Increasingly, it is more and more difficult for Supportive Services to provide the level of services our tenants need to attain housing stability. The recession has been difficult on most of us, but it seems the greatest burden has been placed on those least able to afford it.
From our recently released annual foreclosure report, Chicago’s Foreclosure Crisis: Community Solutions to the Loss of Affordable Rental Housing:
- According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person employed full-time in Cook County must earn $18.42 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment —this, when the current minimum wage is less than half of that figure ($8.25).
- The Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University reports that, of the top 10 most populous cities nationwide, Chicago has the second highest unemployment rate (14.1%), and the greatest concentration of unemployed residents is on the South and West sides of the city. The lack of employment opportunities continues to stifle household incomes and, in conjunction with rising rent rates, households struggle to accommodate even the most basic costs of living.
- According to an Urban Institute study, across the nation, the number of very low-income renters who pay at least half of their income on housing, with no rental assistance, jumped by 2.6 million to 8.5 million (from 2007-2011), while rental subsidies saw only a slight increase.
- The Urban Institute also reported that for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Cook County, there are now only 26 affordable and available rental units.
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an overwhelming 23% of Chicagoans—over half a million people—lived below the federal poverty line in 2010.
LCBH has been reporting for the last five years on the impact the foreclosure crisis has had on renters in Chicago. While the number of foreclosures is decreasing, Chicago still had an unsustainably high number of rental units impacted by foreclosure (almost 7,700) in 2013. LCBH’s latest report also shows the disproportionate impact of foreclosure in particular neighborhoods. All 10 of the community areas with the highest number of units impacted by foreclosure in 2013 are located on either the South or West sides of the city. These communities have had an average of 21.2% of their rental housing units enter foreclosure since 2009 - double the city-wide percent of rental units affected.
LCBH’s Supportive Service team is led by LCBH Supportive Service Director, John Paul Beals, and supported by a constantly changing team of interns. With all the work it takes to secure new housing, the team finds it difficult to offer other services that would help clients including, employment assistance, credit repair classes, and other services that might help their clients get ahead. The team often refers tenants to partner agencies for those essential services, but those agencies are overburdened as well. Even while focusing on finding housing, sometimes families end up in apartments and neighborhoods that are just as difficult and challenging as the places they left, sometimes they end up moving between family members’ houses, and unfortunately, sometimes they end up in a shelter. The one answer for many of them –a voucher that subsidizes part of their rent – is very, very difficult to find, especially for families. One program has 12,000 people on their waiting list! This is the harsh reality that LCBH clients face every day.
The Supportive Services team continues to do as much as they can to help their tenants through this tough, tough transition period in their lives. And the team never gives up and often finds that it’s the tenants who give them the most encouragement and hope. As John Paul often says, “our tenants’ resilience and persistence is so inspiring.”