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The Affordable Housing Crunch in Miami Dade County
The following gives a picture of what is quietly becoming a crisis in Miami Dade County. Based on recent diagnostic analysis and studies, Miami Dade is on the cusp of experiencing a monumental challenge in the provision of affordable housing units to current and new residents. The following information was compiled by The National Low Income Housing Coalition and released today in their "Out of Reach, 2002" Study. The problem simply boils down to: 1) the number of poor, unassisted residents in Miami Dade County, is at an all time high while the number of housing units available to them is decreasing; 2) the "housing wage" one must earn to afford a one or two bedroom unit anywhere in the County exceeds the minimum wage by a factor of 2.5; and 3) low wage workers in Miami Dade are increasingly faced with impossible demands on their ability to live in safe, decent, affordable housing.Visit www.nlihc.org for more info
In Florida, Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom unit is $727.
A unit is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30% of the renter's income.
National Low Income Housing Coalition Analysis
For the fourth year in a row, in no jurisdiction in the United States does a minimum wage job provide enough income for a household to afford the FMR for a two bedroom home. As housing costs have continued to rise, the minimum wage has remained at $5.15 since 1997. In constant dollars that figure is worth about 70% less than the minimum wage of 1968 was worth at that time.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2001, 2,238,000 workers in the United States earned the federal minimum wage or less. (The number of workers earning state minimum wages is not reported.) Over 60% of minimum wage workers are family heads or spouses of family heads.
In order to afford to rent a two bedroom home at the nationally-weighted FMR, a worker would have to earn $14.66 per hour, nearly three times the federal minimum wage, and still more than double the highest minimum wage among states that have enacted higher minimum wages.
Extremely Low Income Renters
For Extremely Low Income (ELI) households - those earning less than 30% of the AMI - the picture is similarly troubling. Nationally the average hourly wage for these workers is $8.37, only 57% of the Housing Wage.
In no state can an ELI household afford a two bedroom home at the FMR.
Individual recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receive $545 monthly from the federal government (slightly more in some states that supplement the program with state funds),7 and for many, SSI is their only income. More than 45 million people rely on SSI benefits.
Such an income does not even come close to making rental housing affordable anywhere in the country. In the state with the smallest gap between the rental costs that would be affordable to SSI recipients and actual median rental costs - West Virginia - recipients can still only afford one-third of the FMR. In Massachusetts and New Jersey, SSI benefits provide only enough income to cover 18% of the FMR for a two bedroom home.
The national Housing Wage for a two bedroom home increased by 5% from the 2001 edition of Out of Reach, and 18% from the 2000 report. By comparison, the inflation rate for 2001 was 1.6%, and the rise in the housing Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 2.8%.9
All but three counties registered increases in their two bedroom Housing Wage from 2001 to 2002. The average increase was 4.3%. In one hundred seventy eight counties - home to 28% of renter households - the increase was greater than 5%, and 62 counties registered increases of more than 10%.
Every state posted an increase in two bedroom Housing Wage, ranging from a half-percent gain in Hawaii, to a 13% increase in Maryland.
The Housing Wage is linked directly to the FMR as set by HUD each year. As such, it is directly reflective of HUD's adjustments to FMRs based upon vacancy rates, demand, and average rental costs. The FMR is what HUD, the nation's housing agency, determines it costs to rent modest, safe, and healthy housing. There may indeed be housing for rent at less than the FMR in every jurisdiction, but not necessarily of the quality that taxpayers should subsidize through rental housing assistance. As a matter of public policy, no household should be relegated to housing of any lesser quality.
America's rental housing crisis for poor families is not new. What is striking in this year's Out of Reach, however, is that the gap between wages and rents has continued to broaden and deepen. This gap has continued to grow through times of economic expansion as well as recession, in rural areas as well as metropolitan counties, and in all regions of the nation. The desperate plight of low-income renters in America is fast becoming one of the sole constants in our society and economy.
What is most striking, perhaps, is that this crisis is inherently avoidable. An increase in the minimum wage could pull millions of families out of poverty and greatly improve their ability to afford decent and safe rental housing. Federal and state programs to produce and preserve affordable housing for extremely low income families have proven successful in the past, and are eminently feasible in today's market. The need is apparent - what is required now is the mobilization of the public to enforce growing political will toward a solution to the crisis.
The rental housing crisis is often referred to as a hidden problem, when in fact it could not be more visible. One-third of America's households are renters. Millions of them struggle every month to afford the most basic of housing units. What has faded into invisibility is the commitment to ensuring decent, safe, and affordable housing for every family. Out of Reach helps to raise the visibility of the problem, and aims to inspire action among those who can put weight behind that commitment once again.