Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Housing Just Isn’t Affordable

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

A new National Low Income Housing Coalition (a Care for the Homeless advocacy partner we’ve worked with advocating for affordable housing for extremely-low income Americans) study reports the average hourly wage a full-time (40 hour-a-week, 52 week a year) required to afford an average two-bedroom apartment is $18.92 an hour.

In a more expensive housing market, finding affordable housing in New York City is much harder. Two-thirds of New Yorkers rent (the national average is about one-third, so affordable rent is more critical here). One-third (1 million) of city tenant households are “rent-burdened” according to HUD (they define households spending over 30% of gross income on housing as “rent-burdened” - their housing isn’t affordable for them). More staggering, 600,000 New Yorkers (20% of all renters) pay over 50% of household income for housing (HUD defines that as “severely rent-burdened”). Several recent studies document New York rents are rising much faster than income.

Most shocking, among extremely-low income New Yorkers (for example a family of 3 earning up to $22,450 – which includes households with both a full-time and half time minimum wage worker) 88% are rent burdened. Even among very-low income tenant households at up to $37,350 annual income, 81% are rent-burdened.

Mayor de Blasio is releasing a plan to save or create 200,000 units of affordable housing over a decade. That’s more, at a faster pace, than ever before in New York City or anywhere in the United States. City Council has proposed more affordable housing funding, including specific new funding resources. This week Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer proposed still more funding, including a program to move some Department of Homeless Services funding to affordable housing as the city can close emergency shelters by moving people experiencing homelessness to newly created stable housing.

All three plans include two major Care for the Homeless policy agenda items: a robust, flexible rental subsidy to move people from city shelters to stable housing and re-instituting a plan to use about one-third of Section 8 housing vouchers and NYCHA public housing units targeted to people living in city shelters. These are important steps on the journey to end homelessness as we know it.