We are set to close on our house in less than a week. It still seems surreal, like it’s not happening yet. It’s been a summer of ups and downs, learning about the housing market and the process of buying a home. It’ll finally be all over soon. These last few weeks have been ones filled with waiting for the appraisal to process and the loan paperwork to go through. Now we’re finally moving to the last step of closing. Still, many things to prepare for the move and to set up with the new house.
It’s not our dream house but it’ll do for now. It’s a house and it’s ours. That means more than anything. Ever since I can remember, my family has always rented. In the over 20 years that my family has been in the U.S., we have always lived in public housing. My parents were too afraid to take the risk of venturing out to buy a home in the case that something happens, we foreclose, lose the house, lose a place to stay.
I don’t disclose to many people that I live in public housing. I never did and I still don’t. I’ve never admitted to anyone about this but I am glad that my family never lived in townhouses or “the projects” where your building could easily be identified as a public housing unit. Where you would be labeled a child of poverty, less than, because you lived in public housing. While I hate all the paperwork involved with public housing re-certifications, all the prodding into your personal business, and the scrutiny into all the details of your life, I was grateful that I was shielded by the facade that my house was a normal house. I could for a moment, after our annual re-certification period, pretend that I lived a normal life, in a normal house and not a public housing unit.
Our eligibility technician (as they are called) was a stiff, mean lady. I detested having to go in and meet with her for our re-certifications. All members in the household over 18 had to be present at the re-certifications. 5 years. 5 re-certifications. (I was excused from the 4 others I should have been at because I was away at college). How many have my parents had to go to? Too many. Too many more than they should have. 5 was already too many for me. I don’t know how they did it for all those years. That unbearableness of waiting in the office for your appointment. The hum of the lights. The feeling of being less than the staff that worked there. Going into her office, having her be upset because not everyone was present, having to explain to her they were away at school and they sent their verification forms, having her go through all the forms and talk to you like you don’t understand. She’s trying. I give her credit for that but she still hasn’t quite got it yet.
The public housing life is not one that allows you to live with dignity. Every and each aspect of your life is subject to scrutiny. Your privacy is constantly intruded upon. Any little change can disrupt your housing. The constant moves to adjust for increasing or decreasing numbers in your household. The rent changes if your income went up or down even if it was only minimal. I’ve wondered if it would be possible to move out of public housing giving how rent and income are tied. Make a lot of money? Trying to save up and move out of public housing? Don’t worry. Just pay flat rent which often equates to the cost of a mortgage each month. How can one escape this cycle?
20+ years later, we are finally moving out. Through it all many low-paying blue collar jobs, 1 layoff, 1 shift in the primary breadwinner, 4 children transitioning into adulthood, 4 college degrees obtained, 1 entry level professional job, 1 aspiring career pursuit. All of this and we are finally moving out and moving on.
I have put in so much, so much more than needed (but by who’s standards anyways?) but there’s still so much more that is needed. It has been a difficult journey but they are all I have. Who am I if I cannot lift my family up with me? What does that say about me? We have been in public housing for too long. It has become a lifestyle. I don’t want my family to live in public housing for the rest of their lives. If not me, then who? If not now, then who? I can only hope that my younger siblings will be grateful for what they have and give back in return. It is a worthy sacrifice. To know that my family has a stable place to live, a secure home to call their own; to know that they won’t be upended from their residence when the household size changes; to know that they don’t have to worry about not knowing where their next home will be and have to accept the option they are presented with if they want affordable housing; to know they have 3 days to move all of their belongings out into the new home; is all worth it. My contributions seem minimal compared to what they have to gain.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”
― William Shakespeare,