in 2013 that the fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment in TX is $867. In order to afford this level of rent without paying 30% of income, a household needs to make $34,671 annually. However, the median income in the Waco area is $32,239. Experts on the panel agreed: there is a gap in affordable housing in Waco.

But the statistics only define the problem; they do not define Waco.

I am inspired each day I report to work because I see families led by inspirational parents who break the cycle of poverty. Hard-working partner families gain sweat equity hours, attend homeowner college and obtain a zero interest 25-30 year mortgage that pays into the fund for humanity (so future partner families can realize homeownership) and into the Waco tax base.

Further, our critical home repairs program allows current homeowners to age in place with dignity and to continue to call their house a home with ramps, rails and other adaptations that are funded on a sliding scale (and would otherwise be out of financial reach).

Waco Habitat for Humanity is just one of several nonprofits dedicated to building a stronger McLennan Co. Statistics give context for where we are; we determine the pathway forward.


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