Unless you’re making upwards of $18 per hour, chances are you can’t afford a basic apartment in Vermont.
At least, that’s according to a new report jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a self-described Washington, D.C.,-based research and advocacy organization, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.
The report compiled data for every state, metropolitan area, combined non-metropolitan area and county in the United States. For these areas, it presents the Housing Wage, which is the "hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market," according to the report.
That exact figure for Vermonters: $18.53; an annual income of $38,541.
"Vermont has been and still is one of the states with the least affordable rental housing," Ted Wimpey, director of the Fair Housing Project at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and chairman of the Vermont Coalition, stated in a release on the report. "It is extremely difficult now for even moderate income people in Vermont to find affordable rental housing, and the situation has many serious consequences including increased homelessness and suppressed economic development in Vermont."
Consider the following numbers:
-- 2.2. That’s how many full-time workers a family needs, working at minimum
-- 86. That’s how many hours one person would need to work to afford the same. Kind of puts it in perspective when you think about single-parent households.
-- 964. That’s the dollar amount of the Fair Market Rent for the above-mentioned two-bedroom apartment.
-- 11.67. Dollars and cents, that’s what the typical renter in Vermont earns.
-- 63. That’s the estimated percentage of renters in Vermont who, according to the report, do not earn enough to afford the "modest two-bedroom apartment."
For perspective, these figures rank Vermont 15th most expensive in the nation for renters; the state jumps up to ninth place when you only consider non-metropolitan areas.
We think that’s just way too high.
And, if all of that weren’t troubling enough, the report also points out that someone living on Social Security, at $750 a month, can’t afford more than $225 per month in rent. Especially troubling when you consider the aging population of our state.
As Jeanne Montross, executive director of Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects and chairwoman of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness points out: "The economic difficulty in recent years has caused a real housing crisis for many Vermonters. With scarcer housing subsidies and reduced funding for the creation of new affordable housing, this is creating a wave of distress that we will be dealing with for years to come."
Indeed, not only has housing and community development funding been cut by more than $3 million over the past three years, but the sequestration is forcing further cuts to programs that could be of massive assistance. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that Vermont is in line to lose $500,000 in housing and development funds.
We think it’s high time the federal government take a closer look at our nation’s tax codes, which typically benefit higher income people instead of the middle and lower classes. Furthermore, across-the-board cuts to assistance programs does nothing to advance the country’s financial future. These are programs than not only help homeowners and renters, but also families who, because both parents are forced to work, need extra assistance for child care. Not to mention the help going toward the organizations which provide said child care.
These numbers paint a grim portion of a much larger issue. Let’s hope elected officials at the state and national level begin to listen to the majority, instead of those with the deepest pockets.