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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Housing Challenge

The Center for Housing Policy recently published its Paycheck to Paycheck report of rental housing costs in Dallas, Texas for the 3rd quarter 2005. Data for the analysis was provided by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The fair market rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in our city is $713 per month. For a 2-bedroom apartment the fair market cost is $868 per month.

In order to afford a 1-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Dallas a person must be earning $13.71 per hour. To afford a 2-bedroom apartment a wage earner, a couple or a family must bring home $16.69 per hour. The "hourly wage needed to afford" is the wage that must be earned so that the cost of housing does not exceed 30% of a household's gross income.

Needless to say, hundreds of thousands of workers in Dallas, Texas do not earn at these levels.

Some of the professions that pay below these benchmark rates include bank tellers, child care workers, fast food cooks, retail sales persons, teacher's aides and security guards.

The result? Housing deficiencies, including substandard housing units, over crowding in undersized housing, constant movement from one location to another and in many cases homelessness.

Far too many of our neighbors in Dallas spend well over 30% of their income on housing. The notion of homeownership is not even a consideration for these workers.

Current public policy certainly doesn't help.

HUD continues to cut back on its housing voucher program, a financial tool for working Americans that provides housing subsidies to property owners so that low-income individuals and families can afford to lease decent housing at affordable prices. The voucher program has been a win-win proposition that assists workers and affordable housing developers.

The current administration continues to push policies that benefit homeowners and first time buyers, a wonderful concept in and of itself.

The problem today is the simple fact that workers are falling further and further behind with fewer and fewer wage earners able to consider homeownership as an option.

The housing voucher program, if funded adequately, could provide a pathway to homeownership for low-income families.

Unfortunately, in today's America most of the economic benefits flow upstream rather than down.

1 comment:

Jeremy Gregg said...

One thing I find interesting is that those who frequently cite facts about rising home-ownership rarely cite parallel statistics about our all-time high in personal debt...

It's similar to those who cite stats about falling unemployment, with no reference to how much of that employment is full-time, let alone paying livable wages.