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Housing crisis and finding contentment


WORLD Radio - Housing crisis and finding contentment

How does America’s housing crisis affect our discipleship process with kids and teens? What does it mean to defend family, fight despair, and pursue contentment? We’re SOARing the State of the Nation’s Housing report on today’s episode.

KELSEY REED: Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. At Concurrently, we approach the news through a discipleship perspective. We tackle the challenging topics in culture and current events as learners and fellow laborers with parents, educators, and mentors of kids and teens. We consider the whole person, promoting growth and knowledge, attitudes, and action in the world. I’m Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.


KELSEY: We welcome you to the conversation. In fact, we’d love to hear from you. Please send in your questions or comments by way of voice recording or email to newscoach@wng.org.

Speaking of hearing from listeners, we received such a kind voice recording from Ginnie Adams.

GINNIE ADAMS: Hi, my name is Ginnie Adams, and I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I just started listening to the new podcast Concurrently, which is a podcast for parents and people working with students. And I can’t tell you what an encouragement it is to listen in on conversations about navigating life in our day-to-day culture. I love the real-life examples that are shared, and how it’s all brought back to the big picture, that we are treasures and these fragile clay jars. And that this great power belongs to God and not to us. So: Love it. Thank you.

JONATHAN: Thank you so much, Ginnie, for those kind words. It’s always so encouraging for us to hear not just that people are enjoying the podcast, but that what we’re trying to do here is coming through, and that it has been an encouragement. And you have likewise been an encouragement to us. Thank you so much. So today, if you can hear my rustling papers, and you’re a longtime listener who’s familiar with what we do here, you know what that means. We are going to be SOARing a specific article. And so that is the SOAR method that we’ve talked about in previous episodes where we take time to Survey, Observe, Analyze, and Respond to a specific, single news article. We like to every now and then take a break from the usual flow of the podcast, and give these concrete examples of what it looks like to practice using our news literacy tools in the hopes that you can read along with us and practice these tools with your kids and students. And so today, we are looking at an article that actually comes from Habitat for Humanity. And it is the 2023 State of the Nation’s Housing Report. This is produced in conjunction with Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. It focuses on this issue of housing. Specifically, we’re looking at the United States. We’ll get more into that as we go into observation. But this topic really jumped out to us just because of how much has been in the news. For myself writing for our WORLDteen magazine, this is something that has come up several times recently. We produced a daily news article, a News Byte, not long ago about the rising costs of rental homes in the United States and how evictions are spiking. And in the upcoming edition of WORLDteen, we’re going to have an article about this tension between the choice to own a home or rent a home. Now, this issue is so pertinent maybe, you know, the housing cost issue is affecting your family right now, affecting your life, and, in a way that even your kids can feel, that something that even children can feel, when there is that tension in a housing situation. But maybe even you’re thinking about your older teens or students right now who are looking to their own futures their own potential of owning a home or renting a home and what that will mean for them. And so, for us here at Concurrently, this seems like such a pertinent issue to dive into not just the practicalities and the economics of home ownership. But what that means for our discipleship and our spiritual posture toward the world.

