There is a huge housing crisis going on. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, for every 100 households that are considered extremely low income (if they make less than 30% of an area’s median income), only 35 homes are available. This huge shortage is impacting millions of Americans everyday. Experts have done research to figure out why this housing gap is so apparent.
One component of this housing shortage is due to households that have higher incomes. Households that are above the poverty line are moving into affordable housing and taking away those housing opportunities from families in poverty that need them.
This housing issue isn’t just isolated to a few states. Every state in the country has a housing issue, some more severe than others. However according to NLICH, on average, there are less than 60 affordable housing units available for every 100 extremely low income families. However, unfortunately the average doesn’t hold true for every state. In states like California only 22 affordable units are available for every 100 extremely low income families. This isn’t even the worst of them! The worst is Nevada which only offers a measly 15 units per 100 extremely low income families. The reason that the number varies state to state is dependant on the economy of the state. Many are reeling from the housing crisis with some doing better than others.
The next question is, “Why don’t low income residents work harder?” That’s not the right question. Low income residents are working hard enough, it’s just that jobs don’t pay enough. If you are working 40 hours a week you need a little over $17 an hour in order to live in a small but comfortable apartment. It is even more than that if you have a large family that requires more room. The minimum wage of the country is an average of $7.25 but even if you make significantly more than the minimum like $12-$15 a week, then you still aren’t making enough to live on your own. Even with overtime, it still takes a lot to achieve the dream of a place to live.
This leads to low income Americans becoming cost-burdened. If a resident is spending over 30% of their income on housing they are going to be cost-burdened and have a lot more financial stress. In more severe cases of cost-burdened residents, people are paying more than half of their paycheck on housing. When this happens, people need to cut corners in order to make ends meet. Whether that is skimping on food, not prioritizing healthcare, driving illegally without insurance, or whatever other corner may get cut, people begin to struggle more and more and it becomes a cycle.
A majority of extremely low income americans are either seniors, disabled, or have children. That’s because these people are more vulnerable. Either unable to work, or have more expenses due to health or children. Another component of extremely low income Americans is the fact that the majority are people of color whether African American or Hispanic/Latino. This is due to the racial history behind housing.
These reasons are what keep the housing market with a consistent affordable housing gap. The issues persist because the government is not doing what is necessary in order to amend these problems. The government is chipping away at the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and is decreasing funding. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has decreased by a little over 9%, and there is more legislation promising to cut back funding even more. This leaves the problem to local and state governments to be responsible for funding.
However, filling up the affordable housing gap will not be easy, especially with the lack of help from the federal government. It is imperative that state and local governments find ways to aid the housing crisis whether through section 8 vouchers, more affordable housing, or other rental assistance programs.