Communities thrive when people have safe and stable housing; when they live near their jobs, schools, and places of worship; when families can build roots and meet diverse neighbors; and when we use resources wisely.
We all want the same thing; housing that provides a nurturing environment to raise children; to remain in the community where they were raised or to become part of a community in which they want to settle; and to live in an attractive , safe environment that they can afford.
Most residents of affordable housing are working. They are employed as office assistants, school teachers, local government employees, restaurant workers, and sales clerks. These workers need affordable housing because of the wide gap between what they earn and what housing costs.
Many seniors need affordable housing. High housing costs can devastate their fixed incomes from pensions and social security. Some also need special services provided in affordable housing developments.
People relying on government assistance need affordable housing. Some affordable housing developments set aside space for “very low income” tenants, many of whom are receiving some public subsidies, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (formerely AFDC) or “Section 8” assistance. Careful application procedures and screening of prospective tenants provides housing for those who need a “leg-up” to stabilize their lives, train for employment, and re-enter the workforce.
Some people with disabilities and special needs live in affordable housing. Typically those who are disabled are also living on limited incomes, which are inadequate to pay market rents. Who needs affordable and workforce housing?
People who need affordable housing are varied in their backgrounds and circumstances. This includes:
- Clerical workers, restaurant workers, retail industry workers, bank tellers.
- Seniors, disabled individuals, young working professionals entering the workforce.
- School teachers, daycare providers, nonprofit employees, service industry workers.
The housing market has failed to meet the needs of most segments of the county’s population
There is solid data available that show only two out of ten of extremely low-income (ELI) renter households—those earning 30 percent or less of their area’s median household income—are able to find an affordable, available home. Very low-income (VLI) households—those who earn up to half of their area’s median household income—fair only slightly better.
ELI households are the most vulnerable residents of the county. Typically more than 50 percent of ELI households are elderly or disabled, while VLI households are more likely to include low-wage workers. While proposals regarding minimum wage and other similar issues may help, the gap between housing cost and income is so great that just improvements in wages by a few dollars will not significantly reduce the shortfall of affordable homes in Placer County.
Inadequate housing puts strains on families in ways aside from financially. For example, studies have shown that children in overcrowded home situations are much less likely to complete their homework than are students who have adequate homes. Having enough space promotes healthy relationships among family members.
Rents are high and rising — especially in relation to stagnant or declining incomes
Housing and transportation costs have increased at an alarming rate relative to incomes during the 2000s and Great Recession as middle- and low-income households lost the income gains they had made since 2000. Census data shows that inflation-adjusted median household income in California in 2012 was more than eight percent lower than in 2000. However, inflation-adjusted median rent was more than 20 percent higher.
As a result of the divergence between incomes and rents, the percentage of low-income households that are severely rent burdened–spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing–increased dramatically since the year 2000. The percentage of severely rent-burdened extremely-low-income households rose from 64 percent to 80 percent, with four in five households facing severe rent burden. The change was even more dramatic for very-low-income households, who jumped from 30 percent severely rent burdened to 53 percent. This graph below illustrates the increase in rent burden across all household levels since 2000.
Together, stagnant wages and steeply increasing housing costs have strained low-income households’ budgets to the breaking point, substantially reducing or eliminating savings for emergencies, education, health, or other basic expenses.