KELSEY: I think it’s so appropriate that we recently released an episode with Gene Veith, discussing the ideas of our varied vocations in the world because I really see touch points on what we discussed with him coming out in how we think of our discipleship response. But in order to not get that response ahead of the other three elements: The beauty of this method is that we have to diligently slow down and pursue a thoughtful process of looking at what’s going on in the world or looking at a specific article or media and considering all the details so that we can actually orient our hearts’ responses through a biblical perspective to what we’re seeing in the world. Now, I’m going to—even though we’re going to dive into survey a little bit more—I’m going to make this a slight correction: What we’re looking at from Habitat from Humanity is actually an article that is giving the four major takeaways from the report. The report itself is huge; it’s got a lot of data. It comes with a great video that we’re also going to link in the show notes that I highly encourage you to sit down and use the SOAR method to engage this media. It gives you a chance to actually discuss things like tone, facial expression, more of the sensory data that you don’t get when you’re looking at a specific article. So parent, educator, I highly recommend looking at that source and applying this method to looking at one of those massive institutions really, in our culture. This report—from which this article that we are going to be SOARing—this report is a 35-year-old report; it’s been going on for a long time. So it’s quite an institution. Now, the beauty of SOAR: It’s not only fun to engage and rattle our papers, and actually use highlighters and mark up and do that annotation work that is so fun—and I don’t know, for me getting off the screen is such a joyful prospect. But if we engage the method thoroughly, it also allows us to get all the way around what’s known as the learning cycle. And that’s going to be a familiar concept to educators. And listeners who are not in the realm of education, it’s probably increasingly becoming something that’s familiar to you, maybe you listen to the Play-by-Play and hear it echoed. But we’re talking about engaging head, heart, and habits or our minds—our cognitive level—the level of our attitudes, the beliefs of our heart, our heart level understanding. And that, of course, shapes our posture in the world, our emotional/affective posture, like compassion. And we also engage our habits or our actions. We talk about that even in our Concurrently intro. So, we’re asking these questions embedded even in the SOAR method. “What do I need to know about this topic? How does it increase my understanding, my attitudes of compassion in the world? And what can I do about it?” Or as we say, with SOAR: “How can I respond?” I want you guys to just have those questions in mind as you think about it, that we’re getting a whole-person engagement when we use the SOAR method. So, let’s dive in with “S” for Survey. At that level, we’re just talking about the big picture of what’s going on. We’ve already kind of tackled that already in our topic intro.

JONATHAN: I think there’s even a little more that you can get into of the Survey—I think the article itself provides its own little blurb of survey at the very top, where the you know, the title here does not give a lot away, just state of the nation’s housing report. But in that first paragraph, we see this blurb, the housing report paints a stark picture of record on affordability, near-record housing shortages, and major barriers to first time ownership, homeownership. And so, the rest of the article, as we’ll see in our observation section, kind of all impacts that big picture.

KELSEY: And I’m going to also track back to the original source for this article. As a part of our Survey work. We’re looking at the Joint Center for Housing Studies from Harvard. It is an institution that strives to improve equitable access to decent affordable homes in thriving communities. And so, they conduct rigorous research to advance policy and practice, and they bring together diverse stakeholders of which Habitat [for Humanity] is merely one. So, they are a co-sponsor and participant in bringing together this report.

JONATHAN: And so, this breakdown this article summarizing the report, is from one of the co-sponsors of the report.

KELSEY: And there are several, and they range from things like banks, the Federal Home Loan Banks, Habitat for Humanity, obviously, we already listed that Housing Assistance Council, National Apartment Association; there are many more. The point is that this is a multi-participant—or sponsor—sourced research program. This publication comes out every June of every year. So, we’re referring back to the takeaways from June 2023. And there will be another one coming up in June 2024. Okay, so that kind of gives us the lay of the land. So as we dive down into the article that has the four takeaways printed for us, simplified for us, by Habitat for Humanity, I just want to list the four takeaways, and then maybe we can get into details that hang on each of those takeaways.

JONATHAN: Yeah, they kind of did some of the observation work for us.

KELSEY: I’m so thankful because, again, the report is huge. So the four takeaways that I observe: number one, “Home ownership costs skyrocketed in 2022, pricing out 2.4 million renters.”

JONATHAN: Then the second takeaway they have here that we observe is: “Housing cost burdens reached their highest level in years.”

KELSEY: And we’ll define what cost burdens or housing cost burdens are in a minute. Number three: “The supply of homes for sale remains at near record lows.”

JONATHAN: And then the fourth takeaway that we observe, they themselves in this article kind of start getting into some response, it says, “States and localities are helping show the way forward.”

KELSEY: Right. So, their number four is already tied up in their responses. So, I really appreciate that observation. Okay, so in the very first section, costs skyrocketed in 2022. Interestingly, as a side note, you and I both, both of our families purchased homes in 2022, didn’t we?

JONATHAN: We started renting 2022, purchased in 2023. But we’re in that same similar time frame where we’ve both been kind of keenly feeling some of these pressures that are written about in the article.

