Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Housing Fund Demanded

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Housing Fund Demanded

Article excerpt

After two years of working with Mayor Larry Wolgast and other city officials, members of a 20-church organization are calling on the Topeka City Council to create a trust fund to address the capital city's affordable housing crisis.

"This is about making what we have bigger," said Shanae Elem, of Topeka JUMP. "A local affordable housing trust fund is local money. It can be used for however our community wants for it to be used, and that's why having a local trust fund is impactful."

About 50 members of Topeka JUMP gathered Friday morning on the steps of the Inward Faith Outreach Ministries, S.W. 7th and Polk, and marched as a group to push for the trust fund, something they said would begin to help the estimated 7,000 families they say are living in "unstable and unsanitary conditions."

"We know that the mayor and city staff are working to develop a plan, and we do applaud those efforts," said Carol Babcock, a member of Topeka JUMP. "But we requested this plan in 2015. How much longer must we wait?"

Babcock said one out of four eligible Topeka families is receiving rental assistance, and roughly half of the people who pay rent in Topeka are using 50 percent of their income on housing. Thirty percent of one's income is considered the standard percentage to pay for housing and it be considered affordable.

Sweet Divers, of Inward Faith, another member of Topeka JUMP, said the neighborhood just west of downtown where the church is located is overrun with trash and full of substandard housing units whose residents can't afford to live anywhere else.

"Our neighborhood has been overlooked far, far too long," said Sweet Divers, another member of Topeka JUMP. "We want justice and we want it now."

Elem said the proposed trust fund, similarly modeled after one used by the city of Lawrence, would be a mix of private dollars and public money. …

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