Viewpoints

Affordable housing provides a strong foundation for a community's health, well-being and especially its children

By Virginia Vaughn

As housing costs continue to rise in California and nationally, city officials are faced with the challenge of establishing an environment that promotes the development of a diverse inventory of housing for all residents.  For many cities, that is a tall order, especially to meet the demand for more affordable housing in areas such as Orange County, CA, one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets.

Although it has faced its challenges like any city dealing with today’s ebb and flow of economic and political winds, my city of Buena Park - a small community of 80,500 people - has a big heart and a desire to make sure every resident has the opportunity to live a healthy life regardless of their socio-economic status.  To this end, I believe it is a city’s responsibility to provide sufficient opportunities for the creation of quality housing, a key component of a healthy community, that is both affordable and available. 

We are fortunate in Buena Park to have partnered with top-tier affordable housing developers such as Jamboree Housing Corporation that clearly understand our city’s mission to provide quality housing at all levels.  Jamboree is putting the finishing touches on Clark Commons, a 70-unit workforce housing development that has the curb appeal and amenities comparable to any market-rate apartment project.

A public/private meeting of the minds on design and quality is critical if these collaborations are to be successful in creating affordable housing that the community embraces.
 

A foundation for health

As one looks closer at the foundation of a healthy community – at the granular level -- one sees that a diversity of quality housing, including affordable housing, is a critical element to family life and especially children’s health.  Permanent, affordable housing can be the solid foundation for families who earn minimum wages or are down on their luck due to such circumstances as unemployment or illness.  It is also a lifeline for seniors on fixed incomes as well as an oasis for homeless people or people living with physical or mental impairments. 

However, the most important and precious beneficiaries of affordable housing are children, who are hurt the most if the development of affordable housing, especially rental housing, is curtailed or stopped altogether due to lack of funding, land, or political will.  Some of the more important benefits of affordable housing for children include:

  • Locations in urban areas near schools, so children can either walk, bike or take a short bus ride.  This proximity has been shown to improve attendance and promote continual learning. 
  • Access to community facilities such as parks, swimming pools, playfields, and greenbelts, all of which add to a child’s health, well-being, and enjoyment of life.
  • Provision of tools to lead a healthy lifestyle. A study conducted by Children’s HealthWatch found that children living in affordable housing were more likely to be food secure and less likely to be seriously underweight or overweight than children whose families lived in substandard housing.
  • Provision of a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse to escape the physical and mental health trauma caused by abuse and avoid the health risks associated with homelessness.
  • Socially supportive neighborhoods that are more likely to provide adult guidance and less likely to engage in health-damaging behaviors such as smoking or drug use.

As a city council member, my top priority is to take care of the housing needs of our residents, especially our youth.  Children who may be living in a substandard motel, homeless shelter, or even in an old van parked on a lonely street must have the opportunity for a better life. This life includes quality housing that is affordable and in secure, well maintained neighborhoods where children and parents alike can look forward to each day with enthusiasm and the promise of a better tomorrow.

Virginia Vaughn was elected to Buena Park City Council in November 2014. She previously worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman for 30 years. Contact her at Vaughn@buenapark.com.

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