KELSEY: Right, so it brought some of just what’s been going on in the different institutions—real estate, mortgage lending—all of that was very much on our screen at the time. And of course, this takeaway talks about pricing out 2.4 million renters. Housing is real for everybody. It’s a question mark in everyone’s lives. For us, we were seeking to make decisions in 2022 about those things. And feeling that pinch, as we were each renting for at least a part of 2022. We were—we purchased in August of that year. So some of the things that they mentioned in this first section, I noticed that median priced home in the U.S. reached $3000 per month in March of 2023.

JONATHAN: So yeah, we’re observing a lot of numbers here. And I don’t know about you, it can almost get just overwhelming, the wash of numbers coming at you, especially if I’m listening and not sitting down with a paper. So, twofold thing here: I would encourage listeners again to read along with us, but also just trying to think about what these numbers are actually meaning. So, another number that we observe in this first takeaway about rising home cost is that the estimated annual income needed to afford median homeownership rose to $117,000. Estimated income needed for median for the cost of a median home, which obviously is not you know, what a lot of people are actually going to have, but that’s kind of in the middle.

KELSEY: And so, as we do observation work, one of the things that I do is that kind of annotation practice of asking a question, as I see these observations. Some of the questions that I start jotting down between the lines, is, you know, where are we seeing those specific rent costs? I want to know, first of all, if they are around me, because I’m always very locally interested. So, I’m asking that question: Is that true of where we’re living? And this question mark, that is most profound in this section is related to that income. And I think of what that means to families. I’m asking the question, okay. $117… is that going to be 117k? That is by one earner, joint earners? And what is the effect on families?

JONATHAN: And we’ll come back to that a little bit in our analysis, because you can make some conclusions about what that means for family life. And the other thing here in this takeaway is that we see that even though median home prices dropped a little bit between 2022 and ’23, that was more than made up for by interest rates rising, which I think both of us felt when we were in our own home search process.

KELSEY: And that definitely amplified the anxiety for us. We felt like we were in a race to try to lock in an interest rate that would to propel us into those regions that we’re going to be talking about under number two, where we were more heavily cost burdened. But before we leave number one, there’s one more very important takeaway. And this is the fact that there is still an imbalance in our culture of those who are able to afford housing—because of the stories of brokenness, the heritage of brokenness that is associated with their financial health. So, they do point to this even more thoroughly in the larger report. It’s not just this statement without data. So, I want to refer to that report. I’m thankful for the data that helps for us to not make judgy type of comments here, we have to suspend our judgment and really press into the data that’s there. And the data shows that there is a disproportionate share of black and Hispanic homebuyers that are just detrimentally affected by what we’re seeing in the housing market right now. So I just want that to be on the screen as we coach our understanding. So: cost burdens.

JONATHAN: So, the second takeaway we observe in this article was that point about cost burdens rising, and the article defines housing cost burdens as paying more than 30% of your income on housing.

KELSEY: I notice in this article that one sixth of home owners, and let me tell you how I figured that out: In the United States, about 68% of our people who are in their home, they own that home. So, about a sixth of all owners that says, like 10%, at 8.7 million, had housing costs that exceeded half of their income. That was a staggering piece of data for me.

JONATHAN: And as this section points out, when you have high cost-burden, that leaves little left over for other necessities, like food and healthcare.

KELSEY: I want to connect the dots between what we made as an observation under takeaway number one, that these cost burdens were especially prevalent for homeowners that were earning less than $30k per year, and higher than average for black, Hispanic, and Asian homeowners, as well as those who are over age 65. And the question that comes to mind here is: Is that because that’s related to retirement age, and a fixed income, that is lower than like the salaries maybe that are continuing to increase around them? So, I had a question there at that place too.

JONATHAN: And the third takeaway we observe is that the supply of homes for sale is at a near record low, the article points out that it’s a little bit above where it was during the COVID pandemic, where it reached a historic low, but it’s still near that bottom. And it even gives some reasons for this, such as rising land prices, high-cost material, and zoning restrictions.

