The United Way has been providing agencies and community leaders with information about ALICE – an acronym that describes a large percentage of the population as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. You’ll often find people in this situation accessing charitable food assistance, but there are also three major strategies that would benefit Ottawa County residents: affordable housing, better wages for those who are employed, and better access to health care.
Does your organization already have direct programs or offer referrals in these areas? Please provide a description in your response.
If you’re not yet active in this area but would like to share your thoughts about how to initiate or sustain these types of partnerships, please feel free to do so!
OCFPC Subcommittee #1 member Mark Wolfe (His Harvest Stand) is participating in conversations on affordable housing. Ottawa Housing Next (OHN) has created a Private/Non-Profit Partnership Work Group that has created three draft concepts:
– Employer Assisted Housing – acquiring or building 50 units over 5 years; providing tenants between the poverty line and the ALICE threshold with below market rate rent and wraparound financial stability support to move the family toward ability to afford market rate.
– Landlord/Tenant Barrier Removal Project – providing the security deposit for a total of 10 units operated by 5 landlords in order to house families who would traditionally face financial or other barriers in securing a rental unit.
– Business Leader Education – meeting with 20 business leaders (or groups like HR associations) over 12 months to make the business case for affordable housing (strategies such as the two points above, leading to outcomes like reduced turnover).
Let’s talk a little more about the “asset limited” aspect of ALICE. A family is considered asset poor when I does not have enough “financial resources” to live at the federal poverty level for three months. Financial resources would include the value of financial (or liquid) assets only: checking/savings, stocks/bonds, retirement savings, etc. That amount comes to $5,023 for a family of three. 35% of families in the United States are asset poor. After negative events such as involuntary job loss, health-related work limitations, or a parent leaving the family, asset poor families experience hardship much more frequently than families that are not asset poor.
Here are some ways to promote asset building: matched savings programs through programs like SaveUSA (currently in 3 major cities), which encourages saving at tax time; individual development accounts (www.cfed.org/programs/idas/directory_search/); and children’s savings accounts (www.cfed.org/programs/csa/directory/).