Study: Growing gap between income and rent

, Posted: Tue, April 1 2014 at 6:16 PM, Updated: Mon, April 7 2014 at 3:59 PM

Medford, Ore. -- A new report out of the National Low Income Housing Coalition called Out of Reach, found that Oregonians would have to make more than $16 an hour to be able to afford a two-bedroom unit paying HUD's (Housing and Urban Development) estimated Fair Market Rent.

Californians would have to make just over $26. In addition, the report said minimum wage workers in California would have to work 130-hours per week in order to afford renting a two-bedroom unit. In Oregon, minimum wage earners would have to work 72-hours per week. 
The struggle is very real for White City resident Ramona Kenton who is a regular in the Jackson County Housing Authority's lobby. She has a husband and three daughters and for her, she said it's been hard to get by. 

"We pay electricity, we pay gas, we pay water and sewer so you got take into account all that on top of an average 3-bedroom home is at least $950 a month," said Kenton.

Even though she makes more than minimum wage, she said every month is a close call.

"Any income I have, it's all toward rent and utilities there's nothing left," she explained.

She's not alone. According to the annual Out of Reach report, one out of four renter households is an extremely low income household. 

"The report tells us what we've known for a long time," said Cara Carter, Director of Housing Programs at the Jackson County Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority helps people in need find low income housing.

According to HUD the fair price to pay for a 2-bedroom rental in Oregon is $846.

Carter said the average in Jackson County is slightly lower, at around $822 a month.

"So a family would have to make upwards of $13-$14 an hour just to barely pay that rent," Carter said.

She said some families are trying to cope with increased housing costs and stagnant wages by moving in with other families to share housing expenses. Many families strapped for money are also forgoing things like cable, phones and transportation.

In addition, Carter said there's been a steady increase over the past few years of more people needing help.

"Our lobby is never quiet," she said.

While staff at the Jackson County Housing Authority try to help as many people as possible, Carter said there's just too much need.

"Whenever we do help somebody, three other people come in behind them and need help too," Carter explained.

However, people like Ramona Kenton are grateful for the assistance as she works to pay bills and keep a roof over her family's heads.

"It's stressful, it really take a toll on a family, it really does," said Kenton.


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