Everyone wants a place to call home. For many in our state and country, affordable housing is becoming increasingly difficult to secure. Although West Virginia has the nation's highest rate of home ownership, a substantial number of these are mobile homes, older homes that are not well-maintained, or other substandard dwellings. Often several families live in a home intended for a single family. Homeless persons may move from relative to relative just to keep a roof over their heads.

Recent cuts in Section 8 housing vouchers at the federal level have kept families from finding housing they can afford. And shelters are overcrowded in many of our urban areas. Some have seen an increase in requests for shelter beds of as much as 35% over the past year.

People's wages have not kept up with increases in housing purchase and rental costs, and more people are losing their homes because they cannot make the payments. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for WV indicates that minimal family housing costs range from $450-$700 per month in most areas of our state, while a full-time minimum wage job pays only $14,000 per year. Housing costs can leave a family with few resources available for other necessities.

Principles for Action

Catholic Social Teaching has long recognized housing as a basic human right. The Catholic community--through its parishes, diocesan structures, and Catholic Charities agencies--is one of the largest providers of shelter in the nation. According to the Appalachian Bishops' Pastoral Message At Home in the Web of Life (1995), sustainable development and sustainable communities must be able to supply people with "basic necessities like energy, food, water, and housing."

"The second great commandment is to love our neighbor. We cannot deny the crying needs for decent housing experienced by the least of the brethren in our society. Effective love of neighbor requires concern for his or her living conditions." The Right to a Decent Home, U.S. Bishops (1975)

Suggested Policy Directions

We support policies that would -

  • Fund the construction, preservation, and rehabilitation of housing for low-income families
  • Increase the availability of funding for Section 8 vouchers
  • Recognize particular needs for housing in rural areas, and problems related to inadequate and overcrowded rural housing
  • Combat predatory mortgage lending practices and educate the public on this topic
  • Provide adequate shelter for the homeless until they can regain housing