More than 50 percent of renters in Illinois don’t have enough money to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the state, a report released Tuesday by Housing Action Illinois and the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows.
The housing wage in Illinois is $16.78. That means a family must earn at least that hourly amount for 40 hours a week and 52 weeks per year in order to pay rent and utilities for a safe, modest two-bedroom apartment.
But the average private-housing renter in Illinois earns $13.95, which is $2.82 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a unit, said Bob Palmer, policy director at Housing Action Illinois.
Overall, Illinois’ housing wage is lower than the national average of $18.25, according the report “Out of Reach 2012: America’s Forgotten Housing Crisis.”
However, the cost of living in cities such as Chicago, Naperville, Joliet and places in Kendall County, surpasses the national average, according to the report.
“A lot of people are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing,” Palmer said.
“If you look at extremely low-income households in particular, the percentage of people that are paying more than 30 percent is almost everybody.”
Palmer credits the high price for apartment units on the increase of homeowners selling or losing their homes and entering the rental market, making affordable units more competitive, he said.
Progress Illinois reported last month that there are too few apartments available in the state for extremely low-income households.
The housing-wage report comes at time when Gov. Pat Quinn plans to slash state funding for homeless shelters and transitional housing programs by 52 percent, according to his 2013 budget proposal.
Palmer said Housing Action Illinois is “very disappointed” about the proposed cuts.
“We’re advocating with the General Assembly to not make that cut,” he said.
Daria Mueller, associate director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said the housing wage in Illinois “makes a lot of sense based on what we know anecdotally and what we’ve seen previous in studies.”
“The housing costs are going up, people aren’t getting paid an appropriate living wage, and there are deeply devastating cuts to programs,” Mueller said.
Cutting homeless and transitional living programs by 52 percent means eliminating a safety net, she said.
“When people have no other place to go, they’ve crossed every bridge and it’s all burned down behind them,” she said.
Homeless shelters and other temporary living facilities are where people can go to get back on their feet, she said.
“And to cut that so deeply, in a time with such great need, is irresponsible,” she said. “It’s a matter of life or death. We can’t afford to do this in Illinois.”
Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, which advocates for affordable housing for Latinos, among other efforts, said the foreclosure crisis is impacting all of Illinois, but Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted.
Puente said Latinos were some of the main targets of predatory lending, and Latino wealth has dwindled due to diminished home values.
“Clearly, we’re at a time when the safety net for housing, especially for those who have lost their homes or at risk of becoming homeless, has really never been greater in my lifetime,” Puente said.