Out of Reach and Out of Options

“Today, there is a shortage of 7.2 million affordable housing units for the nation’s more than 10 million extremely low-income families” - Julien Castro, Secretary of HUD, 2016

Every year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) publishes a data driven report on housing issues across the country. Out of Reach continues to find that as fewer individuals have the opportunity and means to become homeowners while at the same time the rental market becomes increasingly difficult for lower income renters.  There is a significant lack of rental housing with and rent continues to rise.  These factors are both as a result of huge demand for rental housing since the housing bubble burst as well as an inability for many to afford the rent.

The competitive rental market, where income inequality continues to rise and continues to widen the gap-leaving low income households in a particularly vulnerable place, as middle and moderate income renters increasingly occupy units that were once accessible to low-income people (NLIHC.org).

The existing supply of affordable units is not sufficient for the population, and fewer affordable units are being built in response to budget cuts to many state and national affordable housing programs, rising costs of land acquisition, and increased material costs.

Couple that with the lack of availability of affordable units that are often times terribly maintained housing stock, especially in legacy cities like Cleveland-and the timeliness and scope of the affordability crisis becomes clear.

How is this crisis being measured in terms of data?

Out of Reach identified a measure called the Housing Wage; or the approximate full-time wage an individual worker must earn in order to be able to afford a decent rental unit, by HUD standards, while spending no more than 30% of their earned income on housing costs (NLIHC.org).

 “In 2016, the national Housing Wage is $20.30 for a two-bedroom rental unit and $16.35 for a one-bedroom rental unit” –Out of Reach, 2016

What does this mean in Cuyahoga County?

As of 2016, Cuyahoga County has over 212,936 renters, which translates to 40% of the population compared to 33% in the rest of the state. The Housing Wage for a two-bedroom rental unit in Cuyahoga County is $14.87 and $11.81 for a one-bedroom rental unit, compared to $14.45 and $11.18 respectively, in the rest of Ohio. This means a Mom would have to find a job at over $14 per hour full time in order to afford an apartment for herself and her child or she would have to find two full time jobs at minimum wage to live in an apartment in Cuyahoga County.  She would be working 80 hours on her two jobs and would have 88 hours to sleep and be with her child the rest of the week.  This is not healthy for anyone.

The Fair Market Rent in Cuyahoga County for a two-bedroom unit is $773 and $614 for a one-bedroom unit. This means that in order to pay no more than 30% of your income towards housing and be able to afford to live in a fair market rent unit, or FMR, you must make $30,920 annually for a two-bedroom unit and $24,560 annually for a one-bedroom unit. This translates to working 73 hours a week at minimum wage for a two-bedroom unit at FMR or 58 hours a week at minimum wage for a FMR one-bedroom unit in Cuyahoga County.

At the mean renter wage, a renter must work 42 hours a week in Cuyahoga County in order to afford a FMR two-bedroom unit and 34 hours a week for a one-bedroom unit.  There are approximately 55,000 people in Cuyahoga County who need some form of subsidy in order to afford rent. 

*Note: the number of hours a person must make a minimum wage to afford a typical FMR one or two-bedroom unit is larger than the amount of hours that must be worked in terms of renter wage and thus is a more accurate measure for low-income and very low-income individuals.

Solutions?

Although the fight for a living wage is a good start, as the NLIHC suggests, this change alone will not be enough to mitigate the affordable housing crisis we are facing.

We must invest in affordable housing programs, and ensure that the policies and programs that are in place to protect low-income individuals-especially extremely low-income individuals and very low-income individuals are protected (like the national Housing Trust Fund), as we strive to eliminate the 7.2 million affordable unit gap that we currently face as a nation.  Locally, we hope to develop a local affordable housing trust fund to match the National Trust.  The recently funded National Housing Trust Fund needs to be fairly distributed in Ohio to serve the areas with the highest concentration of poverty (like Cleveland).

To read the full report and learn more about other counties in Ohio, you can follow this link.

by Katy Carpenter

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Advocates Support the American Bar Assoc. Homeless Resolution

This will not likely make much national news, but it should be mentioned.  On August 12, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates passed a resolution calling on the U.S. government at all levels to promote and implement the human right to housing.

In the resolution, the ABA "urges governments to promote the human right to adequate housing for all through increased funding, development and implementation of affordable housing strategies and to prevent infringement of that right."

