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The Affordable Housing Crunch in Miami Dade County
The following gives a picture of what is quietly becoming a crisis in
Miami Dade County. Based on recent diagnostic analysis and studies, Miami Dade is
on the cusp of experiencing a monumental challenge in the provision of affordable
housing units to current and new residents. The following information was compiled
by The National Low Income Housing Coalition and released today in their "Out
of Reach, 2002" Study. The problem simply boils down to: 1) the number of poor,
unassisted residents in Miami Dade County, is at an all time high while the number
of housing units available to them is decreasing; 2) the "housing wage"
one must earn to afford a one or two bedroom unit anywhere in the County exceeds
the minimum wage by a factor of 2.5; and 3) low wage workers in Miami Dade are increasingly
faced with impossible demands on their ability to live in safe, decent, affordable
housing. Visit www.nlihc.org for more info
In Florida, Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom unit is $727.
Fair market rent for a one-bedroom unit is $593.
An extremely low income household (earning 30% of the Area Median Income of $52,434)
can afford monthly rent of no more than $393.
A minimum wage earner, earning $10,712 annually, can afford monthly rent of no more
The Housing Wage in Florida is $13.98.
A household on SSI (receiving $545 monthly) can afford monthly rent of no more than
43% of renters in Florida are unable to afford Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom
In Florida, a worker earning the Federal Minimum Wage ($5.15 per hour) has to work
109 hours per week in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the area's Fair Market
This is the amount a worker would
have to earn per hour in order to be able to work 40 hours per week and afford a
two-bedroom unit at the area's Fair Market rent. This is 271% of the present Federal
Minimum wage ($5.15 per hour). Between 2001 and 2002, the 2-bedrom housing wage
A unit is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30% of the renter's
National Low Income Housing Coalition Analysis
Maximum Affordable Housing Cost Represents the Generally Accepted Standard of Spending
More than 30% of Income on Housing Costs
AIM=Area Median Income (HUD, 2002)
FMR-Fair Market Rent (HUD, 2002, proposed)
For the fourth year in a row, in no jurisdiction in the United States does a minimum
wage job provide enough income for a household to afford the FMR for a two bedroom
home. As housing costs have continued to rise, the minimum wage has remained at
$5.15 since 1997. In constant dollars that figure is worth about 70% less than the
minimum wage of 1968 was worth at that time.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2001, 2,238,000 workers in
the United States earned the federal minimum wage or less. (The number of workers
earning state minimum wages is not reported.) Over 60% of minimum wage workers are
family heads or spouses of family heads.
In order to afford to rent a two bedroom home at the nationally-weighted FMR, a
worker would have to earn $14.66 per hour, nearly three times the federal minimum
wage, and still more than double the highest minimum wage among states that have
enacted higher minimum wages.
Extremely Low Income Renters
For Extremely Low Income (ELI) households - those earning less than 30% of the AMI
- the picture is similarly troubling. Nationally the average hourly wage for these
workers is $8.37, only 57% of the Housing Wage.
In no state can an ELI household afford a two bedroom home at the FMR.
Individual recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receive $545 monthly
from the federal government (slightly more in some states that supplement the program
with state funds),7 and for many, SSI is their only income. More than 45 million
people rely on SSI benefits.
Such an income does not even come close to making rental housing affordable anywhere
in the country. In the state with the smallest gap between the rental costs that
would be affordable to SSI recipients and actual median rental costs - West Virginia
- recipients can still only afford one-third of the FMR. In Massachusetts and New
Jersey, SSI benefits provide only enough income to cover 18% of the FMR for a two
The national Housing Wage for a two bedroom home increased by 5% from the 2001 edition
of Out of Reach, and 18% from the 2000 report. By comparison, the inflation rate
for 2001 was 1.6%, and the rise in the housing Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 2.8%.9
All but three counties registered increases in their two bedroom Housing Wage from
2001 to 2002. The average increase was 4.3%. In one hundred seventy eight counties
- home to 28% of renter households - the increase was greater than 5%, and 62 counties
registered increases of more than 10%.
Every state posted an increase in two bedroom Housing Wage, ranging from a half-percent
gain in Hawaii, to a 13% increase in Maryland.
The Housing Wage is linked directly to the FMR as set by HUD each year. As such,
it is directly reflective of HUD's adjustments to FMRs based upon vacancy rates,
demand, and average rental costs. The FMR is what HUD, the nation's housing agency,
determines it costs to rent modest, safe, and healthy housing. There may indeed
be housing for rent at less than the FMR in every jurisdiction, but not necessarily
of the quality that taxpayers should subsidize through rental housing assistance.
As a matter of public policy, no household should be relegated to housing of any
America's rental housing crisis for poor families is not new. What is striking in
this year's Out of Reach, however, is that the gap between wages and rents has continued
to broaden and deepen. This gap has continued to grow through times of economic
expansion as well as recession, in rural areas as well as metropolitan counties,
and in all regions of the nation. The desperate plight of low-income renters in
America is fast becoming one of the sole constants in our society and economy.
What is most striking, perhaps, is that this crisis is inherently avoidable. An
increase in the minimum wage could pull millions of families out of poverty and
greatly improve their ability to afford decent and safe rental housing. Federal
and state programs to produce and preserve affordable housing for extremely low
income families have proven successful in the past, and are eminently feasible in
today's market. The need is apparent - what is required now is the mobilization
of the public to enforce growing political will toward a solution to the crisis.
The rental housing crisis is often referred to as a hidden problem, when in fact
it could not be more visible. One-third of America's households are renters. Millions
of them struggle every month to afford the most basic of housing units. What has
faded into invisibility is the commitment to ensuring decent, safe, and affordable
housing for every family. Out of Reach helps to raise the visibility of the problem,
and aims to inspire action among those who can put weight behind that commitment