The Rent Is Too Damn High—and the Wages Are Too Damn Low

[Content Note: Class warfare; housing insecurity.]

Although this is a story about Chicago, it's emblematic of a problem across much of the country:
More than half of renters in Chicago are paying 30 percent or more of their income in rent, an amount that a federal guideline has defined as unaffordable.

The percentage of renters in the city paying more than they can afford jumped to 53.7 percent in 2013 from 37.9 percent in 2000, according to Census data.

The 30 percent threshold is based on a federal guideline established in 1981 that families in public housing could pay no more than 30 percent of their household income for rent. The assumption is that spending more than this amount diminishes a family’s ability to spend on other necessary items, such as food, clothing and transportation...

The problem of affordable housing is particularly acute for low-income renters. According to a recent report from Chicago Rehab Network, an affordable housing advocacy group, more than 90 percent of renters in Cook County who earn less than $20,000 per year were overburdened by housing costs in 2010.
Last year, "more than a quarter of Chicago households signed up for a spot on the Chicago Housing Authority's wait list," in the hopes of getting into subsidized housing. Without getting into its whole complicated history, suffice it to say that underfunding, overcrowding, and institutional neglect have historically made CHA housing a "choice" one makes only when every other option has run out.

I know I'm a goddamn boring broken record, but this is an absolute scandal. The United States is (nominally) the wealthiest country in the world, and we have a defense budget that could fund mansions built from recycled drones for every person on the planet, and yet we're somehow content to let half the population struggle to afford housing and leave half of all public school students unable to afford food.

And the most progressive politicians we've got speak about strengthening the middle class and proposing a minimum wage that still isn't anything close to a livable wage.

We refuse to have a meaningful public conversation about poverty. An honest conversation about what it means to be a person in poverty, that centers the voices of those people instead of bootstraps bullshitters who tell fairy tales about welfare queens.

Nothing that is being proposed is enough. Not even close.

We need universal healthcare, equal public education, and an unconditional basic income.

And, yeah, we need to tax the wealthy more fairly to pay for that stuff, but we could pay for a hell of a lot of it simply by defunding the policing and prosecution of poor communities and redirecting the massive amounts of funding earmarked for the criminalization of need to the people who are in need.

Our elected legislators offer all kinds of intricate and elaborate and ineffective policy proposals to "deal with" poverty, for programs that require eleventy layers of bureaucratic administration, because of garbage narratives about how people in poverty don't know what's best for themselves and can't be trusted to make good decisions.

We waste billions upon billions of dollars because we stubbornly refuse to just give people money and let them use it in the way they see fit.

Like paying the rent.

[H/T to my friend KG.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus