Report Pegs Affordable Housing As Out Of Reach For Low-income Families

May 26, 2016

In Illinois, it would take more than two full-time jobs at minimum wage to afford rent for a two-bedroom apartment. That’s according to a report released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition.

A single earner in Illinois would have to put in 97 hours of work a week at minimum wage to pay for that rent, according to the report. The state’s fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,309. Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25 per hour.

The rent level affordable in Illinois with one full-time job paying minimum wage is $429 a month, which takes into account a family spending no more than 30 percent of its income on rent and housing.

The report, called Out of Reach, ranked Illinois as 16th in terms of rent affordability.

“In no state, metropolitan area,
 or county can a full-time worker earning the prevailing minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom apartment,’’ notes the report, which determined that rents are least affordable in Hawaii.

“I just think there’s a real disconnect when this report is essentially saying that that throughout the country there’s a real gap between what what people are earning and the extent to which they can afford housing, and I think we’re at a real crossroads in this country to determine whether we have the will, the capacity to make these two ends meet,’’ says Carl Wolf, the executive director of the south suburban Chicago organization Respond Now, which provides services such as food and housing assistance.     

Bob Palmer calls the situation unacceptable. He is policy director at the statewide coalition Housing Action Illinois, which released the report in conjunction with the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

‘People with very low income end up homeless with no place to stay, which is very bad for them as a family, but has all sorts of really terrible social costs for all of us,’’ Palmer says. “There’s a huge shortage of affordable housing in this state.”

Meanwhile, Palmer says, his organization is urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign a bill, Senate Bill 2038, that included about $225 million for housing/homeless programs within a $700 million package for social services.