There is currently a shortage of 7 million affordable homes across our nation for the 10.8 million families who are classified as extremely low income. Current data shows that these families are paying more than half of their income in rent.
This is a problem. A big problem.
According to Urban League’s recent research, 47% of households in Broward County are cost-burdened. Paying 50% or more of your income in rent makes you severely cost-burdened. Urban League’s data from 2021 showed over 80,000 households in this category–struggling every day to make ends meet.
So many families in our communities are living right on the edge, with absolutely no financial wiggle room. An increasing majority of their income is dedicated to just putting a roof over their heads. But what about other necessary costs like food, transportation, childcare, healthcare and medicine?
It is a precarious balance, and any unexpected costs at all can spiral families into a financial crisis. Housing is currently the biggest chunk of the budget, and that cost doesn’t appear to be decreasing.
Causes of the Housing Crisis
There are two sides to the problem, according to Dr. Smith-Baugh, and it’s not rocket science. It’s simple economics.
- First is wages. “Housing costs are high and wages are low,” she explains simply. To put the problem into numbers, housing costs have risen more than 39% in recent years, but wages have only increased by about 5%. (Note: data reflects Broward County, FL). The data tells the story, and the story is bleak: “There is simply no way to keep up with the increased cost of housing.”
- The second cause of the crisis is textbook supply and demand. Demand is high and supply is low. “There’s simply not enough housing at affordable rates for the people who need them,” says Dr. Smith-Baugh.
Unless the problem is tackled from both ends, we will continue to experience this crisis. The ones in most danger because of this situation? Low-income single moms. When you step back from the big numbers and think about the fact that every statistic is a real person and their real life, it changes your perspective.
Effects on Families
“Many of our families are at risk of losing their children or cannot be reunified because they can’t afford housing,” notes Dr. Smith-Baugh.
Prevention is critical because once child welfare gets involved, housing standards get even higher, making it difficult for some families to reunify. Moms are working as hard as they can to provide for their children and keep their families together, but it can feel like the deck is stacked against them.
“For moms, this situation is largely out of their financial control and does not reflect on her ability to care and parent well,” says ĒMA founder and CEO Charlee Tchividjian. “The pressures on moms are immense.”
A house is so much more than just a place to sleep, eat, and watch TV. It is the space you belong to. A home means stability.
“Not having a home or being vulnerable to losing your home puts you in the mindset of ‘nothing is stable’. Everything can slip from underneath you. And that is a really scary place to be,” says Dr. Smith-Baugh.
This instability also starts to be reflected in the surrounding community. When people aren’t able to stay in one place long-term, a feeling of transience is created. You don’t get to know your neighbors because it doesn’t really matter. People come and go and a sense of community is lost.
An Audacious Goal
The Urban League of Broward County is focusing their strategic efforts on helping families through this housing crisis. One of their 2025 empowerment goals is for every American to live in safe, decent, affordable, and energy-efficient housing on fair terms. It is without a doubt an audacious goal, but one they are taking concrete steps towards–one family at a time.
The Urban League offers a variety of community services, including:
- Housing counseling–such as homebuyers workshops to help people towards home ownership.
- Financial literacy and education–as credit scores affect rent eligibility and ability to qualify for home loans.
- Workforce development and training–-to help people move towards higher wages.
The League in Broward is even putting on their own hard hats and getting practical about providing homes. They are making plans to use 20 acres of their own land assets to construct nearly 500 townhomes, villas, and multi-family houses. All at affordable rates for low-income families. They are tackling the problem at all ends in any way they can.
Because at the end of the day, this is a universal issue.
“Affordable housing is not a poor people issue, it’s an issue for everyone. We’ve got to start changing the conversation. Housing affordability is for everybody.”– Dr. Smith-Baugh