Neighbor by Neighbor (NbyN) clients who are renters are getting brutally clobbered. Landlords increased their rents by 35 percent to 50 percent in one year.
Second-home buyers purchase local homes, fix them up, and rent them to vacationers, reducing the amount of housing available to local residents. In the 5 years of Neighbor by Neighbor’s existence, requests for rental assistance have never been higher. With Harbor Country rents ranging from $1,000-$1,200 a month, clients are hitting NbyN’s maximum assistance limits quickly, and it is not sustainable for either NbyN or clients. Rent increases combined with inflation are making people who were barely scraping by fall into poverty. Shrinking middle class, expanding poverty.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition just released a report (“Out of Reach”) stressing the gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing. In Michigan, people renting a two-bedroom apartment must earn at least $19.10/hour in order to pay no more than 30 percent of their income for housing. That translates to $39,731 annually. “Low wages, wage disparities, racial inequalities, inflation, and a severe shortage of affordable and available rental homes continue to leave far too many people in Michigan struggling to keep roofs over their heads.”
More information from the Out of Reach Report:
One must work 62 hours per week at minimum wage ($9.45/hour) year-round to afford a one-bedroom rental home.
One must work 77 hours per week at minimum wage year-round to afford a two-bedroom rental home.
One must earn $19.10 per hour working 40 hours per week year-round in order to afford a two-bedroom rental home.
Note that these figures stress year-round work, not tourist-season work. How much do you think your waiter or waitress makes per hour? How much do you pay those who cut your lawn and spruce up your yard? Do the people cleaning your house make a decent wage with benefits? What about the line cooks working in the heat at local restaurants? There’s a logical reason why many Starbucks store employees have unionized.
Affordable Housing and Living Wages are two incredibly important crises facing our country, and especially in tourist areas like Harbor Country. What can you do? Contact your local municipalities and ask that affordable housing is a top priority. Building affordable housing may require changes to zoning regulations, which are about 90 percent locally driven in Michigan. Contact your county, state and federal representatives and ask them to allocate resources for local affordable housing. Besides it being the right thing to do, it is also in our collective best interests.
Tourist areas with no affordable housing struggle to find people to work who are willing to commute to jobs. Think about it. If you could work 10 minutes from home and earn the same thing that you would commuting 30-45 minutes to Harbor Country, what would you do?
Neighbor by Neighbor