Pizza and Politics: Housing

The Michael O. Leavitt Center welcomed students to their weekly Pizza and Politics event discussing housing on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

Danielle Meuret and Anja Hayes, both members of the executive-council for the Leavitt Center, presented students with information regarding housing both locally and nationally. 

Hayes opened up the discussion to the audience by asking, “What age do you hope to buy your first home?”

Jakob Gertler, an SUU student, said, “With how the housing market is going right now, I would say by my mid-30s.”

In addition to Gertler, Carson Brown jokingly said, “I am just hoping for 35 at this point.” 

As the rate of homelessness has increased, Meuret and Hayes began to discuss how homelessness affects housing nationwide. While there is no exact number with how many homeless people are in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that about 18 of every 10,000 people in the U.S. experienced homelessness in 2020. 

Hayes then asked the question, “What are possible solutions to cure homelessness?”

SUU senior Alex Cellers suggested looking at how other countries handle the issue. 

“Some communities in Germany bought out vacant properties and transitioned them into public housing,” Cellers said.

Ashley Cannon, an executive-member for the Leavitt Center, suggested there should be more education on resources. 

“There are a lot of programs in place, but it is hard to find those resources as a homeless person,” Cannon said. “We can help educate those in need of resources.”

Over 478 million stimulus checks have been sent out since March 2020 and t three rounds of checks have provided people with the means to pay for essentials like rent and to help revive the economy. 

Meuret then asked, “Should the government extend pandemic relief funds in terms of housing?”

“I dislike the idea of relief funds being used in response to housing,” Jacob Gunderson said. “I think it is an expensive Band-Aid that only addresses the problem for a few months.”

Savannah LeNoble, an SUU freshman, is in favor of the relief funds.

“I work at a domestic violence shelter,” LeNoble said. “One of the main reasons these women are able to leave the shelter is through government help. I personally have seen the benefits of government assistance.”

Abby Shelton, a member of the Leavitt Center, claimed that the relief funds can be abused. 

“There are some people who use the system, and there is no intervention,” Shelton said. “The checks also protect the good, honest people who cannot pay their rent who need these funds.”

Due to the pandemic, unemployment rose dramatically with some businesses still not being able to recover. 

Hayes then asked, “Should different job sectors of the economy receive more help than others?”

Cannon sees the situation as hard to control. 

“You want the people who need help to come and get it and those who do not need it to not use it.”

Carter Wilkey, candidate for the Cedar City Council explained there are more job openings in the state compared to unemployed people. 

“In Utah specifically, there were about 28,000 people collecting unemployment in July and at that same time the Department of Workforce Services had 78,000 job openings,” Wilkey said. “We have a market right now where we could have a 0% unemployment rate if people wanted to or could work.

Despite the number of open positions around the country, unemployment pay currently averages more than minimum wage in all but three U.S. states.

The next Pizza and Politics event is Wednesday, Oct. 27 at noon. The topic being discussed will be local election candidates in room 112 of the Sharwan Smith Student Center. 

Story and photo by: Lexi Hamel