Foon Rhee

How paying the rent is getting tougher

Emilia Concepcion, sitting in her home in February, is one of the lucky ones who found affordable housing in Sacramento.
Emilia Concepcion, sitting in her home in February, is one of the lucky ones who found affordable housing in Sacramento. rbenton@sacbee.com

Since the year 2000, rents have risen and so has the number of people needing affordable housing.

That double whammy means that even while building more housing, many places are failing to keep pace, according to a new study by the Urban Institute.

In its color-coded map, there’s only a smattering of counties across America with enough affordable housing for the extremely poor. In the U.S. as a whole, there were 47 affordable units available for every 100 extremely low-income families in 2000.

That number only improved to 46 per 100 in 2014; without federal rental assistance, it would be only 21 units per 100 needy households.

And in places with higher housing costs – like California – the situation is worse.

Some counties, including Placer, have fallen further behind. Even those that have made significant progress, including Fresno and Merced, still fall far below the national average.

In Sacramento County, the number of affordable units increased from about 10,500 in 2000 to nearly 17,000 in 2014, but the number of extremely poor households also rose – from 40,300 to 63,300 in 2014.

That means the number of available units barely budged, from 26 per 100 families to 27. In 2014, there were only eight affordable units per 100 families without rental assistance.

This study isn’t about the struggle of working people to afford a small home, though that’s a big concern. This is about the extremely poor just trying to make the rent. They’re at or below 30 percent of the median income, or $23,580 a year for a family of four in Sacramento.

Other studies have focused on the huge gap between CalWORKs grants and rents, especially in coastal counties, and have found the apartment construction boom is mostly in high-end rentals.

The bottom line is the same: There’s not enough affordable housing, which has ripple effects throughout our economy and society.

State lawmakers are paying attention to this issue, and nearly 90 bills are in play. Still, there seems to be more focus on finding new headline-grabbing ways to stand up to President Donald Trump.

That’s important, but so is helping more Californians find a decent place to live.

By the numbers

The number of affordable housing units per 100 extremely poor families in selected California counties:

County

2000

2014

El Dorado

27

30

Fresno

23

35

Merced

22

37

Los Angeles

23

26

Placer

33

21

San Bernardino

24

20

Sacramento

26

27

San Diego

29

29

San Francisco

41

41

San Joaquin

26

24

Stanislaus

30

25

Yolo

22

28

Source: Urban Institute

  Comments