News Round-Up: Housing Disasters, Natural and Man-Made

In this week’s News Round-Up, we find news stories showing that both natural disasters, and the disastrous economy, have combined with the nationwide shortage of rental housing affordable to low income people to create a crisis for many American families.

In Vermont, manufactured home park residents whose homes were flooded during Hurricane Irene had no other choice but to destroy their own homes, as repair was impossible and the fee to dispose of them was more than the residents could afford. In a state with the second lowest rental vacancy rates and the seventh highest rents, these former homeowners will have a tough time finding a place they can afford. They will also find themselves in competition with other low income families for scarce affordable rental opportunities. As the need grows, service providers have difficulty stretching the state and federal funding available to them, and must cobble together donations and other resources to help their clients.

Franklin County, Pennsylvania’s shelter system is under stress due to the poor economy and lack of housing affordable to low income people. Waiting lists for vouchers and public housing mean the shelters stay full.

We find a similar story in Indiana, where the minimum and low wage jobs available pay nowhere near the $17.84 Housing Wage there. Service providers say they’re seeing an increase in homeless families in particular.

News Round-Up: What the Numbers Show

Data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition helped a New Jersey organization show that two-income households struggling to stay stable is the new norm even in affluent communities. A survey of low income North New Jersey households found that housing was among the greatest needs of those families. Not surprisingly, full-time, minimum wage work won’t pay the rent in this part of the country.

The Wall Street Journal uses data to paint a compelling picture of the change in how housing assistance is provided in the United States. Even as an average of 10,000 assisted rental units are lost each year, HUD has shifted from providing new public and project-based housing to providing more vouchers. Even then, the number of vouchers issued each year has leveled off, and only a quarter of those in need of housing assistance receive it. It’s no wonder finding affordable housing is such a challenge for low income working people.

News Round-Up: Something Has to Give

In this week’s News Round-Up, we find that one thing remains true for American cities large and small: there is not enough housing affordable to lower income people.

According to HUD, the Washington, D.C. has the second highest rents in the country, which matches with the Coalition finding that the D.C. metropolitan region has the nation’s 10th most expensive rents. In Marshall, a town of 24,000 in eastern Texas, low income renters face the same challenges as their counterparts in the nation’s capitol. With 22% of area residents living at or below the poverty line, many families are cost burdened by their rents. As an expert interviewed for this story says,  “’If you’re spending 50 percent on housing, it simply doesn’t work. Something has to give.’”

Minimum wage workers are among those Americans having the hardest time finding housing they can afford. Even with an increase in the minimum wage, like the one signed into law in Rhode Island recently, low wage workers will have a difficult time finding an apartment they can afford on the private market. A law in Massachusetts requires 10% of housing stock in cities and towns must be affordable. This article shows that while some towns struggle to meet the target, others have found success, making it possible for more people of all incomes to live stable lives in that state.

News Round-Up: Past, Present, Future

This week’s news round-up shows the impact of present-day policy on the future of housing, and of our country.

Illinois Public Media tells the story of the Danville, Illinois public housing stock. Under scrutiny by HUD for its fair housing practices, the city is attempting to move forward with a plan to demolish a significant portion of its public housing.

Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) recently introduced legislation, endorsed by NLIHC, to catch America up to the past by increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. In the segment on her program dedicated to this subject, Melissa Harris-Perry notes that in no state does the minimum wage allow a household to afford a decent apartment.

News Round-Up: A Housing Problem and an Income Problem

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.