Hi, my name is Isabel Weir, and I am one the Fredrick Public Service Internship Award recipients for this summer! I am a rising senior studying Mathematics-Economics at Pitt, with a minor in German. Since the end of last year, I have been studying and doing work in the affordable housing field. While I had a momentary idea that I’d go on to get my Master’s in architecture or urban planning, I’ve since decided that housing policy is where I belong. It perfectly blends my interests in economics and policy, with my passion for design and helping others.
Since September, I’ve interned for ACTION Housing, a non-profit affordable housing developer in Pittsburgh. This experience only further solidified my interests. Throughout the last year, I had the opportunity to do voting outreach, prepare documents needed for project funding, visit all of their ongoing projects, and meet with a number of other community groups working toward the same goal: providing stable, decent, and affordable housing to all people.
When I first began work at ACTION Housing, my supervisor at the time gave me two briefings to read: “The Gap” and “Out of Reach.” Both are yearly reports published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, known as NLIHC or just “The Coalition”, by those who work there. These reports outline just how pressing this housing issue is. The city of Pittsburgh, for example, has more affordable units than almost any other US city, but even this city only has 51 units for every 100 people classified as extremely low income.
I really appreciated the great work that NLIHC was doing, and how accessible they made it for everyone, from researchers and policy makers, to an undergrad just beginning her journey in the affordable housing field. When I found out that I had received the Fredrick Scholarship, NLIHC was first on my list of places to apply. I loved their work, and I thought it would be a great place for me to learn more about housing issues on a national scale, and also learn important tools for research-based policy.
This summer I will be doing just that, by helping with ongoing research on emergency rental assistance, much of which has been created in the last year in response to COVID-19, and contributing toward the upkeep of a database to track the rental assistance programs all across the country. The organization’s ongoing effort to advocate for more money for emergency rental assistance, as well are the data that they collect on this topic, is useful in advising current efforts and creating future policy that better benefits low-income households and unhoused people. I am beyond thrilled to be working on such current and important work for the next 12 weeks.
Throughout my education and various experiences, I’ve come back to two core ideas: 1) housing should be a universal right and 2) almost everything relates to housing in some way or another. I want to continue within this field after I graduate next year, whether on a more local scale or working for a national organization to continue to advocate for stable, decent, and affordable housing for everyone. Whether that takes me to a Master’s program, a PhD program in economics, or somewhere else entirely, I’m still figuring out, but hopefully this internship will bring me a few steps closer to determining where to go next.
Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you updated on what the next 12 weeks will bring!