Nation-wide, the lingering effects of the recent recession, the foreclosure crisis, and enduring unemployment continue to impact the lives of many low-income families. The housing affordability crisis is no longer an issue that is easily addressed with a little effort by family service agencies, schools, health clinics and other child- and family-serving agencies – by referring a family experiencing housing distress to a city agency or legal aid organization, or by offering advice and support but little practical direct assistance. And while there are many federal programs that, if expanded could certainly help, such as short-term rent subsidy programs, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and the project-based Section 8 program…until that happens, we must do more! In America today, there are just three rental homes affordable and available for every ten extremely low income households. Federal housing assistance (such as housing choice vouchers, property-based rental assistance, and public housing) reaches only one in four of those in need, and funding levels in the past few years have reduced their reach even further. People may know about the issue, research it, write about it, and talk about it, but rarely is any serious action actually taken to address the problem for families experiencing housing crises right now. The issue has somehow become “the elephant in the room.”
Large numbers of families in every region of the country are, for the most part, unable to find housing at rents they can afford. Yet in 2013 more than two-thirds of poor children (69.7 percent) had at least one family member who worked, and nearly one-third (30 percent) had at least one family member who worked full-time year-round. More than one in four working renter households spends more than half its income on housing. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent. (Out of Reach 2016 National Low Income Housing Coalition). While we support the development of new affordable housing construction, new construction will take decades to meet the real need.
In other words, we cannot actually “build ourselves out of this problem!” And when parents must choose between paying the rent or buying groceries, they will pay the rent first – while their children go hungry.