Want to talk inflation? Housing costs in America are insane, and the people hurt the most by it often go unheard. They’re too preoccupied struggling to stay solvent to be loud about it.
The supply for affordable housing is not meeting the overwhelming demand. And the wages people are earning are not supplying enough income to meet the costs of living.
This inflation isn’t caused by the pandemic. It’s been worsening for decades due to greed and discriminatory housing policies. It makes renters like myself feel like pawns in a game of Monopoly where we’re all out of moves. I have played the life or death rental game all my life. Here’s how it’s played.
I scavenge the funds to pay for an apartment with a deposit. Then I hope to have a short break in my new home. If I see minor repair issues, I ignore them, worried that if I pester the landlord, he’ll increase the rent. He dramatically increases the rent regardless. The following year, he increases it again. My wages stay the same. The cost burdens me. I consider moving out, but rents have skyrocketed all across the city. Gentrification builds castles in the sky that I can’t afford. And even if I do spot the rarity of an affordable apartment, I’d have to find new deposit money. Soon, I’ll be totally priced out of the city.
All of this is more challenging for families with children. And it’s even harder under the economic strain of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, none of the above is really a game, it’s real life for the majority of us.
I have been losing faith in being able to comfortably afford housing, knowing that even a lease that sets the rent is merely a reprieve, before I am back in jeopardy again, pacing the sidewalk, looking for housing, and screaming: “Stop the insanity!”
Maybe someone heard my screams of desperation in Washington. The Build Back Better bill delivers real assistance.
The bill that recently passed the House includes a $150 billion investment in affordable housing. It’s “the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in U.S. history,” according to the White House.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the bill includes $25 billion in new rental assistance for hundreds of thousands of households; $65 billion to preserve the nation’s public housing infrastructure; and $15 billion to build and preserve over 150,000 homes for extremely low-income households.
No one should have to pay more than 30 percent of their annual earnings on housing. I like that the program outlined in the Build Back Better bill addresses the housing crisis from several fronts, simultaneously investing in building homes, preserving homes, funding public housing and providing help to keep struggling renters housed.
Many people don’t want to talk bluntly about inflation. If you watch the news, you’ll hear conservatives try to convince you — illogically — that we should make more people poor in order to stop the demand for goods and thus stop prices from rising. But everyone needs a safe place to call home. And we know that the only way to keep millions of Americans from going under water is a major investment in affordable housing. The Build Back Better plan will ease the burden of the largest budget item for most of us. The crisis is too dire to do less.