Friday, April 29, 2011

The Future of Affordable Housing

The U.S. and Minnesota budgets have proposed cuts to affordable housing programs and services. To avoid the federal government shutdown, cuts of approximately $38 billion for fiscal year 2011 were agreed upon. Of the $38 billion nearly $19.8 billion come from health, education and social services. Housing assistance programs felt the funding cuts to the tune of $2.3 billion.[1]

Here in Minnesota, Governor Dayton’s budget would protect services for those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, but would reduce funding by 5 percent to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Further reductions would directly affect “efforts to preserve and rehabilitate affordable housing units.”[2]

So the inevitable question is, how will the funding cuts affect the people who rely on the government assistance or government provided housing? 30 percent of an individual or families income is the threshold considered when discussing the affordability of housing.

In Minnesota, nearly 300,000 are paying 30 percent of their income to housing related costs. Housing forecasts in the metro area, show a gap of nearly 22,000 units of affordable housing.[3] “In 2006, one-fourth of Minnesota homeowners and close to half of renters lived in unaffordable housing.”[4] In 1990, 19 percent of the population was living below the poverty line and was paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.[5] The Minnesota Housing Partnership reported in 2009, “Over the past nine years, Minnesota has experienced the fastest increase of extremely low-income households living in unaffordable housing in the nation.”[6]

The need for more affordable housing choices is apparent, but the funding sources look as though they will continue to be reduced. To top off the reduction in funding, the rental market is picking up, partially due to the housing market collapse, and rents for apartments are out of reach for many. Rents are increasing fast than incomes and people can’t keep up. The graph below shows the sharp increase in rental rates across the county.

Common Bond, the regions non-profit leader in affordable housing, owns or manages over 40,000 affordable apartments or townhomes. Common Bond is working to provide affordable housing for those in need, but there is a long waitlist. A 50-unit development was recently opened in Maplewood and received 550 applications for the 50 available units.[7]

With all the funding resources at maximum capacity and funding being reduced, what will the future hold for those that demand affordable housing when the system can’t keep up with the demand? As of now there are no answers only lines being drawn across budgets with little thought as to where the funding gap will be made up and the direct affect it has on the American public.

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