By Katie Simpson ’20
Jordan Bellamy (‘20) and Dr. Paul Brink are one of three student-faculty pairs who received the Center for Public Justice’s (CPJ) Shared Justice Student-Faculty research grant .
CPJ charged pairs to research the effects that one social safety net program has on their local campus communities. Stephanie Summers, the CEO of CPJ said “we wanted to do something that was tied to local communities… most people look at the Washington spectacle, spend time looking at that, but we’re missing a lot of things that are happening in our own local communities.”
Summers continued, “we think that particularly that because it’s in an academic context students will have the opportunity to share that research within their institutions and that would be a good educational piece for members of their own communities to understand.”
After CPJ announced the program, Brink encouraged Bellamy, thinking of her summer internship in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the Braden Joplin Transition Intern, to apply for the grant near the end of last semester .
Bellamy said of the experience, “for me I think I was able to see this is at the federal level how people are thinking about social safety nets, particularly Section 8” which she chose to investigate for her research. Bellamy continued, “I wanted to know more about the program, but particularly how it was impacting individual people…”
Brink added, “what’s cool is that you were in Washington at the highest level and now you’re working at the very, very local level.”
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program which provides vouchers to families and individuals based on various criteria for the purchase of homes on the private market.
Bellamy said “I want to focus on that component of choice, and, particularly in Lynn, what I’m seeing, at least, is it’s not really that they’re not providing enough vouchers[…]people have enough vouchers, but the value of the voucher might not be the same as what it might be five to to ten years from now.”
Bellamy and Brink both noted that Lynn is gentrifying rapidly, which poses problems for Section 8. “Lynn is changing and some parts of Lynn are changing very quickly…developers are discovering all this new potential in Lynn, so the way that Section 8 is implemented and the challenges that are facing are also changing,” Brink said.
“We’re looking at how can developers seek inclusionary zoning practices into their development projects[…]looking at essentially how developers can be incentivized,” Bellamy said.
Another problem with Section 8 is the lack of control over landlords and developers who may discriminate against voucher applicants.
“Section 8 may be more vulnerable to [discrimination] than other things, because as opposed to say public housing, where they build all these buildings and say, ‘Okay, poor people come in,’ this is an attempt to allow vulnerable people to own homes on the open market,” Brink said.
Bellamy and Brink are not just investigating the problem, however, for they hope to have some policy recommendations by the time their research is finished at the end of the semester. In keeping with much of CPJ’s approach, they hope to find out how government, the Church and other civil society organizations can work together to alleviate issues with Section 8.
As Summers said, “most of the complex social problems are not ones that are solved only by the government or only by the Church, but often it’s going to take a complement of institutions.”
Bellamy is passionate about the issue of affordable housing as well.
“My goal is just this is something that we need to recognize and we need to make sure that we[..].are not limiting the choices of those who are seeking to have choice in their lives,” she said.
Bellamy concluded, “Ultimately, I am truly grateful for the opportunity that the Center For Public Justice has given Dr. Brink and I to bring awareness to an issue that impacts so many people. I am also extremely humbled and inspired by the support and encouragement from the various students and faculty at Gordon. It really demonstrates the supportive community here.,” said Bellamy.