Here in America
housing affordability continues to be a trending topic for many years. The
shortage and gaps have yet to be successfully solved. In America being able to
afford housing is nearly impossible especially for someone who earns only
minimum wage. People all over the country are not able to successfully rent a
one or two-bedroom apartment, let alone a house getting paid minimum wage. The problem
is that rent rates are steadily increasing but wages are remaining stagnant. “There
is nowhere in this country where someone working a full-time minimum wage job
could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment, according to an annual report
released documenting the gap between wages and the cost of rental housing.” (Jan)
Downsizing to a one-bedroom will only get you so far on minimum wage. “Such
housing is affordable in only twelve counties which are in Arizona, Oregon and
Washington states,” according to the report by the National Low-Income Housing
Coalition. “In New Jersey, the minimum wage is eight dollars and forty-four
cents per hour. In order for a person to afford a one-bedroom apartment, they
have to earn seventeen dollars and eight six cents per hour. In addition, for a
person to afford a two-bedroom apartment they will have to make twenty-seven
dollars and thirty-one cents per hour” says a report on the National Low-Income
Housing Coalition website. That is nearly two times the minimum wage for a one
bedroom and three times for a two-bedroom apartment. To rent an apartment
working on minimum wage a person will have to work at least three times a
normal forty-hour work week. There is no way one person could do this alone
because they would be working around the clock just to afford a place to stay.
Below is a chart (Figure 2) from Out of Reach 2017 that explains the hours
needed at minimum wage to afford rent. Here in New Jersey, a person must at
least work 106 hours to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

Typically, when a person pays their
bills rent is at the top of the list. Paying your rent comes before eating, car
notes, insurance, medical, daycare, emergency funds and a host of other
responsibilities. You absolutely need a roof over your head before you decide
to do anything else because the reality is that no one wants to be homeless.
Being homeless creates a host of other issues that no one wants to imagine. According
to Westervelt, when teachers, policemen and other public servants cannot afford
homes, we have a problem. They are struggling just like the other hundreds of
thousands of people in America. Living paycheck to paycheck and must scrape
money together just to live comfortably. People are working longer and harder
and simply cannot get ahead. No one can expect to stay on top of their bills if
renting is costing you more than thirty percent of your income. Today, the U.S.
is becoming a “renter nation. That’s especially true in metropolitan
regions, where land is scarce and expensive for single-family home
construction.”

In New Jersey the Fair Market Rent
for at least a two-bedroom apartment is one thousand four hundred twenty
dollars. A typical household must earn four thousand seven hundred and thirty-four
dollars monthly or fifty-six thousand eight hundred and ten dollars annually
just to afford rent in addition to other utilities, responsibilities and much
more.” Those numbers are clearly unattainable to afford with only earning
minimum wage. A person earning minimum wage working forty hours per week would
only equal to around seventeen thousand four hundred and fifty-five dollars per
year in New Jersey. That is drastically lower than what is recommended. Being
able to live in decent affordable housing communities is also an issue with
housing affordability. Many affordable housing units are placed in areas where
there are drug dealers and criminal activity. (Freedman 152) The city I chose to focus my research
on is one the nation’s most dangerous cities. These things become a part of
some people’s everyday norms. If Americans are constantly exposed around that
type of environment creates even bigger problems that will arise. People who
are living in these cities have lower economic results and may have no will to
be greater than their environment. Mixed income housing can be the preferred
solution because it will bring variety into the city of Camden. With the
integration of mixtures of people with higher incomes and career paths should
boost the city as a whole.

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One of issues of
housing affordability is that Americans are not getting paid adequately.
Minimum wages are too low for a person to live comfortably. Americans are
cutting corners on responsibilities, working two or more jobs, and living in
unlikely environments just to afford the luxury of living in a modest
environment. There are currently 11.4 million people who cannot afford their
living expenses. Those 11.4 million people are paying fifty percent over the recommended
percentage. “Everyday people are working longer and harder and simply still
cannot get ahead.” (Sheffield) According to Sheffield, recent college
graduates, teachers, and other public servants are the ones who occupy
affordable housing the most. A report was issued by The National Low-Income
Housing Coalition titled Out of Reach 2017, which stated “the hourly wage a
full-time worker must earn to afford a modest apartment while spending no more
than thirty percent of his or her income on rent and utilities is called a
housing wage. Also reported is “that the national two-bedroom housing wage is
twenty one dollars and twenty one cents per hour. If one was to comply with
HUD’s average Fair Market Rent of one thousand one hundred and three dollars per
month, a household would have to have an annual income of at least forty four
thousand one hundred and twenty dollars just to afford a two-bedroom rental
home.” (Out of Reach 2017) Anyone who makes minimum wage also must work around
the clock just to afford their rent. Many believe that raising the wage will be
a solution to the housing crisis. Although it would put more money into people
pockets, jobs will be cut, demand and supply will become low. If jobs are cut,
then people will not be able to afford housing. It would be a reverse effect. American
needs to explore another option that will help families financially rather than
just worry about boosting the economy. Boosting the economy is not the answer
to the housing affordability.

The other
issue is that American are spending more than fifty percent of their income on
housing and housing related costs. “The United States has severe cost burdens
among the lowest income renters. Sixty-nine percent of the poorest twenty
percent of renters in the United States are severely cost burdened. The median
poor renter household in the U.S. spends 74.8% of its income on rent.” (Carliner
9) “Almost
a quarter representing over a million families dedicates over seventy percent
of their income to pay rent and keep the lights on. Housing is usually the
largest expense in a family budget, so high housing costs will strain
that budget.  That means there is less
money available for other needs, such as utilities and other bills, education,
health care, transportation or saving for retirement or emergencies. This is
frequently a direct cause of homelessness.” (Maran) A report titled, Rent
Burden in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also found that “46% of Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)
holders in 2015 were cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on
housing costs, and 8% were severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of
their income on housing.” (Dawkins) This examines that people who are utilizing
government provided vouchers are also spending more than thirty percent of
their income. There are also not enough affordable housing units available to
utilize. The government has affordable housing options for such as Section
Eight and Public Housing but they are qualifications for those options. Those
options are also being utilized by people who have been on the assistance for
years. The chart (Figure 3) before explains the months it takes to get selected
from the waiting lists from the Housing for Urban Development 2016 of
subsidized households.

There is no room for anyone to
receive assistance because the lists are years long. Those
lucky enough to get on the waiting list typically wait years to receive a
voucher. It’s
like a waiting list for a waiting list because of longevity of them. America
needs to supply more affordable decent home that can become a new normal. Mixed
income housing can create more housing availability while also promoting self –
sufficiency.

 

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