The Real Cost of Being Poor: Affordable Housing Crisis

People without homes are not just drug addicts and the mentally ill:

Image result for affordable housing

Who Needs Housing That’s Affordable?



In the US 14% of Americans live in poverty.  Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, that is over 45 million people. Out of those 45 million people, over 11 million pay more than half of their salary on rent alone (Monroe). This is where affordable housing comes in. Affordable housing is defined as housing created so that families pay no more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. So, if we can come up with a system to create affordable housing developments those 11 million people who pay 50% of their salary and everyone in between could get housing for ⅓ of their annual income.



How is this relevant to me?

I live in Oakland, California, where the division of rich and poor is almost night and day. The hills of Oakland is home to some of the richest people in the Bay, while downtown Oakland and Berkeley is filled with homeless encampments and eviction notices. A tangible solution for more affordable housing developments in the bay will allow for the low-income families of Berkeley and Oakland to thrive and close the gap between rich and poor.

In California, the hourly wage a person must earn to rent a two bedroom house and not exceed 30% of their annual income is $30.28 per hour. $30.28 is more than twice minimum wage, yet in California one fourth of it’s employees work for under minimum wage (Jan). This means that even with low income housing, it is impossible for over a fourth of the working class in California to afford to rent a house. 

Affordable housing is the framework for basic life. Without this foundation of a stable home, how are people suppose to focus on more important things in life like education, getting a job, and family.

Image result for oakland homeless


How is this relevant to you?

This topic is not constrained to one place in the US. In fact, according to Affordable Housing Statistics “there is not a single county in the United States that can fill 100% of its low-income population’s need for safe, affordable housing.”

While it is true that this issue is everywhere, there are some states in the US that exceed the others in poverty and limited affordable housing. To name a few California, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Minnesota have the highest poverty rates. One of the worst of all of them is California.


Top 10 Worst Cities for Affordable Housing


Background Information:

Since the 1930s during the Great Depression, which “was the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world” according to, affordable housing, or lack there of, has been an issue in America. Throughout the last 87 years there have been tons of organizations created like the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) to try and lessen the extent of this issue and inform US citizens the importance of low income housing. There have also been a countless number of acts created by congress and enforced by HUD to increase low income housing facilities.

The Great Depression forced congress to step in and take action to deal with the mass poverty rates and lack of economically affordable housing complexes. To start, in 1934 congress created the Federal Housing Administration which lowered the cost of housing and opened an opportunity for more middle-

Image result for poverty rate timeline from 1930

class citizens to own homes (Advocates). Although this organization did make an impact, the quality at which most people were living was less than adequate, so in response the Housing Act of 1937 was created. This act made it so that when a developer created a new housing complex, an old one had to be torn down. This enhanced the quality of living but decreased the amount of housing units (Housing). Then in 1968 the Civil Rights Act was passed to try and lessen discrimination against colored renters in public and private housing establishments. Another act  created to make affordable housing more available was the Brooke Amendment in 1969 which made it so renters in low income housing did not have to pay more than 25% of their annual income on rent. This was very effective but over time this was increased and today it is 30% (Advocates).

The next act was targeted towards the increase of deinstitutionalization people with mental illnesses and disabilities and the increase in the homeless population in the 1980s. “In 1973, 4.5 million units were removed from the nation’s housing stock, half of which was occupied by low-income households” according to an article called “Rise in Homelessness.” This caused a huge raise in homelessness, when at the same time between the years of 1980 and 1989 HUDs budget was reduced from $74 million to $19 million (Common). So the McKinney Act of 1987 was made by the government. This act was one of the first acts the federal government made to limit homelessness in the US. This act insured that homeless children had the same right to public schooling as any other child (School). This act also created more housing and social service programs within HUD.



The solution I have found that will help this pressing issue of lack of affordable housing is a mixture between two different solutions: 1) a new tax and 2) a new form of housing. From a project in San Fransisco to turn condos into communal dorms and another project in Davis to get tax from building houses and turn it into public bike ways, I have formulated a solution. My solution is to put fees on developer’s entitlements on commercial and residential buildings, where the tax goes to an affordable housing fund (All). In the past the idea of incentivizing has lead to developers creating cheep, unsanitary and unlivable affordable housing units. So, instead of incentivizing and encouraging developers to build affordable housing, this gives an opportunity to affordable housing developers to create more livable housing.

This tax on building commercial and residential complexes must come from the state so it does not scare away local developers. If this tax came from the county, developers would move different counties where this tax is not in place, and build without charge. Where, on the other hand, if it was a state tax there is nowhere for the developers to leave except out of the state. Another reason for this to be a state tax is so that the entire state has equal affordable housing opportunities instead of creating counties with social orders.

Along with the increase in funding for affordable housing my solution also comes up with a new way to house people using minimal space. This idea I got from the San Fransisco dorm living. Instead of building separate apartments for each family, there would be a separate living space and bedroom but communal bathrooms and kitchen. This eliminates cost of utilities and maximizes the number of people in one place.


This is a video that shows a possibility of low income housing:


Let’s have a discussion:


Constructive feed back:


More Solutions:


My Sources:


“Advocates’ Guide.” National Low Income Housing Coalition,


“Affordable Housing Statistics.” Monroe Group,


“All Acres 1-855-ACRES-411.” All Acres,


“Common Dreams.” Urban Suffering Grew Under Reagan Archived, May 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.


Jan, Tracy. “Here’s How Much You Would Need to Afford Rent in Your State.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 June 2017,


“School of EducationProject HOPE – Virginia.” William and Mary School of Education,


“The State of Homelessness in America.” National Alliance to End Homelessness,


“1937: Housing Act (Wagner-Steagall Act).” Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston,

10, next. Current State of The California Housing Market. Mar. 2016.


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  1. April 26, 2018 by Samuel Gan

    Thank you for putting together a great page! I live in Vancouver, and affordable housing is a very big issue here. Vancouver has one of the most expensive housing markets in North America, parallel with cities like Los Angelas and New York City. Due to a rapid increase in foreign investment in the last decade, prices are driven up even higher. This resulted in housing houses that are rarely affordable to young, working families and individuals. What makes this issue even worse is that many of these foreign investors do not put up the homes up to rent, therefore, the majority of these homes owned by foreign investors are empty. Therefore, housing in Vancouver is not only expensive but very hard to find. The provincial government has done two things to combat this issue: 1. To make a foreign investors tax in order to ramp down foreign investment, as well as a tax incentive to encourage these homeowners to rent out their homes instead of leaving them empty. Perhaps these ideas could be relevant to your solutions to housing in California. Let me know what you think!

  2. April 26, 2018 by Taylor.Boozer

    I love your project! It’s true that homelessness and affordable housing is a really big issue, especially in big cities. I also really liked the different sources of media you used. Brilliant project!

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