Housing, Health and Creating a Bike Community
The Neighborly Way
Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta (NWMA) is setting out to make a difference in the health outcomes of Cobb County residents. For 35 years, they have worked to provide safe, affordable housing that allows families to escape poverty and build wealth. They currently build in Mableton, constructing over 500 homes since 1986 that help build and revitalize the community. Habitat for Humanity of NWMA makes owning a home in Cobb County attainable for families who otherwise may never be able to afford it.
To double down on their efforts, they are also kickstarting a new program to encourage additional positive health outcomes in the community. Habitat for Humanity of NWMA is working with several nonprofits and community groups to help revitalize and strengthen their neighborhoods by providing bikes to children in the families they serve. They are working closely with Free Bikes 4 Kidz, a nonprofit organization geared toward providing bikes to children most in need, to collect used bikes and give them away to kids in their communities.
Jessica Gill, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of NWMA, tells us that it is vital that they do not operate in a silo, but recognize that establishing housing is the first of many steps towards building community health.
For many children growing up in transitional housing, apartments or homelessness, access to a bike may not be in the cards due to space challenges or the inability to secure a bike. And even if they do have a bike, where they live may not have the infrastructure to support safe riding. Gill says this is the reason linking housing with cycling can be a great way to produce better health outcomes in communities. Habitat for Humanity of NWMA builds homes in safe communities with sidewalks and access to greenspace. For children moving to new communities with marginal levels of health, providing bikes where there is space for outdoor play gives kids the resources to jumpstart their well-being and create healthier futures!
Evaluating Child Well-Being in Metro Atlanta
For communities across Metro Atlanta, structural and economic factors have hampered childhood health and well-being. The United Way’s Child Well-Being Index demonstrates that, just zip codes apart, a child born in one area of metro Atlanta compared to another face very different realities. For example, only 6.8% of births in the Roswell area are low weight, compared to 12.1% of births in East Point. Even neighboring zip codes can produce starkly different outcomes. 56% of children living in Clarkston live in poverty. Just next door, in North DeKalb, that number is nearly half – 23.3%. Where a child lives affects everything from their long-term health to their education and overall well-being, which is why safe, affordable housing and community investment is vital to overall community health.
Housing is Health
Access to safe, affordable housing is a major determinant in the health outcomes for a community. Here are just a few ways that it can affect us:
- Where you live affects what environmental toxins you are exposed to (i.e., living closer to power plants or major roads can negatively affect your health)
- The proximity of your house to greenspace, bike paths and other clean, outdoor areas affects your ability to easily and safely choose to get exercise and fresh air
- The stability and safety of your housing affects your ability to perform well at your job or for kids to perform well at school
- The affordability of your housing determines how much income you have left over to choose healthy food options or seek preventative medical care
Atlanta’s Housing Crisis
Despite its importance, housing is unaffordable for countless families. Across the state of Georgia, 4 in 10 low-income people (meaning that household income is less than $49,750) are either homeless or spend greater than 50% of their income on rent. And rent is only going up. In metro Atlanta, the median rental price in July 2021 $1,488 – a whopping 17% increase from the previous year and nearly twice the increase experienced in other major metropolitan areas. In some suburban areas of metro Atlanta, the increase was even more than that, reaching 20% increases in Duluth and Marietta. For homes, the story is no better. Metro Atlanta home prices skyrocketed over 22% from June 2020 to June 2021, with the median home price estimated around $400,000.
At the same time, incomes around metro Atlanta are not keeping up with rising housing costs. Nationally, total compensation rose 3.1% between June 2020 and June 2021, which is already significantly lower than the rising costs of housing. In metro Atlanta, compensation rose just 2.4% in that 12-month period.
With high priced rent, nearly stagnant wages and increasing home costs, home ownership is impossible for many in the community. Especially for communities of color, immigrant communities and single-parent households, discriminatory legacy housing policies along with generations of poverty and community disinvestment create inequity and impede opportunities for families.
From their work to provide stable housing to their community reinvestment to their bike distribution program, Habitat for Humanity of NWMA is making the community more livable. Because, now more than ever, there is immense need for affordable housing and meaningful interventions to ensure that everyone in our communities has the opportunity to live happy, healthy lives.
Give back this Biketober!
Donate a gently used kids’ bikes to their efforts. Habitat for Humanity of NWMA is hosting a collection event of gently used bikes (dust, not rust!) to be refurbished and distributed by Free Bikes for Kidz:
Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta
Community Bike Collection Event
Saturday, November 13, 2021 from 10am – 1pm
1625 Spring Road SE, Smyrna, GA 30080
Call (770) 432-7954 for more info
Free Bikes 4 Kidz Atlanta is a nonprofit organization geared toward helping all kids ride into a happier, healthier childhood by providing bikes to those most in need. They collect used bikes and organize hundreds of volunteers to clean and refurbish the bikes, and then we give them away to kids in need who are served by partner organizations in Atlanta. Free Bikes for Kidz Atlanta is going into its 6th year of operations in Atlanta. Each year of its operation, the organization has collected used bicycles in October, refurbished them in October and November, and distributed them to recipients in December. Since 2016, FB4K Atlanta has given away over 3,500 bikes through partnerships with 12 youth-serving organizations and multiple schools through our latest partnership with Atlanta Public Schools and the Shifting Gears program through the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.