Friday, July 08, 2005

Housing: Facing the Facts


I had lunch yesterday with around a dozen men and women who live on the streets of Dallas, when not bunking in a shelter. No way to do that and not think about housing.

People are homeless because we don't have enough housing.

Simple.

Tragic.

Immoral.

In 2001, ninety-five million people in the U. S. (one third of us) had housing problems (high cost burden, overcrowding, poor quality or homelessness).

Sixty-five million Americans with housing problems are low income as defined by the federal government (household income less than 80% of the area median).

Seventy-eight percent of extremely low-income people (household income at or less than 30% of the area median) have housing problems. This group totals 23 million people.

Here in Dallas County, an extremely low-income household (earning $19,530 or 30% of the median income) can afford monthly rent of no more than $488, while Fair Market Value for a two-bedroom unit is $868.

A minimum wage earner ($5.15 per hour) can afford monthly rent of no more than $268. In Dallas County a minimum wage worker would need to work 130 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market rent.

A person receiving Supplemental Security Income ($564 monthly) can afford monthly rent of no more than $169, though Fair Market rent for a one-bedroom unit is $713.

The so-called "housing wage" here in Dallas stands at $16.69 per hour. That is the amount a 40 hour-a-week wage earner must earn to afford a two-bedroom unit at the area's Fair Market Value.

As rents soar, people at the bottom are pushed out onto the streets. . . literally.

Homelessness is growing.

We don't have enough affordable units for working people who need them.

It is a fact.

5 comments:

Matthew said...

Larry,

You make good points, but it would help if you would cite sources for your facts.

Larry James said...

Matthew, thanks for this! I need to add footnotes! The information was drawn from a couple of studies. Comments on "housing problems" is documented in "America's Neighbors: The Affordable Housing Crisis and the People it Affects (National Low Income Housing Coalition, February 2004). The local stats on Dallas County come from locally published sources that report on housing stock, income and Fair Market values. Hope this helps.

An Educator said...

Larry,

I'd rather have solutions than citations! :) What can we do?

Larry James said...

Actually, there are things we can do. Some are political. Urge your representative and Senators to support increased funding (not cuts) in the HUD Section 8 voucher program that allows low-income families to rent places to live anywhere in the private market from property owners who will accept the vouchers for payment. This does two things. First, it allows families to find good places to live where they choose in the open housing market. Second, it encourages developers, both for-profit and non-profit, to build affordable housing units. In addition to your congressional representatives, check out what is happening in your state and in your local area regarding affordable housing development and how it might be further encouraged. We need to move beyond feeding people on the streets and in shelters to providing decent places for folks to call home.

Matthew said...

Thanks for the cites, Larry. That helps a lot. =)