KELSEY: As I listened to the report, the video of the report, it helped me to understand more of that specific situation in general. So, I commend to you the report, I can’t say enough about how helpful that was to increasing my own understanding. A couple of the things that I want to point out, of course, if we have a shortage of supply—so there’s that supply and demand scenario that’s going on—in a shortage of homes to purchase, that inevitably puts more pressure also on homes to rent. So the cost was not merely for home ownership, it also drove up rents. And it was interesting, as you were talking about some of the resources that you’ve leaned into for your WORLDteen article, we’re talking about people’s perspective on renting, on homeownership, you know, is it a stressful prospect? What seems to make people “happier”? There are a number of elements of that emotional realm that are here, you know: people’s perspective, and what they’re willing to risk or how risky something feels, and just the very real pressures of how to spend money wisely and for the benefit of those under our care. And when some of that strength seems to be taken away from us and that ability to control and to make good decisions, helpful decisions that cause a thriving of those under our care, so I appreciated that article too. And we might put that in the show notes, that it’s an interesting—it’s another article that’s on research of people’s attitudes towards home ownership or renting—so it’s a very interesting thing that’s complementary to what we’re doing. So we’re actually in that stage of analysis, where we talk about other resources and how they connect to what we are observing here.

JONATHAN: And so that makes sense to you. I was thinking with our analysis, we could kind of start on more of the surface and get deeper into that heart level, discipleship level as we near response, because, like you mentioned, in analysis, we start to bring in other sources. And so, I make some practical-analytical observations, to mix categories a little bit, just by bringing in data from other articles and other sources, and comparing it to what we see in this article. So, for example, we were talking about the estimated annual income needed to afford a median home is $117,000. And that was in 2022. I believe, that makes me think, okay, so what was the median income at that time? And the answer, according to the official government website, census.gov, is the median income was $74,580. So, the median income, the income needed to afford a median home is significantly higher than the actual median income. And that’s another thing that comes out in my analysis here is that we see not just the rising cost of homes, but the ratio of home cost to income. Because that’s really the thing, right? Like, if we’re making enough money as a society to afford these homes, the cost of the home isn’t a huge deal. But the cost of homes has risen at a much steeper rate than incomes have risen. And there are some other sources that we could even link to in the show notes that track that ratio of home costs to income. And you can see that over the last few decades, that ratio has grown and grown, where it’s not just that homes are getting more expensive, but that incomes are not keeping up, which leads into some more of our heart level analyses. But before we get to there, are there any more of those, just kind of, numerical comparisons that you wanted to bring out from other sources?

KELSEY: Sure, I do. And I just want to mention to the listener, that this is a great opportunity for questions to just run wild. And so, I’m going to ask you a question before I also make that comparison. I’m assuming in what you were saying, and I want to make sure I don’t just build some of my thoughts on the assumption, that there’s a difference between an individual income and household income. And I’m wondering, What was that 74k? Was that a household income? Or was it an individual income in terms of that median income compared to the 117k household income needed?

JONATHAN: That was the median household income in 2020.

KELSEY: Gosh—that’s telling. So, we asked these questions to drive to the heart of the data so we can really understand that comparison. Again, staggering to me, I’m going to use that word, I think, several times because the data is overwhelming. One of the things that I did as a part of the comparison work or the asking questions is I was looking at ZipRecruiter to see what the top 10 paying jobs were in North Carolina based off of a bachelor degree. I’m going to not list all those things. But you know, you think of the types of work that you can get with a bachelor’s degree and even what it takes to procure a degree. To earn a degree like that is a financial burden as well, that enters the picture of the financial data that we’re looking at. So, what about those who have to have a certain debt-to-income ratio? In order to qualify for a mortgage in the first place? That’s obviously another piece. And if you have undertaken that route of getting good education towards trying to get a well-paying job, you probably have student debt as well. And the jobs that require bachelor’s degrees, there are things like mechanical engineers, which are the top-paying, I think, in our area. You can get a mechanical engineering job for [a salary of] 100k. But that’s not a median income. That’s the top, right? So even the top income for an individual in the area was still under the median income required to afford housing at the rate that housing is priced right now.

JONATHAN: Which brings us to something else we can bring out and analysis for a household have to hit that income needed to afford a median home means that probably husband and wife are both working.

