One of my favorite movies growing up was “The Wizard of Oz” with Judy Garland as Dorothy. Aside from the music and the story, I was intrigued that Dorothy’s ruby slippers could transport her back home. Home, where her family waited. Her desire to return home propelled her to brave dangers along a winding yellow brick road.
As a kid, I had no idea that my yellow brick road would take me to so many different places where I would meet many kinds of people as Dorothy’s journey did for her. But on my yellow brick road wanderings my family and I had the good fortune to live in various types of dwellings.
There were the homes I lived with my parents growing up. A colonial with cedar shingles in New York and a brick ranch in Tucker, Ga. I lived in a high-rise dorm at UGA, and in Reed Hall on the quad. My room was just behind the stadium. (You Bulldogs know what I’m taking about.)
The first real home my husband and I shared as newlyweds was a small cinder block house built in the 1940s at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The wind would whistle around that house and we had to use draft protectors under doors to the outside and old towels at the windows in spring, fall and winter. The wind never stopped blowing on the prairie. But it was a decent shelter from the weather, nonetheless. Those houses were torn down years ago to make way for new and better insulated base housing.
With all the stateside moves we made with the military, we most often lived in base housing. However, we did live on the economy overseas.
We had a very nice apartment in Landstuhl, Germany. You just had to be careful not to knock your head on the gabled ceiling in the upstairs bedrooms.
And in Vicenza, Italy, we had the top floor apartment of a villa down the street from a café and pizzeria. The floors were marble and the balcony offered terrific views of the neighborhood. Having bidets in the bathrooms was interesting, too. But the wiring was funky, and if I used too many electrical appliances at once like the dishwasher, washing machine and microwave we’d blow a fuse.
After the military our wandering and house hopping continued. We rented a mobile home off a dirt road at the backside of Fort Benning one year. We just had to watch out for wild boar. We spent another year in a south Georgia farmhouse built in 1901. We’ve lived in duplexes and a few apartments that desperately needed paint and plumbing repairs.
Last December, my husband and I finally put our ruby slippers away and bought a modest retirement home in Newton County. I couldn’t be happier with our slice of paradise.
However, not everyone is so fortunate. I’ve been working on a two-part story about the lack of affordable housing in Walton County, especially for low-income families. Knowing how important a safe, secure and decent dwelling is for a person’s health and well-being, I am saddened that too many families here don’t have quality options of where to tuck their children in at night.
Housing prices continue to rise, and even middle-income residents are challenged to find housing they can afford to buy or lease. Single-family homes should not be the only type of housing available in a community. Townhomes, cottage homes and smaller apartment complexes with green space and amenities can all serve to fill the need in a growing Walton County.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition states that 7.2 million more affordable housing units are needed for extremely low-income families. According to nlihc.org, 75% of poor families pay more than half their income on rent and only one in four poor families that need assistance actually receive it.
Furthermore, the coalition states that the shortage of affordable housing costs the American economy about $2 trillion a year in lower wages and productivity.
In Georgia, about 24% of renter households are poor, meaning their incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income. The maximum income for a poor family of four in Georgia is $25,750. In contrast, the annual household income needed to afford a two-bedroom rental home at HUD’s Fair Market Rent is $39,758.
Doesn’t everyone deserve a decent place to call home? Where they can put their ruby slippers away for good?
Too bad we can’t all just click our heels together three times and say ‘There’s no place like home” and be transported there.
Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The
Walton Tribune. Her email address is email@example.com.