Affordable Housing Crisis… What Does It Mean?

Affordable Housing Crisis…. What does that even mean?

And why are we always talking about it? I’ll share some quick bullet points here, but first I want to share a research brief written in May 2021 and published on the Urban Institute’s website. It’s an interesting read and explains the issues really well. Here’s a quote:

“Contrary to popular belief, owning one’s own home is frequently more affordable than renting. Nevertheless, many people cling to the idea that homeownership is reserved for people who achieve some arbitrary level of financial success and that it is not “appropriate” for people who are still on their path to financial security. … This brief reveals how the typical homeowner spends significantly less of their income on housing than the typical renter…”

While it’s absolutely true that homeownership is not the only answer to affordable housing, the author of this paper makes and defends the argument that owning a home can be more affordable for low-income households than renting. Public policy is heavily focused on programs for rentals. More emphasis needs to be given to resources that assist people with owning their homes.

If you don’t live, eat, breathe and sleep data and advocacy around affordable housing, or you’re not personally impacted by it, you might not understand what all the hype is about when you hear stories about the affordable housing crisis our country is in. Here are a few things to note about the situation in Jackson:

  • 7,249 households in Jackson spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
  • $17.42/hr. or $36,227 annual wage is required to afford a market rate rental. Minimum wage in Michigan is $9.65/hr. The median household annual income in Jackson County is $33,404.
  • There is an average of 37 homes available for every 100 low-income households. (This number is dropping and getting harder to track by the day due to the inflated real estate market we’re currently in.)

Other housing-related issues we’re facing in Jackson due to the pandemic and the inflated real estate market:

  • A fast-growing number of critical home repairs are needed for low-income homeowners so that people can “age in place” and to accommodate people with disabilities, in addition to the general aging of Jackson’s housing stock.
  • The cost to build new houses has inflated so much that developers are no longer building modest-price homes.
  • Landlords are opting to sell their houses because they can get premium prices for them due to the inflated real estate market, which displaces renters. There are very few available rentals on the market, which means displaced renters are now homeless.
  • Households that could be homeowners have trouble obtaining financing because of a lack of available down payment funds. If we could build new houses and assist those who are able in becoming homeowners, it would free up units for rentals.

Unfortunately, we’re only at the beginning of realizing the housing challenges resulting from the pandemic. The long-term impact could last 7-10 years. Fortunately, there is funding coming into our state, county and city from the federal government relief package, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Habitat is working with government officials at the city, county and state level to create programs that could help our citizens overcome these challenges.

If you’d like more information and to learn how you can support these efforts, please call or email Wendy Clow: 517-784-6620, wendyc@jacksonhabitat.org.

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