KELSEY: And that’s leading back to those questions that I, I often lead out with them when I’m thinking about something because of that discipleship role that I’ve been given as News Coach, you know, I’m thinking about how this has an effect on families, how it has an effect on what we’re doing to raise children in this generation. That pressure of having two incomes, two working parents, that, again, is overwhelming. I’m using the word staggering, overwhelming—it is unsettling to me to think about two parents outside of the home, in order to provide that home for their children.

JONATHAN: To me, what you are just saying, gets at the crux of why this is an important issue. So, a while back, we did an episode on the topic of human flourishing. And the idea I think we tried to really bring out in that episode was that oftentimes things in culture that might seem morally neutral, at first, have a real impact on what it means for us to flourish as people in community and families. And so, all of these numbers and statistics that can seem so dry on paper as, hopefully listener, we haven’t lost you too much, just in all these stats, and especially as you’re listening—numbers sometimes just go over my head when I’m hearing them as opposed to looking at them. But all of this, that seems dry and kind of neutral on the surface, has a real impact on the physical and spiritual and emotional health of a family. And so, at the risk of getting into a little bit of response early here, I think one of the things that we need to realize is that, as Christians, conservative Christians, we are very concerned, often, with what it means to defend family, in a culture that often wants to tear family apart. And some of the threats against family in today’s, you know, kind of post-Christian world—some of those threats are very obvious rates of divorce and changing ideas about sexuality. And those are the things that we often target as we need to protect the family from those things. But really, this issue of housing is an area where I believe the family needs defended. Because if you cannot afford a home, or if you cannot afford to be present with your children in your home, that has a real impact on the health of family.

KELSEY: And I think as we’re in this analysis section, and we’re trying to keep from a condensed response, it’s one of those places because it’s so just intimately involved in so many places in our lives, it’s going to be one of those episodes where it’s harder for us to stay out of response. Sometimes observation trickles into analysis more quickly. I think today, we’re going to find our analysis moves into response rather quickly. And some of the other articles that we looked up that I want to touch on while we’re in that section, that help point to response—I saw this very interesting article from The Digest. I think you might have shared that in our channel where we were talking about these things, previous to recording. And it says that pandemic-induced remote work actually correlates with rising house prices. There was something that was unfortunate and that to me, and that the remote work was causing the house prices to increase. And I think some of that is because we see migration, people moving to places where they want to live, that it’s attractive, that the lifestyle is something that’s beautiful to them, like where we live in Western North Carolina.

JONATHAN: You can live in Asheville, but work for a company in New York City and make much more than a company in Asheville could afford to pay you. And that drives up the cost of housing in Asheville. Actually, one of my friends who lives in the D.C. area has a co-worker who lives in Hendersonville, just like five minutes from here, but so it’s kind of wild. Oh, half an hour from here.

KELSEY: Yeah, there you go. Exactly. Hendersonville is—that was where I was commuting before we moved to Canton and we’re talking about things that may not be familiar to you. So, I’m going to paint some pictures here. Our commute into Asheville for each of us is from more remote places. Mine is particularly rural: Canton, North Carolina, was put on the map with WORLD Magazine, Caleb Bailey’s feature on the Evergreen Packaging Mill that closed in our area. That’s the town that I’m living in. It’s a population of under 5,000. And yet, it is the place where we could afford. And so, my commute is about 30 minutes. But beforehand, we were living in Hendersonville, which is another township. And we’ve got this stretch of highway that is crazy. And that is the most attractive place for everybody, because it’s between Asheville, a town, and Hendersonville, another town. And so that commute can be as long as 60 minutes. Why am I leaning into this as a part of analytical work here, and connection to our original resource? There’s this concept of how our commute has an impact on the environment, a very real and physical impact on the environment. This road that I’m talking about between Hendersonville and Asheville—and listener, you may have one near you—that has been under construction for over five years, I think we’re going on a decade that this road has been under construction. The amount of wear and tear on this road is insane because of the commuters between it. I know Denver had a road that was like that for a while, while we were living there—that with the increase of in population, it puts pressure on the infrastructure, it puts pressure on the environment. Our human traffic and just action in the world, it has an impact on what’s going on around us in a very physical sense.

