In her testimony at a hearing of the housing subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, Coalition President Sheila Crowley noted that “Observers often ask if the shortage of rental housing for the low and extremely low income population is a housing problem or an income problem. The answer is that it is both.” Two news stories this last week illustrate this fact.
Expensive communities make for difficult living for many people, and those with limited income have it worst. In Marin County, California, community meetings are under way to engage residents in revising Marin’s 10-Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. County leaders say that the precariously housed, those who are a missed paycheck, illness or other incident away from homelessness, make up a large part of the population in one of the three least affordable counties in America.
In communities with less expensive housing, an increase in income for lower income people could have a tremendous impact on their ability to rent. This article from the Deseret News explores the debate over raising the minimum wage and shows that a pay increase for minimum wage workers could help left them out of poverty and closer to affording rental housing.
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.