This week’s news round-up shows the affects our nation’s high rental costs have on families and communities.
According to the Coalition, Maryland is the 4th most expensive state for rental housing in the country. The Sentinel reports that many Maryland households are “doubling up” in response, putting a strain on households and putting more families at risk of homelessness.
Both the New York Times editorial page editor’s blog and the MSNBC Lean Forward blog posted NLIHC’s popular minimum wage map last week. Andrew Rosenthal of the Times points out that “there are plenty of single-parent households as well as families where, for various reasons, only one member is able to work,” making the comparison between two-bedroom apartment rents and what minimum wage earners can afford relevant to the policy debate, and the presidential election.
It is easy to predict the result of this disparity between wages and rents: low income Americans are desperate for rental housing they can afford. In Sacramento, the county housing authority plans to open its Housing Choice Voucher waiting list this week. The housing authority has just 3,000 spaces open on its waiting list, and while housing authority staff have no way of predicting how many applications they will receive, they expect many individuals and families will be interested. The last time the list opened up, 35,000 applications were received.
Long-term un- and underemployment lead to cost burden among renters, but even an improving economy can put stress on the rental market. In inland California, the rental occupancy rate is up, as are rents. An economist quoted in this article suggests that as the job market improves, people who have doubled up are starting to use their new income to move into the rental market on their own, making affordable apartments even more scarce.
Many communities across the U.S. are reporting rents beyond the reach of many renters, especially those with the lowest incomes. In Pittsburgh, Essential Public Radio reports that two out of three low income Pennsylvania residents have trouble finding rental housing they can afford. Rents in New Jersey, as we read in this article, are the third highest in the nation. In Texas, we read that minimum wage earners must work 88 hours per week just to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment and utilities. In Kanabec County, Minnesota, even the average worker must work up to 70 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve seen many reports recently from California, the second most expensive state in the country for renters. In Sacramento, Marin County and Santa Barbara, even as the slow housing and economic recovery has kept home prices relatively low, high rents and the elimination of state redevelopment agencies mean renters have few good choices.
In the Hartford Courant, we read about some of the people whose wages can’t cut it when it comes to making the rent: recent college graduates. Low-wage, entry-level jobs combine with sky-high rents and growing student loan payments to make the rental market impossible for young workers.
Recent college graduates often have the option of living with their parents, but for others, resources like public housing are essential. The housing that low income workers, elderly people and people with disabilities rely on is falling into disrepair in many communities across the country as federal funding for maintenance remains scarce. In Chattanooga, public housing residents planned to attend a Chattanooga Housing Authority meeting in large numbers in an attempt to protect their homes from demolition and their households from displacement. The housing authority promised that no senior housing would be destroyed, but residents are likely to remain worried when they consider just how tough it is to afford the rent elsewhere.