JONATHAN: So, if I can kind of generalize from your analysis, there’s been a bit of a divorce between work and community where to afford housing, a lot of people are either working remotely, or they are having these long commutes. And that has a direct impact on the world around us on the roads, but also on our ability to get home to our families, our ability to afford houses in certain areas. And so, this divorce between work and place is another factor that affects the housing issue and the health of the family and all sorts of ways.

KELSEY: During this analytical section. And I’m really glad for the way that you phrased it. And, you know, brought it to those general thoughts because they land us in some other key places in our analytical section. For analysis to be helpful, in the life of the believer, we need here to remember to pull out that tool of the redemptive narrative, to be restored to thinking in biblical categories about who we are in the world, what our work is—the fact that we were given dominion, stewardship responsibility towards one another, but also towards the world itself, the matter—the physical matter of the world. And so, I want to recommend, if you haven’t had a chance to look at it, to go to that article on News Coach that is about the Redemptive Narrative that has some very handy little graphics that remind us of that relationship in which we were placed as human beings, our relationship with God, with one another, even a relationship with ourselves, as you know, thinking about who we are individually. But it is also a relationship with creation. And so, we analyze through the framework of the Redemptive Narrative: How does what we’re seeing line up with what we know to be true, biblically speaking of the world, and our place in it?

JONATHAN: Looking at this issue that is so modern, not just in the context of this year, or even the last 20 years, but in the context of the whole redemptive story. Now, one other piece of analysis I have here that brings us a little bit more down into the heart level, and that maybe could even launch us into response, is just the understanding that things are tough, and that things in this issue of housing have been getting tougher. And so, we don’t want to just be discouraging here, obviously, but I bring this up because I’m going to make a caveat: There are many, many understanding people in every generation, but there is an attitude you observe when you look at out at the internet, or really any community forum, among people who I would say mostly around the older generations who have maybe kind of locked in their housing situation years ago, and are looking at the younger generations. There can be a misunderstanding sometimes where younger generations, as you can see from the numbers we’ve been discussing, are really struggling to afford housing. And as I brought up, actually, when I was researching for the WORLDteen article we have coming up on the issue of housing, you can see that renting itself is an obstacle to homeownership, because the rent has risen so much that a lot of especially younger people who aren’t earning as much as people seasoned in their employment, they can’t really afford to save up because they’re spending so much on just rent and food. So, all that to say: Sometimes, for people who have been in a stable housing situation and maybe locked in a mortgage, during those times when the ratio between income and housing cost was a lot more reasonable, there can be an assumption that the younger generations are just doing something wrong, or that they’re lazy, or that they should just spend less on eating out and getting coffee. But we can see from this analysis that there are real struggles, and that, even when young people work hard, even when the husband and wife both work hard, it can still be nearly impossible to afford housing, near your work, near your community, near your family. And so, as that leads into response, I kind of see a twofold response, if you’re okay for us to launch into that direction?

KELSEY: I’ll probably snag us back to some analysis too because there are some things that we need to challenge and affirm. But I think we’re going to have to bop back and forth. So please go ahead.

JONATHAN: So, acknowledging that things really are tough, I see a twofold response: for the younger generations. It’s the response of fighting against despair and fighting against envy. So, we recently had an episode on the topic of truth and lies. And we talked about how, when we read the Ten Commandments, we think about it as just you know, “Thou shalt not lie.” But really, it’s more in-depth than that. And the same thing with the commandment against coveting, “Thou shalt not covet,” in the Ten Commandments in the Bible, that actually gives us some concrete examples. And the first one is, “Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house.” When I first learned the Ten Commandments, as a kid, I just kind of skimmed over that one. As a grown-up, yeah, I have coveted my neighbor’s house, especially in those years where we weren’t sure where we would land. You know, it’s, you’d look at other people living in a home and just be like “How?”—and that’s a real, that was, that is and was a real heart issue of: I need to check myself for covetousness in my heart. And then, to fight against despair—and we can get into more of the spiritual reasons for fighting against despair—but when you look at these numbers, there can be that deep, that deep temptation towards despair and discouragement. And so, it should drive us instead, to put our hope where it really belongs, because we know that this is not our eternal home. And even when we have struggles there, we have the power. As Paul points out to us in scripture, we have the power to be content in any situation. And the other side of that response to this tough situation: More for the people who are not in this situation of trying to find housing, but who maybe have a more stable housing situation, is the response of empathy and understanding, to be willing to look at younger people, or people who are trying to move in these times, and acknowledge that there is a difficult situation, and to be a source of grace for those people, instead of condemnation. To not look at younger generations and say, “What are you doing wrong?” but, to instead dig into the facts, understand the situation, and help be that source of encouragement. I think all of us can choose to either be a source of encouragement or discouragement to people who are facing these tough situations.

