The high cost of housing in the United States leaves many low-income families with a difficult choice: pay for housing or pay for basic necessities like food. This dilemma leads to food insecurity and financial instability for millions of Americans, but affordable housing can provide a solution by reducing housing cost burdens and promoting financial security for families in need.
A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in any state in the United States. In fact, the average hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $25.82 – more than three times the federal minimum wage.
Affordable housing plans could rectify this widespread issue because they would allow low-income households to spend less on housing, freeing up money for other necessities like nutritious food.
Examining the Benefits of Affordable Housing to Increase Quality of Life
Food insecurity is closely tied to poverty and low-income households, with households that experience poverty at a higher risk of food insecurity. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is defined as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” 34 million people in the United States live in food-insecure households, including 9 million children. The USDA also found that food insecurity rates were highest for households with incomes below the federal poverty line, which is $27,479 for a family of four.
Furthermore, studies have shown that housing insecurity is a predictor of food insecurity. A study published in the Journal of Housing Economics found that households that spend more than 30% of their income on housing (referred to as cost-burdened households) are more likely to experience food insecurity than those who spend less than 30% of their income on housing. This is because cost-burdened households are left with the impossible decision of paying for their rent/mortgage or to put food on the table.
One of the most significant benefits of affordable housing is the reduction of housing cost burdens. Housing cost burdens refer to the amount of household income spent on housing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of severely burdened households in 2021 rose to 25.4% (about 10.4 million renter-occupied units), meaning they spent more than 50% of their income on rent. Affordable housing can reduce housing cost burdens, enabling low-income families to allocate more resources towards other essential needs.
In addition to reducing housing cost burdens, affordable housing can also provide stability for low-income families. When families are not worried about losing their homes or being evicted due to high rent, they can focus on improving their lives. This includes investing in education, seeking better job opportunities, and improving their overall well-being. According to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, stable housing was associated with better academic performance for children, lower stress levels for adults, and improved health outcomes for families.
Moreover, affordable housing can stimulate economic growth in communities. When low and middle-income families have access to affordable housing, they have more disposable income to spend on other goods and services, which in turn stimulates the local economy.
In a study conducted by the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, “Every $1 million spent on capital investments generates $1.89 million in economic activity and supports 11 full-time jobs.” This demonstrates how affordable housing can have a ripple effect on the local economy, generating job opportunities and improving the overall quality of life for residents.
Another benefit of affordable housing is the reduction of homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2022 there were over 582,462 homeless people in the U.S. Providing affordable housing for the homeless can not only reduce the number of homeless people but can also provide them with the stability and support they need to improve their lives.
Finally, studies have shown that stable, affordable housing can help improve people's physical and mental health and well-being. For example, stable housing can reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits, which can result in significant cost savings for individuals and society. In addition, affordable housing can reduce stress levels, which can help prevent chronic diseases and mental health issues.
Investing in Affordable Housing to Combat Hunger and Promote Financial Security
Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household's income. In the United States, housing is often out of reach for low-income households due to a variety of factors including rising housing costs, stagnant wages, and discrimination in the housing market. The shortage of affordable housing in the United States results in many low-income households spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing, leaving little to no money for other basic needs such as food and healthcare.
Investing in affordable housing can help combat food insecurity by freeing up financial resources for other basic needs such as food. Affordable housing can also promote financial security for low-income households. Financial security refers to a household's ability to cover basic expenses, save for emergencies, and plan for the future. Affordable housing can provide a stable foundation for financial security by reducing the amount of money spent on housing, which can then be put towards other expenses such as healthcare, education, and retirement savings. Low-income households that receive housing assistance have more financial stability and are more likely to have positive outcomes such as increased employment and educational opportunities.
Investing in affordable housing can also have positive ripple effects throughout the economy. Affordable housing construction creates jobs and stimulates economic growth, which can lead to increased tax revenue for local and state governments. The National Association of Homes found that “building 100 affordable rental homes generates $11.7 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 161 local jobs in the first year alone.”
Ways to Get Involved
There are numerous ways to get involved in advocating for affordable housing and promoting financial security for low-income families. Here are some ways to make a difference:
- Join local advocacy groups: Local advocacy groups can be a great way to get involved in affordable housing initiatives in your community. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, National Low-Income Housing Coalition, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) are a few examples of organizations that work to provide affordable housing and promote financial security for low-income families.
- Advocate for policy change: Advocate for policy change by contacting your local and state elected officials. Ask them to support initiatives that fund affordable housing and address the issue of homelessness. You can also support bills that provide tax credits for developers who build affordable housing.
- Donate to organizations that support affordable housing: Non-profit organizations that support affordable housing are always in need of financial support. Donations can help support initiatives that provide affordable housing and promote financial security for low-income families.
- Volunteer with local organizations: Volunteering with local organizations can be a great way to get involved in affordable housing initiatives. Consider volunteering with organizations that work to build affordable housing, provide job training and financial counseling, and offer food assistance.
Affordable housing is a critical issue that affects many low-income families in the United States. It is not just about having a roof over one's head but also the ability to access other essential services such as healthy food, healthcare, and education. The lack of affordable housing has a significant impact on the overall quality of life for low-income families.
Through initiatives such as The Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, progress is being made to address the issue of affordable housing. However, much more needs to be done to ensure that all families have access to affordable housing and the other services they need.
Investing in affordable housing can help combat hunger and promote financial security for low-income families. By getting involved in local advocacy groups, advocating for policy change, donating to organizations that support affordable housing, and volunteering with local organizations, you can make a difference in the lives of many families who are struggling to make ends meet.
Providing affordable housing is not just a moral obligation but also a smart investment in the future of our communities. We all have a role to play in addressing this issue, and it is time to take action to ensure that all families have access to safe, affordable housing and the other services they need to thrive.