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Affordable Housing Out of Reach for Many in Illinois

6/7/2016, midnight | Updated on 6/7/2016, midnight

Affordable Housing Out of Reach for Many in Illinois

By Monique Smith

States across the country have seen a rise in rental rates due the number foreclosures and homeowners who have now become renters. Illinois is no exception. ‘Out of Reach 2016’ is a report recently released by the research and advocacy group, National Low Income Housing Coalition out of Washington, D.C., and the Housing Action Illinois organization, a statewide coalition that advocates for the expansion and availability of quality affordable housing.

In order to be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Illinois, renters need to earn $19.98 per hour or $41,567 per year, according to the report. For areas that are on the outskirts of the Chicago metropolitan area, a $19.98 rental wage is necessary and the housing wage increases to a minimum of $22.26 when you look at rental rates in the city of Chicago. But these figures are out of step with the current minimum wage amount. Currently minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 and even with a promise of success in the “Fight for $15,” most people will still need some form of housing subsidy or assistance.

Housing Action Illinois Policy Director Bob Palmer said, “It’s an unacceptable situation, housing should be affordable enough that a family can pay rent and still put food on the table. Instead, minimum wage workers in our state face un-affordable rates whether they live in Chicago, Bloomington, or Cairo.”

Because there is such a large disparity in rental rates and income in many communities, the state provides funding that helps to alleviate that burden through programs and organizations that provide housing assistance and in many cases, temporary or transitional housing for the homeless or those facing homelessness.

Nearly $225 million in state funding is for human services programs that provide relief to homeless shelters, supportive housing, rental subsidies and housing construction is being held hostage and should’ve been available 11 months ago had a budget passed.

“The state budget impasse has been causing people to become homeless. We urge Governor Rauner to help by signing the emergency spending bill,” said Palmer. The real estate market in Chicago is booming, but only for the population that can afford it. While state legislators struggle to come to some type of bipartisan agreement on this budget crisis, the average cost of rent and utilities for a two-bedroom apartment in Illinois had risen to $1039 per month. Palmer says the Housing Action Illinois advocates on behalf of those who don’t have a say, but state laws, city ordinances and zoning regulations make it difficult to build affordable housing in Illinois.

“We support policies that have developers coming into the city to incorporate inclusionary housing.” Social service programs are always lowest on a state budget totem pole and almost always the hardest hit and deeply impacted. Palmer says the state budget impasse is making a bad situation worse, “We know that agencies had to reduce their intake of clients and in some cases reduce staff resulting in more homelessness. The state had never made an adequate investment in affordable housing and addressing homelessness to begin with,” he said.