KELSEY: Leaning into the question really allows us to have that posture of curiosity that gets into the facts, the story, instead of looking at things at face-value and making a judgment. So, when we’re talking about all of this entire huge realm, and application of the SOAR method, even in particular, it’s something that I’m going to return to: It’s not just coaching our thinking; it’s coaching our posture within the world and the way that we initiate action in that world. It’s causing us to practice asking the question, so that we suspend our judgment until we understand the full story. So it’s keeping us from those places where we end up warring with one another, or creating division or even doing damage to one another. So, I love all that you said. And I’m so thankful. And as I think about what we’re doing at this stage of the episode. It’s like there’s these prongs that are coming off of the central issue and these details that kind of shoot off in multiple different directions. And you’ve kind of followed one from its observation through to all the way to response. So, I’m going to trace back to some of the core issues of the report, to try to go off in another direction too, as we seek to do this well. So, we talked a little bit about the impact on climate, because in our day and age, we’re very aware of climate and we have varied philosophies about how we’re going to really engage caring for the environment, or as we like to reframe it, caring for creation, well. And I would say one of the things that the analysis portion provides us the opportunity to do is to think about what we can affirm, and what we’re hearing from a biblical perspective, and maybe think about some areas that we should challenge, again, through a biblical framework. Regarding the issue of environment, I think that there has been this tendency to consider the resources in our world as very limited. And to—sometimes there’s this response that has to do with less human intervention is going to be better, you know, so the more we leave it alone, the better it’s going to be. We see in scripture that we were tasked to be agents of redemption, even to the creation, that it is our job to do good work in the world to learn how to steward things wiser/wisely. I mean, it takes time. I was about to say “wiser,” because it is a process. We gain wisdom through our efforts and even through our failures. Thankfully, this is a part of our posture here at Concurrently too, and we can refer back to our topic, our two different recordings on failure. We are in a process that we learned we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. And that includes making mistakes about the environment. But the truth of the matter is, is that our action in the world is both harmful to the world sometimes, but also restorative as we learn. And a scarcity mindset doesn’t help in the area of environment, thinking of, of limited resources. And it also didn’t help with this specific situation regarding housing. And in fact, the shortages in housing were often directly related to regulations that were made out of this desire to have a lower impact on the environment. And they pointed to this again and again, in the larger report, that it was out of that fear, and out of wanting to take care of the land and the air—and not really [seeing] how to make a way forward to take care of people and land—that development went down. There was a lot of suspicion regarding any future development and regulation after regulation was tacked on top of that. And it meant that fewer houses were constructed. So it went from this problem of thinking of, “Oh, humans have an impact on the environment” to, “We need to do less and less to touch the environment” to now we’re not even creating the things that are necessary for human flourishing. So instead of thinking creatively, how can both things be cared for? Well, how can we design beautifully, sustainably, so that humans can live and have homes and care for what is theirs? And so, one of the things that was mentioned is having an “abundance agenda.” And though they were talking specifically about constructing new homes, that idea of having an agenda of abundance, really rang through those biblical frameworks in a resounding way. To me, having an “abundance agenda” reminds me of the Father’s ownership of the cattle on a thousand hills, and reminds me of the abundant birds and flowers of the field. When Jesus used those two metaphors to talk about the Father’s provision, and why we shouldn’t be anxious, He chose things that have the millions upon millions: the flowers of the field, the birds of the air, that He clothes them and feeds them. So, it’s an abundance mentality instead of a scarcity mentality. And I can affirm an abundance mentality. It also links to so many thoughts of the abundant vocations that are connected to this for me. And I wonder if we could just do this thing where we list the vocations that housing touches on. We mentioned, some of them like mortgage lenders, real estate.

