Worship. Serve. Grow.

A Penny for Affordable Housing

Below is an abridged version of my remarks at ONE Wake’s Virtual Assembly with Candidates for Cary Town Council on November 11, 2021. For more information, including more information about the Penny for Housing Campaign, check out ONE Wake’s website and Facebook page

—Fr. Javier

Good evening. My name is Javier Almendárez-Bautista. I am a priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Union Street.

As we prepare to hear our community’s stories tonight, I have Scripture on my mind. The text is from the Book of Deuteronomy—from the Law given to the Israelites upon their entrance to the Promised Land.

“[But] set apart a tithe,” it reads, “of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field…

and when you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow… 

When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow” (Deut 14:22; 24:19-20).

But set apart a tithe of all the yield that is brought in yearly from the field

Friends, tonight we gather to hear about the struggle of hardworking folks right here in Cary. We are here because we listened to thousands of Wake County residents since 2018, and the resounding concern we have heard is the desperate lack of affordable housing.

This started before the pandemic, mind you—a pandemic that pulled the rug from under the feet of those who had the least to sacrifice.

At St. Paul’s, like every community represented here, we get calls from people who have nowhere else to turn when their bills are late and the rent is past due—people making tough decisions about what to pay and what to go without.

In the last year alone, we at St. Paul’s have distributed more than ten times the amount we distributed in 2019 to help people in their moment of crisis. Let me say that again: we have distributed ten times the amount we gave in 2019 for financial emergencies like rent and utility billsand the year isn’t over yet.

Meanwhile, Apple recently announced its plans to set roots in Research Triangle Park. In Austin, Texas—where Apple announced the building of a $1 billion campus back in 2018—nearby neighborhoods saw a jump of up to 26% in home prices.[1] All of this took place before Apple even broke ground on their new site.

What will this mean for over half of the Cary residents earning between $35-50,000 a year who are already burdened by housing costs? What will this mean for the 67% of senior renters who spend over 30% of their income on housing?

Friends, we celebrate and rejoice in the growth and success of the place we proudly call home. We commend the Town Council, the Town Staff, and all the stakeholders who participated in drafting and approving the Cary Housing Plan. Now, we are simply hoping to make that vision a reality by setting apart, not a tithe, but a penny of all the yield that is brought in yearly from the field—a penny to establish the local Housing Fund proposed in the Plan. A penny to ensure that all Cary families can afford to live where they work. A penny as a return on the investment that generations of hardworking Cary residents have made.

Friends, let us set aside a portion of all the yield that is brought in yearly from the field. A case-by-case, piecemeal approach will not suffice. A local Housing Fund is a strong step forward as we chart a path toward sustainable growth and change.

We now move to the portion of our evening where we hear the stories that brought us here in the first place… These are the stories of the people who built this town and those who help maintain it. Stay with us—and let’s make sure that Cary is a place that we can all proudly call home.

[1] https://austintexasbestrealestate.com/the-apple-effect/