Stagnant wages, ballooning rental costs and the shrinking supply of affordable housing are heaping an ever-growing burden on low-income families. "Out of Reach," a new study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, found minimum-wage workers can no longer afford an average one-bedroom apartment in any state in America. Since 2009, the federal baseline wage has remained stagnant, but rents have jumped 15.2 percent.
Nationally, a renter needs to make $15.50 per hour to afford a
one-bedroom unit and $19.35 for two bedrooms. In the South, where most
states' minimum wage is the federally mandated $7.25 an hour, that
lopsided equation is forcing difficult budget decisions. Many families
must share space with other renters in crowded homes, seek substandard,
below-market housing or turn to shelters. Some breadwinners take on
second jobs or cut back on other necessities like food, healthcare and
clothing to spend more than the recommended 30 percent of income on
housing. In West Virginia and Kentucky, for example, 70 percent of
residents considered extremely low-income (less than $20,357 a year) pay
more than half that income in rent. In Georgia, a minimum-wage worker
would need to work 87 hours per week – more than two full-time jobs – to
rent a two-bedroom home.
For low-income families, homeownership is just as elusive as affordable rentals. According to a recent analysis from RealtyTrac,
home price appreciation has outpaced wage growth by a 13-to-1 ratio
over the past two years. Smaller cities and rural areas grapple with
lack of access to capital. That's where organizations like North
Carolina-based Self Help Credit Union come in. "If your goal is to
create middle-class opportunities by owning a home, and you can't have a
down payment if you have no cash for a down payment, it becomes
self-fulfilling," says CEO Martin Eakes. "We can't really solve the
housing problem … if families on the bottom 40 percent or 50 percent
simply do not have enough income, even if they're working 50- and
60-hour jobs, to be able to survive."
There you have it once again - the facts are out there - there is no way within the this system that everyone, whether families or singles, can afford a place to live.
Isn't it long past the time we should have ditched this system for socialism, a system which guarantees free housing for all, to all according to need, from all according to ability? Of course it's possible, we only have to get on with it, together.