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Apr. 22 2010 - 4:43 pm | 88 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

Chicago’s housing costs go up while wages decline… again

Close by David Schalliol

Being able to afford a place to live in Chicago is no joke.

I’m not talking about renting a posh condo in the Gold Coast, although that certainly costs a pretty penny. Paying for a modest place in one of Chicago’s neighborhoods is placing a huge stress on the city’s families.

To afford an average two-bedroom apartment, a person would have to make $19.52 an hour without being “rent-burdened.” What does that mean?

Well, a family really shouldn’t pay more than 30 percent of its income in rent. Paying more than that means there’s a lot less to spend on everything else – food, utilities, essentials, childcare, etc. Families that are rent burdened often have to make very difficult decisions about how to use their money – Health care or rent? Food or rent? School supplies or rent?

When families are forced to make those choices, we all pay for it in the end. So the goal is to keep rent affordable so that people can make good decisions with the rest of their cash.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a young couple with two children. You and your spouse have high school diplomas, and you both work minimum wage jobs without health care. How many hours do a week would you have to work to afford that little two bedroom?

Eighty-seven hours a week, 52 weeks a year.

No, I’m not kidding. This kind of stuff is figured out by people who study housing. The report, released by Housing Action Illinois, shows that at the same time that our housing costs have been going up, our wages have been decreasing.

The “housing wage”  – or the amount you would have to earn to afford that apartment – has increased 34.6 percent since 2000.

It’s a mathematic equation waiting to explode. Too many people who can’t afford the basic needs, forced to make sacrifices that don’t make sense.

Something’s gotta give. Either we raise wages or we make housing more affordable.

Neither is easy, but at least one of those is absolutely necessary.


1 Total Comment
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  1. collapse expand

    You seem to be making the assumption that a person earning Minimum wage should be able to afford an Average 2 bedroom apartment. Why should minimum get you average?

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    About Me

    I'm a journalist living in Chicago writing about poverty and public housing. I don't come from the streets - I grew up on a farm. But I'm passionate about urban issues and getting to know people who are completely different from me. I'm quirky, funny and friendly.

    I have this idea about journalism - that it should be approachable and less "newsy." I want my stories to make you laugh, cry and draw you in to neighborhoods and situations you don't deal with every day. I hate the broadcaster voice. I hate TV news. I hate the inverted pyramid. I love surprise. I love humor. I love people and telling their stories.

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