[Marxism] Surprise: Low-Wage Workers Can Barely Afford Rent

Michael Hoover hooverm at scc-fl.edu
Wed May 18 13:17:50 MDT 2005

The Seattle Post-Inelligencer 
May 17, 2005

Forget Buying - Low Wage Workers Can Barely Afford Rent
Carol Smith, P-I reporter

In Seattle, if you're earning the minimum wage, you have to work 90
hours a week to afford to rent an average two-bedroom unit, let alone
buy one.

That's just one of the most recent indicators to show housing is growing
increasingly out of reach for many working families here.

The gap between housing prices and wages is continuing to widen, said
Carla Okigwe, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium,
a non-profit housing trade association in Seattle.

And that puts not just families at risk, but communities as well.

"Affordable housing is important for the stability of the community,"
Okigwe said. "If there's no place for young people who grew up there to
get started, or for people who are growing old to stay, then you end up
losing your people - the very people who are most invested in the

Housing experts advise that families should spend no more than 30
percent of their income on housing. Yet that goal is growing more
elusive every year.

Over the past five years, the number of working families paying more
than 50 percent of their household income for housing increased by 76
percent nationally, according to recent data released by the Center for
Housing Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition pushing for more
affordable housing.

The housing bite is particularly severe at lower income levels.

Locally, the Housing Development Consortium says nearly three-quarters
of renter households in King County earning less than $13 an hour are
paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing - meaning their
shelter costs are eating up a disproportionate share of their budget.

Even those households earning the median income level are struggling
with housing.

The median annual income for a family of four in King County is $72,250.
According to the Center for Housing Policy, it would have taken an
annual income of $76,350 to qualify for a $245,000 home in the Seattle
area in 2003. The difficulty for would-be homeowners today is that the
median home price in King County is now $355,000.

High housing costs make it difficult for lower-wage earners, such as
retail clerks, nurses' aides and teachers, to stay close to where they
work and to participate in their communities, Okigwe said.

"Before you know it the whole fabric is loosened and destroyed."

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