News Round-Up: Working Hardest for the Least Return

Low-wage work is often what’s available to many Americans. What happens when it doesn’t pay the bills?

In Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie wants to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75. According to Hawaii News Now, the governor introduced the proposal in his state of the state address, saying, “‘Minimum wage earners provide immediate infusion of dollars into the economy. Everyone is worthy of their labor. Industry and corporations do not lack for support in these halls. Neither should those who work the hardest for the least return.'” The article notes that Hawaii’s $31.68-per-hour housing wage means decent housing is out of reach for many workers in Hawaii’s service-driven economy. Many Hawaii residents interviewed for the article discuss the difficulty of getting by in their state, with one noting that having two or three jobs is the norm for many Hawaiians.

The situation can be particularly dire for the elderly. An article in The Nation profiles elderly homeless women in San Francisco and the inadequate social supports available to them. Skyrocketing rents, cuts to services and an aging population mean an increasing number of seniors spending their golden years in homeless shelters and on the streets.


News Round-Up: Closed

Waiting lists for housing assistance and restrictions against occupancy by those with bad rental records or criminal backgrounds make roadside motels one of the few housing options accessible to some extremely low income people. The closure of one such motel in Spokane, Wash. means about 50 such residents will be displaced. It’s not just these residents who are hurting. According to an NLIHC report cited in the article, over half of Spokane County residents pay more than 30% of their income for rent.

The closure of a nonprofit-run apartment complex in Durham, N.C. will result in homelessness for about 200 low income, elderly or disabled individuals, including children. Most of the residents are considered “working poor,” and the rents those households can afford to pay are simply not enough to cover the costs of operating and maintaining housing. Federal, state and local subsidies can fill the gap, but as advocates quoted in the article note, there are too few of those to go around.

In the Gaylord (Mich.) Herald-Times, an article notes that while the foreclosure crisis and tough economic conditions have made renting more appealing for many Americans, the truth in many communities is that renting is still out of reach for those making minimum wage. Services and funding for affordable housing development are scarce, but advocates quoted in the article urge those in need to come forward for help regardless.

It’s not just private or nonprofit housing that’s at risk of closing; public housing can disappear, too. In a report on the causes of homelessness experienced by women with children, Truthout notes that 10,000 units of U.S. public housing are lost to demolition or disposition each year. This means about 165,000 units of housing were lost between 1995 and 2010.

According to an opinion piece in the New York Times there are roughly the same number of assisted housing units now as there were in 2000, though the number of people living in poverty has grown by 14 million. The column’s authors, Yonah Freemark and Lawrence J. Vale, advocate NLIHC’s proposal to modify the mortgage interest deduction and use the savings from reform to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, as a fair and sensible solution to this problem.