June 20, 2018
Coalition Says Candidates Need to Address Housing Disparities
By Johanna Medrano - Housing Action Illinois is a statewide coalition that has been leading the movement to protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing in Illinois for more than 30 years. Recently, Out of Reach 2018: The High Cost of Housing, a national report jointly released by Chicago based Housing Action Illinois and DC based National Low Income Housing Coalition, reported that the current housing wage in the Chicago metropolitan area is $22.69. The highest housing wage is set at $23.56 in Kendall County, Illinois and the lowest housing wage is $12.88. The housing wage represents the minimum earnings that a full-time employee must receive to afford a moderate two bedroom rental home without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs. “The high cost of living in Chicago’s metro area is an instrumental component to the extreme income inequality and segregation,” states Housing Action Illinois Communications Manager Kristin Ginger. Out of Reach 2018 calculates the housing wage by first determining average costs of both rent and utilities on a two bedroom rental ($1,058.) In order to sustain these living arrangements, the household must earn at least $42,304 annually, assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks out of the year, setting the housing wage at roughly $20.34. Currently, under Illinois’ minimum wage ($8.25), a person must work 99 hours a week in order to subsist. In addition, Housing Action Illinois states that nationally, no full-time employee on a minimum wage salary, working a 40 hour work week can afford a one bedroom rental unit at the average Fair Market Rent. Housing Action Illinois Communications and Marketing Consultant Timm Krueger believes that the solution does not rely solely on raising the minimum wage, but it also involves holding elected officials responsible for providing additional housing assistance. Krueger said, “Illinois lacks necessary affordable housing stock. For every 100 very low-income households in Illinois, there are only 34 available units of affordable housing.” Krueger added he and his team are, “focused on how [their] coalition of housing counseling agencies, homeless service providers, developers of affordable housing and others who care about affordable homes can act collectively to influence elected officials. “Every legislator should be talking about the fact that nowhere in Illinois can a full-time minimum wage worker afford rent and every candidate seeking an elected office should have a plan for how to change this.” said Kreuger. He also said there are overall economic benefits to the system when people can regularly afford housing. “When illinoisans aren’t spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs, it gives them more opportunities for economic growth, such as through education and job training, or building a savings safety net in the event of a crisis.” Krueger said. He and Ginger hope that elected officials will prioritize housing predicaments and adequately fund programs such as HOME, CDBG and Housing Choice Vouchers in order to protect and expand affordable housing in Illinois. Housing Action Illinois. believes investments communities programs like these, will help everyone to thrive.