If you're poor, long for the past

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Homelessness Fig1
It was better to be poor in 1970 than it is today and it’s not because commodities were less expensive; salaries were lower, too. The reason? There was more affordable housing than people who needed it.
The middle class was strong in 1970. No one needs to tell a growing number of people who used to consider themselves middle-class what the lay of the land is today. For everyone else, the message should be getting louder as more working families become homeless, sit at food pantries waiting to be processed and rely on relatives for a place to stay.
The Atlantic Cities reports on the growing crisis, complete with eye-widening charts in Emily Badger’s “How the Poor Are Squeezed Out of the Most Affordable Housing.”
It is estimated, she writes, “that about half of the homeless in the U.S. today work in some form. The problem is that their income doesn’t cover housing.
“In part, what’s happened is that families who used to be middle-class are increasingly looking for cheaper affordable rental housing, crowding out the most low-income from the units they have the best chance of affording. Housing aid also hasn’t kept pace with the size of the population that needs it. Today, only one in four households eligible for a rental subsidy is able to get one.”
The article prompted several good comments, one from reader Josh Michtom, who wrote, “The problem is that there seems to be no corresponding limit on how poorly people can be paid. So maybe the solution to the housing crisis needs to include a dramatic increase in the minimum wage.”
The push-back from businesses, especially small ones, is that they couldn't make their business pay if they had to pay workers more. Big businesses, like Wal-Mart, have no excuse. But the problem will call on more public money for a solution, whether we subsidize housing or subsidize small businesses so they can pay a livable wage.
One way or another, this problem needs a fix. How much of America does America want to see sleeping in the streets? This is supposed to be a great, strong country. If we want to stay that way, we will have to suck it up and share the wealth.  
Chart from the Center for American Progress


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