This blog post is contributed by Angela Jones, Affordable Housing Coordinator at United Way of the Midlands. Jones is licensed attorney with 11 years of legal practice including landlord-tenant and child protective services law.
Over the years I have worked in the best interests of the public and for traditionally undeserved populations. Though my work has been in various capacities, affordable housing has always been an issue that has resonated with me. In March, I joined United Way of the Midlands as the Affordable Housing Coordinator, placing me at the forefront of discovering affordable housing solutions for a growing homeless concern in the Midlands.
So why is affordable housing the answer? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently released its 2015 Out of Reach report, finding that in this country, the hourly wage a person would need to afford the rent for an average two-bedroom apartment is $19.35 (see the full report here). This is bleak news for a person on a fixed income such as disability or Social Security, or even a food service worker who may only earn minimum wage.
Though South Carolina has kept in sync with the federal minimum wage – which has remained stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009 – we know that if the minimum wage had risen alongside productivity, it would be more than $18.00 per hour today. People are working harder, but are not being comparatively compensated, thus the gap in income equality is growing wider. The truth is that the average minimum wage worker is no longer a high-school student earning pocket money. Eighty-eight percent of those who would benefit from a wage increase are adults, 55 percent of whom are women. (Read more minimum wage mythbusters here.)
Although wages have not increased, rents have continued to climb because of a sharp decline in homeownership rates. In South Carolina, one-third of households are renters. A working person in this state would need to earn at least $14.57 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at $758.00 per month. With that reality, people earning just minimum or a low wage are unable to obtain safe, affordable housing and still afford food, health care, transportation costs and all of the other associated costs of living.
At United Way of the Midlands, we believe that housing is a necessary and fundamental human right. We see the lack of readily available affordable housing options as a direct contributor to rising homeless populations. Stable, safe and affordable housing promotes good health for families, success at work, success at school, strong communities and strong economies.
That’s why we are excited about finding long-term solutions to solve the issue of homelessness in the Midlands and are honored to be at the forefront of change. We take the responsibility seriously and are looking at best practices across the nation to make sure that our efforts are sustainable and economical. Stay tuned as we’ll provide updates as we progress on this journey to providing stable, safe and affordable housing in the Midlands.
Together, we can end homelessness.
Why is Affordable Housing the Answer to Solving Homelessness?|United Way of the Midlands