Rents are too high, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Housing Action Illinois.
Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of area people likely already knew that fact.
According to the just-released report "Out of Reach 2017: The High Cost of Housing," 31 percent of Kankakee County households are renters, who make an average hourly wage of $11.82. However, in Kankakee County, a worker has to make $17.29 per hour to afford a two-bedroom residence at fair market rent, a value determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
That equation means their wages are 46 percent short of what they ideally need to comfortably pay their rent.
"Kankakee has one of the higher housing wages compared to the other areas in the state because of its proximity to the Chicago metropolitan area," said Bob Palmer, policy director for HAI. "One thing we're focused on is that it's not just a city and urban issue but increasingly there's a lack of affordable housing in the suburban areas."
A renter in Iroquois County needs to make $12.58 per hour to afford a two-bedroom unit, and a renter in Will County must make $23.69. In fact, there's nowhere in the country where a person working full time at a minimum-wage job can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. The average renter needs to make $20.87 per hour to pay for a two-bedroom, but the average wage is $16.32.
The most expensive metropolitan area is San Francisco, and the most expensive states are Hawaii and Alaska. Another key finding from the study shows that six of the seven occupations expected to add the most jobs in the coming years don't provide a median wage high enough to rent a one-bedroom rental home.
"Housing is a basic human need. Most people get housing through the private market, and most people can afford it more or less. ... It just doesn't work for the private market to make housing for the most part ... because the cost of maintaining and operating housing is so high compared to what people can afford to pay," said Palmer.
In its report, the NLIHC endorses two bills: the Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2017, introduced by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and the Ending Homelessness Act of 2017(H.R. 2076), introduced by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
Ellison's bill calls for reforms to the mortgage interest deductions, which overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. According to the report, $54.6 billion, or 84 percent, of those subtractions benefit households with an annual income greater than $100,000. Waters' bill calls for greater federal funding to anti-homelessness programs. While the possibility of a minimum wage increase in Illinois gives HAI hope, there's still more to do at home in Illinois.
"Our policy focuses on the state level," said Palmer. "We're very much part of efforts to advocate for a solution to the state budget impasse in a way that increases state revenue so we don't need to do more cuts to the very programs that support efforts for affordable housing."