Our nation’s economy continues to flounder, forcing more and more Americans to abandon, or at least to postpone, their dreams of home ownership. But as the number of renters rises, so do rental costs. The National Housing Conference states that a person should spend no more that 30% of his or her gross income on housing, but today, nearly one in four working U.S. families spend 50% or more of their total income on rental fees. That amounts to 10.6 million families experiencing severe housing cost burdens.
In a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition entitled Out of Reach 2012, author Laura Williams states that in no community in America can a family supported by a minimum wage job, comfortably make rent. In fact, the average fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $949.00 meaning a full time employee would need to make $18.25 an hour, or 2 ½ times the federal minimum wage of $7.25, in order to pay their rent without straining their budget.
Teachers, firefighters, medical assistants, people who play vital roles in communities all across this country, are among those often forced to live in sub-par conditions because simply keeping a roof over their heads is a burden. Time and time again, we turn on the news or read an editorial to find our own fellow Americans bemoaning the “handouts” people are given, or snarling that people should “just get a job.” What seems to be lost on them is that many, many of the people in need do have jobs. In fact, they have good jobs. They are people to whom we trust our lives and the lives of our children. They are dependable, honest, hardworking Americans who have fallen victim to a disastrous economy, often times through no fault of their own. If these people are struggling, consider then the challenges faced by senior citizens or other Americans forced to live on a fixed income.
The lack of affordable housing is not someone’s problem and we must stop treating it as such. As rents increase and pay scales decrease, it’s just a simple fact that more and more people will need to seek out affordable housing.
Mercy Housing is working hard, every day, to fill that need and to help the nation’s most vulnerable populations by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities. We are proud to be part of the solution, but there is more work to be done than we are able to do alone. Helping the most underserved Americans will require long term planning and tough decisions. The latest United Technologies/ National Congressional Connections Poll shows how Americans, today, are split on concern for the very poor.
We invite you to take a look at the chart below and let us know what YOU think. In our world of increasing economic uncertainty, how would YOU help your neighbors most in need, if you were the one making the touch decisions?