Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Something to think about 

Ran across an article from the Kansas City Star online that is basically about the increasing difficulty for people in low income jobs to afford 'safe and decent' homes.

One bit that shocked me in this article is that minimum wage has not increased since 1997! That seems like quite a long time. I would have thought that this wage would be adjusted (at a shorter interval than 8 years) to reflect increased costs of living and all that.

By no means am I a financial expert, so I'll rely mainly on quotes from the article:

Nowhere in the country can a minimum-wage worker afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in a report released Tuesday.

“The disparity between what people earn and what even modest rental housing costs grows larger each year,” said Sheila Crowley, coalition president. “This is the housing market in which millions of low-wage workers and elderly or disabled people must try to find safe and decent homes.”

Rising fuel and utility costs add to the problem of a dwindling supply of affordable housing. And nationally, the problem has been exacerbated by the displacement of so many low-income families after Hurricane Katrina.

“Minimum-wage earners are truly on the verge of homelessness,” said Helen Bryant, a Kansas City real estate agent who works with other agents to help nonprofit agencies market low-income housing.

The federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour and has been since 1997. Families nationally would have to earn three times that amount — $15.78 per hour — to afford a two-bedroom apartment, the report said, up from $15.37 last year.

That's a bit depressing to me. Unfortunately, the article doesn't give any numbers illustrating the proportion of our country rely on low-income jobs to support themselves, or how those numbers have changed over the years (increased, decreased or remained relatively stable). That would be helpful. Not that the broadening of this gap is a positive thing, but if the number of people being affected by this is decreasing (for some reason I am doubtful that this is the case, based on no solid facts) then it could be worse.

The “Out of Reach” report was the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual survey of rents in every city, county and state, using federal housing, labor and census data.

The nonprofit organization has been prominent in the call for affordable housing since 1974.

It found that rents were the most expensive in Hawaii and the least expensive in West Virginia. San Francisco led the list of most expensive cities.

I wonder how many people worry about this sort of scenario? With so much emphasis placed on making money at all costs and focusing on self-promotion to the detriment of others (an accepted practice, it seems)(a mind-set I find much easier to take from a person worried about having a safe place in which to live and enough food to eat than from a person in a very comfortable economic position.), how many people not in this situation would lose sleep over the issue? Especially if they've never known, closely, someone in this situation?

It's tough. To me, this goes back to something I tend to harp on: the preoccupation of thinking as an individual (the individual being you, your spouse and immediate family) instead of as a community. Not that the former is bad. I just feel that it is short-sighted.

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com