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1 in 4 RI Renters Can’t Afford Home

Thursday, February 09, 2012

 

One-in-four Rhode Island renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing-related expenses, according to a new report issued by HousingWorksRI.

The burden on renters has increased exponentially over the past decade, with the price of the average three-bedroom apartment up 75 percent from 2001. Two-bedroom apartments are up 50 percent and one-bedroom rates have increased 47 percent.

“Clearly this is a very striking statistic,” said HousingWorksRI executive director Nellie Gorbea.

Gorbea said too many Rhode Islanders are spending a significant portion of their income on housing, which makes it more difficult to pay for food, clothing, medicine and other necessities.

“It really puts a stress of people's lives,” she said.

Major Burden on Renters

Nearly 40 percent of Rhode Islanders rent their homes, more than any other state in New England. In Massachusetts, the rental rate is just over 30 percent. According to the report, rental costs are unaffordable to Rhode Island’s top occupation groups. In 2010, nearly 18 percent of the state’s workforce were office and administrative workers. The median hourly rate for these workers was $16.22, and the entry-level hourly rate was $12.65. But the hourly wage needed to afford the average 2-bedroom apartment rent in the state that same year was $23.90.

“High housing cost burdens also make it extremely difficult to save money or invest in education as a way to move out of poverty,” the report states.

Gorbea said the report underscores the need for the state to do more when it comes to affordable housing. Unlike Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island does not dedicate a steady stream of revenue to affordable housing.

In his budget proposal, Governor Chafee again chose to not dedicate any funding toward affordable housing, but he did suggest putting a $25 million housing bond on the November ballot. A similar bond was supported by voters in 2006 and resulted in more than 1,000 affordable homes being built in 21 communities across the state.

Gorbea said that while she appreciates the Governor’s budget proposal, “the end game should be a consistent method for funding affordable housing.”

Calls for Affordable Housing

Rhode Island has seen the highest levels of homeless in the state’s history –increases in monthly shelter use, regularly filling shelters to the maximum; social agencies strained by shrinking budgets and growing numbers of those in need.

A lack of adequate income and a lack of affordable housing are the top two reasons people become homeless in Rhode Island, which is why State Senator John Tassoni and State Rep. Scott Slater have introduced legislation that would provide $12.5 million in funding for the Neighborhood Opportunities Program (NOP) in the next fiscal year.

“Housing is simply unaffordable for many Rhode Islanders,” Rep. Scott Slater said. “In Rhode Island, there is an enormous gap between what many people earn and the cost to rent a place to live.”


 

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