A team of cyclists pedaled into St. George Thursday as part of a journey across the United States to promote affordable housing and do a service project on Friday.
There are sweltering highs of 103 degrees in St. George, Utah, but that didn’t stop the team of 31 young adults from picking up rakes and shovels to beautify the Silver Reef area.
“It’s hot. And I hear it’s gonna get hotter,” said Melissa Ettman, the captain of the Southern US Bike and Build team. “But yeah, the skies are blue, the sage smells great. And yeah, lots of sunscreen and lots of water.”
St. George is one of many places where the team will stop to do volunteer work around the U.S. The team left May 11 from Jacksonville, Florida and will ride to Modesto, California. So far, they’ve ridden 39,000 miles. The group’s goal is to raise money for, help build and start conversations about affordable housing.
“If you spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing, it’s considered unaffordable,” Ettman said. “If they spend more than 50 percent of their income toward housing, they’re considered extremely low income.”
That percentage includes the cost of both rent and utilities. The Utah Housing Coalition released information in 2015 that 20 percent of renters are considered extremely low income, and 88 percent of those pay more than 30 percent of their paychecks on rent. 78 percent of those pay more than 50 percent.
Bike and Build will raise more than $60,000 by the end of the trip to help contractors build more affordable housing for homeowners. Bike and Build has raised more than $7 million for the cause since the organization was formed 14 years ago.
“Even though it doesn’t necessarily impact each of us right here at home, we all understand the value of having a home,” Ettman said. “That’s why we can connect with so many people. It’s such a shared need.”