|Another Article to Consider: 'Poor' Cannot Afford Things, Like Rent.
||[Dec. 21st, 2004|05:00 am]
Here's the link to peruse the article . . . it's one of a few popping up around the internet.
Report: Most one- and two-bedroom rentals in the United States unaffordable to nation's poor
By GENARO C. ARMAS
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Most Americans who rely on just a full-time job earning the federal minimum wage cannot afford the rent and utilities on a one- or two-bedroom apartment, an advocacy group on low-income housing reported Monday.
For a two-bedroom rental alone, the typical worker must earn at least $15.37 an hour - nearly three times the federal minimum wage - the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in its annual "Out of Reach" report.
That figure assumes that a family spends no more than 30 percent of its gross income on rent and utilities - anything more is generally considered unaffordable by the government.
Yet many poor Americans are paying more than they can afford because wage increases haven't kept up with increases in rent and utilities, said Danilo Pelletiere, the coalition's research director.
The median hourly wage in the United States is about $14, and more than one-quarter of the population earns less than $10 an hour, the report said.
"A lot of people continue to be squeezed out," said Judy Levey, executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky. "Housing here is relatively inexpensive, but because the wages are so low, people can't afford housing,"
The report quoted federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data that showed hourly wages rising about 2.6 percent over the past year, slower than the 2.9 percent rise in rents recorded in the Consumer Price Index.
In addition, Pelletiere said, government spending on Section 8 rental vouchers, which helps 2 million Americans - mainly poor - pay rent hasn't kept up with demand.
The study analyzed data from the Census Bureau and the Housing and Urban Development Department to derive the hourly wage figures.
In only four of the nation's 3,066 counties could a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage afford a typical one-bedroom apartment, the coalition said. Three were in Illinois: Clay, Crawford and Wayne counties; the other was Washington County, Fla.
California topped all states in the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment, at $21.24, followed by Massachusetts at $20.93. Rounding out the top five were New Jersey, Maryland and New York.
States with more residents in rural areas were generally the most affordable, although no state's housing wage was lower than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, which has not changed since 1997.
West Virginia was the lowest at $9.31 an hour for a two-bedroom rental, followed by North Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Pelletiere said the coalition's data for 2004 could not be compared with previous years because of changes in the way that HUD calculated "Fair Market Rents," which is the cost of rent and most utilities for a typical apartment. The fair rent varies widely by metropolitan area.
Overall, though, utility costs appear to be rising at a faster rate than rents, Pelletiere said. Add in stagnant wages and the housing situation for the nation's poor "has gotten worse over the last year," he said.
I hope I am not considered one of the 'poor' mentioned in the article.
Let's be clear about what is 'poor.'
Poor folks walk the streets because they have no homes. They don't own computers. They must try to find some money each day for minimal amounts of food.
The article seems to categorize 'poor,' on first glance, as those who cannot afford necessities. However, I figure that many folks cannot afford necessities, or at least all of them, without taking on debt.
In my current situation, I find myself 'broke.' I have running debt in the thousands, and I have no savings to rely . . . however, I am far from poor, despite having no personal ability to pay for my living expenses.
In the past year, I lived in Los Angeles. In the report, it claims that the average income for the average 2 bed/2 bath is related to about 21 dollars an hour . . . certainly the local costs of living, on average, have a part in the overall averages. Still, 'poor' to me sounds like a word to describe someone without money and a place to live.
I still wonder how 'poor' can be defined, considering that the minimum wage in the United States can translate into a wealthier sum in other countries.
I suppose that we could consider the solutions.
One idea, a wage increase of the national minimum, would cause catastrophic results if implemented in a percentage higher than 5 to 10 percent, I'd wager . . .
Imagine if $5.15/hr. went up to $15.45/hr., for a moment.
Without doing any calculations or hard research, I would imagine that a minimum salary requirement for the nation's employers would result in a close percentage hike in costs of . . . most everything.
Just imagine a wage hike from 5 to 15 . . . I don't think it would be possible.
I think a better focus for the article would help clarify 'poor' from 'can't afford' . . . I see a clear difference.
Most of the United States . . . the population cannot afford many things. It is the way our country thrives . . . since the dawn of mass credit . . . our nation has developed a trend of net debtors, starting from around early adulthood to well into the 40s . . . sometimes longer for many individuals.
Also, what is 'necessary' is also relative to the individual. An Orange County, CA, teenager from a family income over six figures might not be able to do without a few things that most of us would consider to have in our wildest dreams.
I can't live easily without the internet. However, all we really need is food, shelter, water . . . those are 'necessities.'