Though COVID-19 has shined a bright light on the lack of affordable housing throughout the United States, the truth is that we have been facing this crisis long before the pandemic arrived. Typically, housing affordability is measured by income. Paying 30% or less of your household income on rent is the gold standard and is widely considered affordable. 30% leaves income available for essentials, like food and medicine, and gives the opportunity to save for emergencies.
Those paying more than 30% of their income on rent are considered “cost burdened” and those paying more than 50% of their income on rent are “severely cost burdened”.
In 2016, long before the pandemic, nearly 50% of renters across the United States paid more than 30% of their income on rent, and were considered cost burdened. Historically, a big contributor is the widening gap between rental costs and household wages. As rental costs continue to climb, household wages across the US remain stagnant. In fact, since 1960, the median rent payment in the United States grew 61%, but median renter wages only grew 5%. North Carolina has had the same minimum wage in place, $7.25 per hour, for the last 12 years.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a renter in North Carolina needs to make $17.67/hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. A single parent earning minimum wage would have to work 97 hours a week just to afford an apartment with enough space for a child. Parents earning minimum wage are priced out of conventional housing within the Triangle, making it easy to understand why there are so many children experiencing homelessness in our school systems. Wake County Public School System identified 4,527 students experiencing homelessness at some point throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
To ensure affordability within CASA’s apartments, we collect income information from each applicant and set rent at 30% of their household income, regardless of how much that may be. Last year, our tenant’s average household income was just $14,734. The rent we collect from our tenants is not enough to maintain their high-quality housing, which is why CASA fundraises in the community. Our Housing Solution Fund bridges the gap for our tenants, ensuring their stability and success in their new homes. With a permanent home, tenants can get to know their neighbors, put down roots in their community, and begin to heal from the trauma that often accompanies homelessness.
Our community is in desperate need of affordable housing, which is why CASA intends to double its size and impact by 2025. We have properties in the works in all three Triangle counties, and can’t wait to welcome home our new tenants, but we can’t do it without you.