The solution to homelessness is to provide adequate access to affordable housing. While we can agree with that, it doesn’t take long to realize that solving this issue is incredibly complex. And there are factors at play today that are making this even more difficult to address.
A couple of years ago I wrote that a family would need to earn $60,000 a year to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Recent estimates have pushed that number higher, up 17%, to $70,000 a year. Staggering as that sounds, however, consider this.
To earn $70,000 a year, a full-time worker needs a job that pays $35 an hour. Minimum wage is $13 an hour. The average worker who rents in Bergen County makes about $19 an hour, and would need to work almost two full-time jobs to afford an apartment.
Yet recently, Family Promise helped a mother with a young son find an apartment that – with stretching – she could afford for $2,200 a month. But the landlord insisted that she prove she made $6,600 a month . . . that’s $79,200 a year, or nearly $40 an hour! She was rejected by the landlord.
So, affordability is a key factor that those seeking to access housing are facing.
And, we have the highest inflation in the US since 1981 – that will only put more burden on families to afford rent as well as pay for food, childcare, and other essential needs.
But, there are simply not enough affordable units available. Studies have shown that, in our area, there are fewer than 50 affordable and available housing units for each 100 renter households.
A realtor sent us a picture of an apartment costing $2,000 a month . . . with mold around the sink and shower and elsewhere. Hardly affordable, and not a healthy place to raise her children.
The fact is that this is a supply and demand issue. So many people need housing, and there is not enough affordable housing available.
I have never been a single-issue voter, but I am getting there. We need to talk to our local, county, state, and federal legislators and insist that they finally address this issue. Will it cost all of us more in taxes? Yes. But all of us who are part of the Family Promise family know that we need to do what we can to address this issue of homelessness.
I urge you to take this seriously, and fight for those whom YOU help.
Paul R. Shackford
President, Board of Trustees — Family Promise of Bergen County