Greensboro Housing Coalition’s Brett Byerly considers his time period in workplace

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Greensboro Housing Coalition Executive Director Brett Byerly is stepping down from his post. During his five years there, he made a name for himself by advocating safe and affordable housing and educating people about the consequences of increasing eviction rates. He oversees homelessness prevention and rental advice, mortgages and foreclosures, healthy homes and tenant representation, and community-centered health and organizational work.

Byerly tells David Ford of WFDD that the need for these services has never been so great.

Interview highlights

How did we get here?

You know, we are dealing with an affordable housing crisis that is really based on incomes and wages that are not keeping up with rents and market forces. You have a situation where incomes go up four or five percent and over a period of a couple of years rents go up 30 or 40 percent, which really makes the need clear. There are so many people in this vulnerable area who earn extremely low incomes, people who earn social security contributions, and people who have one or more jobs with a minimum wage who are barely able to find their way around. And this situation is getting worse and worse. We had this housing crisis in 2008 which was a housing crisis for homeowners. And now we have a massive rental housing crisis because right now, if you look at the vacancy rates in the rental market, you have about one percent for apartments and houses that are less than, you know, eight [or] nine hundred dollars a month, which would be considered the only thing people could consider affordable and not spend all of the money they spend on their home.

On the 2018 tornado and the Greensboro Housing Coalition’s response:

I knew right away that due to the neighborhood and its dynamic of being mostly tenants, we would have a situation where tenants in these houses were stuck with trees or half the house was torn apart and they didn’t go to have a way out of that property to come out. The landlord wouldn’t be able to help him and fix the house in time and they would have to leave. So we worked with the Community Foundation very quickly [and] United Way in Greensboro to set up a fund. The first pool of funds from the nearly $ 1 million raised was the relocation of tenants who were hit by the storm.

About the knowledge gained:

Trust and relationships are key to anything you will do. When the news of my resignation came out, some of the calls and emails I got from people I struggle with on the landlord’s side were saying, “Hey man, I’m really sorry you’re going see.” pretty effective. But it shows that the Greensboro Housing Coalition is seen as a fair arbitrator. And I think that’s really important.

When I got to this job, I was in a completely different mindset. I thought, you know, everyone gets Section 8. Now I know that 25 percent of the people who could get assisted living actually get it. The other 75 percent are alone. I used to think that there are a lot more resources that people get. If someone says this guy is homeless I would say go to the homeless shelter. Well, there is no bed in the homeless shelter. The homeless shelters are on a waiting list and everything is on a waiting list and resources are overloaded. And we really need to think about – as people in this country and as people in the city – how we want to take care of our brothers and sisters who have been out there and may not be as lucky as we are.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcript has been slightly edited for the sake of clarity.

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