The resolution, introduced by the ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, and drafted and enacted with assistance from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (Law Center), builds on increasing support in the U.S. for the human right to housing, including recent statements by the U.S. government recognizing a political commitment to the human right to housing and addressing the criminalization of homelessness as a violation of two major human rights treaties.

Tracking language drawn from the international human rights standards, in the report accompanying the resolution the ABA "calls upon federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to ... [i]mplement policies promoting the human right to adequate housing for all... including: [a]ffordability, habitability, and accessibility; ...security of tenure, access to services...in areas that do not threaten occupants' health; and [p]rotection of cultural identity or diversity."

"This resolution by the ABA emphasizes that adequate housing is more than a goal - it is a basic human right, carrying with it obligations on the part of the government, at all levels, to fulfill that right," said Eric Tars, Director of Human Rights and Children's Rights Programs at the Law Center. "We hope this resolution will serve as a tool for lawyers and other advocates across the country in working with governments to create solutions to homelessness and address the lack of adequate housing in the U.S."

"As communities across the country continue to cope with the economic and homelessness crises, this resolution provides an important push in the direction of constructive solutions," said Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the Law Center. "Together with the three states that have passed homeless bills of rights in the past year, we are hopeful this is another step towards a human rights-based approach to homelessness in the U.S."

Passed on from a press release of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington DC.  This post reflects the opinion of the Law Center.

News of Affordable Housing that Impact Cleveland

There are a bunch of stories in the media over the last few weeks about affordable housing. The first and most important was the Plain Dealer support for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program that the Cleveland Housing Network called our attention to in their newsletter.  In an article by one of the reporters separated from the Plain Dealer wrote about the concern by advocates over the loss of the Tax Credit program.  The tax credit program is not the best way to develop affordable housing because the housing is not really affordable to the lowest income people in our community, but it is still an important program.  Typically, the rents are reduced but they are not reduced to the point of the housing voucher program or Public Housing.  In a society that has seen a 25 reduction in the number of affordable housing units in most every community in the country any tool available is needed and necessary.

The Cleveland Housing Network has used the program here locally, and we have built about 100,000 units in the state of Ohio.  There are hundreds of thousands waiting for housing in Ohio with 64,000 declaring a need for housing in Cleveland the last time the voucher program opened their waiting list. We need every possible tool in the toolbox to build housing and reduce homelessness.  We need a trust fund at the federal and local level.   We need a massive expansion of the housing voucher program (including for disabled individuals) and public housing for veterans and families struggling with housing.  And we need corporations to get a break on their taxes if they invest in the development of beautiful efficient and affordable housing in our community.  Our society would be so much healthier if people had a stable place to call home, and were not constantly in fear of where they were going to sleep at night.

Mark Naymik (who survived the slaughter on Superior this last week) took a swipe at the Union Miles Development Corporation for owning a large number of eyesores in their neighborhood.  He went through much detail into the court cases they are involved in and the community critics who say that they have over extended themselves.  They own over one dozen homes that have been condemned by the City of Cleveland.   There were homes built with tax credits only seven years ago that are now rotting in their neighborhood.  One house seemed to be the staging area for a dog fighting ring.  One third of the homes that they own are vacant, and they do not seem have staff dedicated to managing these properties.  This seems like a good neighborhood to construct an urban homesteading program.  Lease these homes to skilled homeless people to preserve, fix and eventually own these properties.   It certainly could not hurt and I am sure the neighbor would prefer a group of homeless people fixing up housing to a dog fighting venue as a neighbor. 

Then one interesting national note...The National Low Income Housing Coalition in July filed suit against the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency for failing to uphold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's obligation to fund the National Housing Trust from 2008.  The law was passed that any surplus in these two account should go to the Trust, and then the bottom fell out on the housing market.   In 2008, both entities were taken into federal conservatorship to avoid their bankruptcy and any transfer to the Trust Fund was suspended before it even started.   In 2012, the two entities did $1.4 trillion in business, which should have delivered $382 million to the National Housing Trust fund.  NLIHC is asking that the suspension of transfers to the Trust Fund be lifted since the crisis is over.   The board of NLIHC along with low income potential tenants want the Trust Fund to start building, preserving and expanding opportunties for the millions of Americans waiting for a place to live. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.