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30 August, 2023

False Meritocracy: Do Low to Moderate-Income Residents Deserve Opportunities?

30 August, 2023

As a social and public sector workforce, housing, and policy leader for over 20 years, I am still surprised by questions reinforcing a false sense of meritocracy. On a few occasions, I have been asked, “How do your customers earn their housing with WeBuild?”  “Do these people do any work for their home?” These questions are rooted in the notion that some people deserve opportunity and others do not, regardless of circumstance or factual nuances. WeBuild residents have nothing to prove. They earned their long overdue opportunities before we existed.

Our recent residents in homes for ownership and rental ensure children and our most vulnerable populations have a chance to live better lives. For example, Leteeca, a kindergarten teacher, was displaced from her home in Concord after her landlord requested she and her 12-year-old son move because he was selling his home. After she moved, he placed the house back on the market for rent with a thirty percent increase. Leteeca had to double up with family, though she provided services to children in our community for over ten years. Fortunately, WeBuild provided her with an opportunity in one of our naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) units. She and her son are closer to work and school and pay forty percent less rent, allowing her to save for ownership. She is one of many.

Scarlett, a health worker, and her three children were about to lose their home due to her landlord’s preparation for retirement and the house sale. However, they had a landlord who cared about her family. The landlord agreed to sell WeBuild the home for $245,000 with a donation of $42,000 of equity, which made the cash price $203,000. The equity donation model benefited the seller, buyer, and resident. The sale allows Webuild to upgrade the house and keep rents below thirty percent of Scarlett’s income. For a woman who cares for patients daily, the prospect of homelessness was scary and undeserved. Now, Scarlett also has the opportunity to own the home she has rented for several years.

Undoubtedly, people like Leteeca and Scarlett earn a living and support our community each day. Workers like them are the backbone of our community and more than deserve an opportunity. Both make wages below fifty percent of the area median income, as they nurture our youth and protect the vulnerable. So, if you ask me if they earned their opportunity, you are asking the wrong question. The real question is why we are not providing more opportunities for people who work hard for wages that are outpaced by housing costs and inflation. In other words, they earned more options than we can give.

Patrick C. Graham, PhD, CEO

Patrick Graham, PhD
Chief Executive Officer