Who makes up these numbers? Among the nation’s lowest income rent- ers (with incomes less than half of their area’s median) over 7.7 million live in substandard 10 housing or are severely cost-burdened. About half a million people are homeless on any given night, with about 83,000 qualifying as “chronically homeless,” or disabled and homeless for over one year. 11 In addition, estimated tens of thousands of people are “pre-homeless,” living in cramped, illegal hous- ing conditions. Over 9 million households live in overcrowded units (defined as units exceeding a person-to-room ratio of 1:1) or physically inadequate housing. 12 Millions of families face one or more of these problems. In addition, these numbers fail to reflect the increasing number of mil- lennials who return home to live with their parents because they cannot find affordable housing to live in, as well as senior citizens who must choose alterna- tive living conditions because they cannot afford to keep their homes. Finally, these numbers do not reflect families who deliberately choose to live in housing that is of a substantially lower quality than they can afford in order to offset high housing costs. Factoring in these “hidden” cost-burdened individuals shows how widespread an issue affordable housing has become, and how diversely it affects countless Americans. Ultimately, even the most conservative estimates indicate that affordable housing has become a steadily growing issue in the United States that affects a growing segment of Americans. New Standards of Affordability The current standards for affordable housing used by the federal government leave millions of low income Americans vulnerable and unaccounted for. There is a pressing need for a new standard of housing affordability that goes beyond per- cent of income. Future policymakers must conduct extensive research that takes into consideration, among other things, yearly changes in purchasing power and wages, consumption patterns of Americans at different socioeconomic levels and family sizes, and relative costs of living in different localities. The new affordabil- ity index must be a dynamic measurement of the true costs of living and account for the full (not just bare minimum) expenses every individual needs to main- tain a decent (not just livable) standard of living. This measurement must break down affordability by cities and neighborhoods to account for the vast fluctua- tions in living costs, even in the same city or county. Finally, this index must be flexible, shifting periodically to stay up-to-date. Such a task is no easy feat, but a major step in the right direction to providing every American with a safe and affordable place to live.
Pay for Success & Affordable Housing | Stefano Rumi 13
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