Archive for April 21st, 2010

21st April
written by naehblog

Today, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach, an annual analysis of the cost of rental housing in the United States.

In order to understand the report, it’s important to establish two things:

  • “Fair Market Rent” refers to the national average cost of a rental unit; it usually refers to a two-bedroom unit.
  • ”Housing Wage” refers to the hourly wage a person must earn – working full-time – in order to afford Fair Market Rent.

The report found that a family needs to earn $18.44 per hour in order to afford a modest rental, two-bedroom home in the United States. This amounts to $38,360 per year – $16,310 more than the federal poverty level for a family of four.

Key findings of the report include:

  • In 2010, the estimated average wage for renters in the United States is $14.44 – a decline from $14.69 in 2009;
  • At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have top work 102 hours a week to afford the national average FMR;
  • There is no county in the United States in which a full-time minimum wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at FMR.

The report also found that the two-bedroom Housing Wage topped $20 in 10 states, including the District of Columbia, California, New York, Florida, and Hawaii. The five most expensive metro areas included San Francisco (CA), Honolulu (HI), Stamford-Norwalk (CT), San Cruz-Watsonville (CA), and Westchester County (NY) – the housing wage for each of those areas topped $30 per hour.

In their report, the NLIHC calls upon Congress to allocate $1 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund, a federal program that, once capitalized, could provide funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes accessible for very low-income households.

From our perspective, this report shows that the most vulnerable residents of the United States are struggling to maintain housing. The risk of homelessness becomes more and more salient as rental rates rise and wages fall, especially for those already on the precarious brink of economic stability.

What this report demonstrates is the necessity of approaching the problem: we are now living in a country where the FMR of a two-bedroom apartment is just under $40,000 a year. We are now living in a country where a person earning the federal minimum wage requires a person to work 102 hours/week to sustain housing. We are now living in a country where, in some places, the Housing Wage for a two-bedroom apartment is over $60,000 per year.

In such a reality, it’s little wonder that the lowest-income individuals and families are at real risk of experiencing homelessness.

Luckily, the solution is clear. The Alliance stands firmly besides NLIHC in their call for a greater investment in affordable housing. Homelessness – at it’s very root – stems from the inability to afford housing and therein lies the solution. With a sufficient supply of affordable housing, we can provide everyone a place to call home.

Many thanks to the NLIHC for this important report. For more information about the findings – and to see data on the Housing Wage and FMR in your community – check out their website.

21st April
written by naehblog

We need you to call your Senator today to ensure assistance providers have the funding they need to prevent and end homelessness.

Tomorrow is the last day Senators can sign on to the “Dear Colleague” letter asking the Senate T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee to include $2.4 billion for the McKinney-Vento programs in the FY 2011 budget. In order for homelessness assistance programs across the country to continue their work and implement changes required by the HEARTH Act, $2.4 billion is critical.

Joined by the winners of the McKinney-Vento Letter-Writing Campaign (thanks for your support!), our advocacy team has been working hard to make sure McKinney-Vento programs are fully funded. Check out their lunchtime strategy session with our Director of Field Mobilization Sarah Kahn in the photo at right.

Anthony Stasi, a new addition to our staff, has also been talking to members of Congress about the importance of McKinney-Vento programs. He guest blogs about his Congressional visits below.

In the effort to influence the legislature to consider an increase in the HUD budget for fiscal year 2011, the Alliance has been actively informing members of both houses of the importance of the minimum funding necessary to keep new rapid re-housing programs running.

The current appropriation from the administration is $2.055 billion. While this is quite generous, the minimum needed to keep these programs solvent is $2.4 billion.

This is an interesting time on the Hill, as many ‘housing friendly’ members are eager to help and sign-on to letters addressed to committee chairs in order to secure these funds. Other members that might be considered ‘probables’ in this request are a little uncertain about any increases or earmarks (this is not an earmark, but members sometimes refer to it as such) in these economic times.

Offices in both houses have been extremely polite, with some more helpful than others. Even getting around the Hill is pleasant, once you get past removing belts, jackets, and clothing in order to get inside.

But as a great man once said; “the Dude abides.”

The programs that the Alliance (and many other non profits with an interest in homelessness) wants to keep running are programs that keep people from falling into homelessness, where there is a danger of individuals becoming chronically homeless. Chronically homeless people use a great deal of government services and the costs are absorbed by local communities and governments. These rapid re-housing programs save money in the long run, and that is why they are a priority to us.

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