A significant minority of Chicago area residents can’t find affordable housing

A new report suggests many Chicago area residents – poor and wealthier – have difficulty finding affording housing:

To identify “distressed homeowners and renters,” researchers used a housing rule of thumb that requires affordable housing to cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income. In Chicago, 48 percent of people said they were devoting more than 30 percent of their income to rent or a mortgage. In the suburbs, 40 percent were stretching beyond the manageable 30 percent limit.

According to the research, 11 percent of households in Chicago had cut back on healthy food, and 12 percent had made cuts in health care to afford housing. Another 11 percent moved to less safe areas.

While the problem of finding affordable housing is most acute among people ages 18 to 34, African-Americans and households with incomes under $40,000, 49 percent of those in households with incomes over $75,000 said “it’s challenging to find affordable housing in my area.” Sixty-six percent of people with incomes under $40,000 noted the challenge…

In the Chicago area, 87 percent of adults said having stable housing that is affordable is a very important part of having a secure middle-class lifestyle, while 67 percent said it’s harder to afford stable housing than for previous generations.

Housing is crucial for many other areas in life as it influences daily well-being (do you feel safe?), schools that kids go to, amenities (local municipalities, recreation, retail, etc.) available nearby, what kind of neighbors you will interact with, commuting times, and more. So, if you don’t have the resources to live in a nicer community or have to stretch yourself, that will have consequences.

Is it time to reconsider the 30% rule? Of course, if you spend more than 30% on housing then you have to cut back elsewhere. But, given the housing bubble of the last decade and perhaps a new normal of higher rents and less new cheaper housing, perhaps Americans may have to devote more to housing in the future?

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