When our Couchsurfing hosts, Sheldon and Naomi, heard we were Americorps volunteers, they invited their family friends over who were also Americorps alum, and had similar passions for affordable housing and social justice. We spent the evening talking about our experiences volunteering, and learning about various issues pertaining to housing in Lancaster, PA and elsewhere.
Below is an interview with Kerry Aszklar, who we met that night, and will be embarking on a Bike & Build journey soon .
What made you want to do bike and build and what do you see as the connection between transportation and housing?
Bike and Build has been on my adventure list since I started bicycling in college and interning at a bike advocacy nonprofit in Boston. I love bikes as a method of transportation, since they can be very accessible to many people, save money, and don’t rely on gas!
The connection between transportation and housing is huge – they tend to be the two biggest expenses on a household’s income. Building affordable housing for families and individuals isn’t sustainable unless there is equitable and safe transportation – whether it is public transit, bike infrastructure, or cars – to important places such as jobs, grocery stores, hospitals, and schools. The success of one is tied to the success of the other.
What were some of the biggest challenges facing the communities you served in as an Americorp volunteer?
It’s difficult to say what some of the biggest challenges facing the communities I served in as an AmeriCorps Member. The issues facing a community in one place differed vastly in another. Regardless, I found genuinely good-hearted people in every place!
What is something you wish more people know about affordable housing?
There is no state nor metro area that has an adequate amount of affordable housing! But volunteering or working for an affordable housing organization is a great way to begin to address this problem. Additionally, educating ourselves about the issue is crucial – did you know that a home is considered affordable if rent and utilities do not exceed 30% of a household’s income?
What are some solutions you would like to see for the housing crisis?
Better housing policies, as well as community involvement, are some solutions for the affordable housing crisis. Although it isn’t considered profitable to develop, affordable housing is important nonetheless! It makes communities socially diverse and more resilient economically. Community involvement is also important – when a community becomes involved, people are more willing to take care of their neighborhoods and are more connected to their neighbors. Plus, you come across interesting people, such as two millennials walking across the country! (Thank you Kerry)
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your Americorp experience, plans for the future, or anything else?
Get involved locally! In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Check out Kerry’s blog here and make sure to follow along on her journey!