While shelter is the first thing that comes to mind about housing, you will appreciate that a house is more than a structure that gives protection from the elements. A home also provides the residents a sense of belonging that translates into a community, necessary for emotional and economic wellbeing. Stable and affordable housing is a prerequisite for many essentials like education, medical treatment, childcare, and even stable jobs. Considering the significance of creating and sustaining affordable housing for individuals, families, and communities, everyone needs to understand the various dimensions of meeting this challenge.
Insufficient Supply of Affordable Housing
The affordable housing requirement in the U.S. is between 7.2 and 12 million units every year. While it is startling, it is even more concerning to note that access to this kind of housing is limited to only around 35% of low-income families and rises to 55% of very low-income families. Very-low income refers to households with income between 31% and 50% of area median income (AMI). Mind you, the numbers do not include the 500,000 homeless Americans. The lack of affordable housing means an increasing number of families have to spend more on rent, observes Maxwell Drever.
The Burden of Rent
In the contact of affordable housing, it is also vital for everyone to understand the concept of “rent-burdened” and “severely rent-burdened” Americans. Rent-burdened households spend around 30% of their income on rent, while those spending more than half of their income are referred to as “severely rent-burdened”. While figures for the American household differ according to the survey, it is clear that the number of households finding their rent unaffordable is increasing every year. When a high proportion of their incomes go to the payment of the rent, it is evident that expenditure on other essentials like medical expenses, health insurance, food, commuting, clothes, etc., has to be curtailed. In such situations, the burden of rent prevents households from becoming economically stable think about planning in the long term.
Stable Rents Permit Better Budgeting
When families are living from one paycheck to another, affordable housing can make all the difference in building a future for themselves and their families, says Maxwell Drever. There is no lack of real-life stories of how affordable housing has transformed the fortunes of people largely because they now have an investible surplus that permits them to budget for essentials. With the help of lower rentals made possible by affordable housing, they can now start winding down their high-interest credit card debt or personal loans availed for buying household goods or even groceries. With more money in their hands, people can start saving for higher education, buying a house, and other expenses.
Affordable housing is not a one-time activity because every unit needs maintenance without which, it will fall into disrepair. It is the responsibility of the affordable housing industry to ensure an increasing supply of units and also proper maintenance that makes them habitable for tenants. Ensuring affordable housing needs the active participation of both the government and the private sector.