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Affordable Housing Growing Scarce in US

  • Jeff Swicord

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Housing advocates say affordable housing is growing scarce in the United States with fewer people able to own their own homes and rents rising.

Paola Nunez, is a childcare worker in Washington. Until recently, she lived with her mother. But she decided it was time to move out and get her own apartment. She quickly learned there are few housing options for someone living on her modest salary.

“They had an ad; they were renting it by rooms," said Nunez. "And each room was going for $800. Eight bedrooms, that’s ridiculous. I mean you have to share everything with someone else. You have no privacy really.”

Nunez is not alone. Her salary is just above the median income of $25,000 in the city. Kara Fitzgerald is with Jubilee Housing, a private organization that provides affordable housing to low income residents in Washington.

“Rent is considered affordable in the U.S. when it is 30 percent of a household’s income," said Fitzgerald. "Two out of every five households in Washington, D.C. pay more than that.”

Another group, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, reports that for every 100 households in Washington living on $25,000 a year, there are only 40 affordable housing units.

Nunez got an apartment through Jubilee Housing, which subsidizes her rent.

Housing advocates say the lack of affordable housing is a nationwide crisis. Sheila Crowley is president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“The demand for rental housing has gone up, and without a significant increase in the supply," said Crowley. "And so rents are going up across the country and that means the poorest people are further squeezed by the foreclosure crisis.”

Crowley says the most vulnerable end up on the streets. Others live with family members or in substandard housing. Paola Nunez looked at several apartments before finding a place to live.

“The ones that I was somewhat able to afford, they were places that I would not want to live in," she said. "The conditions were terrible.”

The National Low Income Housing Coalition suggests changing the tax code for home mortgage interest deductions to finance low income housing. Again Sheila Crowley:

“When you do that, you save $30 billion a year," she said. "And if you put $30 billion a year into building and operating housing for low income people, you would solve the housing problem in the United States."

Nunez is thankful for the assistance she receives and says affordable housing should be more of a priority for the nation.
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