Everybody should have access to stable housing.

I spent a year as a full-time volunteer for Habitat for Humanity at their international headquarters in Americus, Georgia. I addition to working in public relations, I also built homes in partnership with low-income families in the U.S., Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala. I learned first-hand the impact safe, affordable housing has on people’s lives. I read the well-documented research that showed improved health and academic outcomes, economic mobility and overall well-being.

Years later when I became PTA president of my children’s elementary school, the principal reached out to me to share that a number of our families were moving from our school – and they were very upset because they did not want to go. They had described poor living conditions and rapid rent increases.

I visited some of the apartments of our families and found mold, broken ovens, non-functioning HVAC, rodents and pests. I’ll never forget listening to one mom share her story while I noticed her children’s perfect attendance certificates displayed proudly on the wall. I contacted our County Council member, who responded immediately and met with us to discuss the issues. He pursued inspections and fines for the management company, and made sure that the deplorable conditions would be addressed. Now I want to be that County Council member who partners with our most vulnerable, neighbors and community leaders.

When given the opportunity years later to testify on rental protections, I spoke before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee on state legislation, and before our County Council on a renter protection bill. I shared my experience of our families, and how much safe, affordable housing meant to them. I described the conditions I had witnessed and urged action.

Now, as a Board of Education member, I hear regularly about how our educators and other public servants can’t afford to live in Montgomery County. New residents, young families and seniors struggle to be able to make the dream of home ownership a reality.

I also worked on contract for Neighborworks and reviewed dozens of grant applications for organizations across the country that through financial coaching, technical training and consultation, and targeted investments, made affordable home ownership possible. Tax credits like the Rent Reduction credit for landlords, which provides reduced rent to senior citizens over age 65 or tenants with disabilities who meet certain income- and asset-based eligibility requirements, helps our county work better for all residents. We can expand use of best practices here in Montgomery County. We can support excellent partnerships with local banking institutions, tax credits, higher paying jobs, credit assistance and more to make the dream of home ownership a reality.