Affordable housing is tough to find in New Bedford. While less expensive than rents in most metro areas in Massachusetts and elsewhere in Southern New England, rents here are still high. For those with limited education and work skills, the problem might seem overwhelming.

Imagine being an illegal alien, too afraid to emerge from the shadows and of being taken advantage of in such an environment.

The pandemic is winding down. With it, state and federal moratoriums on evictions are winding down as well. A piece in the Standard-Times highlights the challenges faced by many who were laid off or simply lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The moratorium offered protection for some but merely delayed the inevitable for others. It also created problems for many landlords with mortgages due.

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There are numerous state, federal, and local programs for those in need of rental assistance. According to experts in the field quoted in the S-T piece, many who are here illegally are afraid to seek help for fear of being deported. Some illegal immigrants are paying more to hold on to housing, making it even more difficult for legal residents to find an affordable place to live.

The pandemic and social activism before it helped wages to soar for otherwise low-paying low skilled jobs – and there is no shortage of them. Bagging fries at $15 per hour and doing some Door Dash several nights a week could actually net you a decent place to live these days, but you could find yourself competing against a wave of illegal immigrants for a gig and some quality digs.

The shortage of affordable housing is real, but it is not up to the government to build houses. The government can create an atmosphere favorable to the private sector for developing housing. Those conditions currently do not exist.

The government can and must reduce the number of illegal immigrants flooding our cities, contributing to housing shortages, and competing for low-skilled jobs by controlling immigration at the border. New Bedford's affordable housing crisis is directly tied to the failure to regulate the flow of unskilled and uneducated illegal immigrants to this country.

Most importantly, the government must establish a better and more worthwhile public education system that provides the knowledge and skills required for a 21st-century workforce so that more Americans can provide for themselves and their families.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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