JONATHAN: And remembering that, you know, that vocation is not simply employment, touches on mother, father, brother, sister, child.

KELSEY: Exactly. Run through that framework that really anything that I’m doing to love God and neighbor is a vocation. And anything that I’m doing should be about loving God and neighbor. So, I love those ways of thinking about it that are the inverse. And so, anything we do: construction, industry, city planning, sustainable design, politics, employers of anybody. And then of course, discipleship in the home, all of these are vocations that have an impact on how we think, how we have a posture towards the world, and how our action can be engaged redemptively in the world. So, I just was thinking about how an abundance of vocations…

JONATHAN: There are so many different prongs to this story that you could follow through and track through, like you just did. And we don’t have time to open all of them before we wrap up. One that I would maybe point to, just to leave with the listener is also this idea you can track through from your observation to the response of how human sin and cultural sin have also affected this issue. So, something we pointed to even in our observation was that families of color are more affected in almost all of these areas of housing burden. And as this article then gets into, and its own response section, you can trace this back to issues really, they wouldn’t use this phrase in the article, but issues of cultural sin, issues such as redlining, issues such as highways being built through communities. And up until frighteningly recently, you know, there were literal neighborhoods where black people could not live. They were barred from living there. And that affects this because homeownership, as we’ve seen is really a generational sort of issue. First generation homeowners have a lot harder time getting a home than people who come from a line of homeowners. And the article suggests some responses to this. And so, I think I’ll just kind of leave that one with the listener about the question of how does cultural sin affect this issue of housing? And what kind of responses could we explore, to heal that aspect of this problem?

KELSEY: So, I want to leave us with some response-type questions that put the work back on you, listener. And really are questions that each of us need to be, I think, asking daily, because they are the questions of faith. Where the gospel is richly required in our lives, it requires us to lean deeply into the good news and the Father’s supply. So this is kind of a reiteration of before: How are we cultivating an abundance perspective? And then, what does that look like then to our actions? How are we using our vocations to love neighbor? We have used that phrase, “to promote human flourishing in the world.” Where can we engage in making life better for those around us? What is the power that’s been put into our hands that we can use just to serve? And here’s some other suggestions: Pray for our leaders who are still thinking about what needs to be regulated and what not. Pray for direction for your children’s vocational expressions in the world. Maybe some of them want to go into one of those listed vocations that I touched on, or there could be many, many more. This is a fun place to think about how our work in the world truly has a lasting effect. We are called to be culture-shapers, to be salt and light. Where do we have the privilege of engaging the world that the Lord has placed us in? Some scriptural encouragement to end us from Isaiah 65, verses 21-22. “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”

JONATHAN: And from John 14:1-3, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

KELSEY: And then lastly from Philippians 4, verses 11-13. “Not that I’m speaking of being a need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need, I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The Lord strengthens us for the task that’s ahead of us. And it gives us a hope for a future in Him, even if now for a little while we experience what it means to be brought low, or what it means to be in times of plenty. Regardless of each of these circumstances: He has abundant provision for us, and He has equipped you for the work.


Show Notes

How does America’s housing crisis affect our discipleship process with kids and teens? What does it mean to defend family, fight despair, and pursue contentment? We’re SOARing the State of the Nation’s Housing report on today’s episode.

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at gwnews.com/newsletters.

We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at newscoach@wng.org. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

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Further Resources:

Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit gwnews.com.

Today’s episode is sponsored by New College Franklin.

Through the college years, students go through an intense period of growth - intellectually, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. So as you are thinking about college options, consider not only what you want to do, but who you want to be. New College Franklin is dedicated to spiritually forming students by discipling them through the seven liberal arts for wisdom, virtue, and service. As a four-year classical, Christian, liberal arts college, nestled in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, New College Franklin focuses on the great ideas, the Trivium, and the Quadrivium; to contemplate the good, the true, and the beautiful, and to go out into the world for Christ's kingdom with humility and confidence. Applications are still open for the 2024-2025 school year. Find out more at newcollegefranklin.edu/world.

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