New report on home rentals shows challenges to find affordable housing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new report on home rentals shows it’s becoming much more difficult for low-income people to find an affordable place to live, and experts say the problem might just get worse.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition just released its annual Out of Reach report that shows a Jacksonville-area worker making minimum wage would need to work 99 hours a week — nearly two and a half full-time jobs — to afford a two-bedroom rental at fair market rent.

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“People are really at a point where they’re making tough decisions whether they will pay rent, buy food, get medicine — those very basic needs are real decisions people having to make,” Shannon Nazworth, CEO and President of Ability Housing said.

Nazworth said the market pressure is making it tough for low-income families to find affordable housing. The report shows Jacksonville’s housing wage for 2021 is $21.40 for a two-bedroom rental at fair market rent — nearly 2.5 times the minimum wage of $8.65.

As far as housing wage goes, that’s $3.42 lower compared to the state average.

“The houses in our community are just going up and up, which is great if you own a home and are building equity,” Nazworth said. “But if you’re a working family just trying to find a place to rent, you’re in increasingly more dire straits each and every day.”

Compared to 2020 numbers for a 2 bedroom rental, the hours a Jacksonville worker would have to put in to afford it has gone up. Due to limitations, Action News Jax was not able to speak with an Ability Housing resident, but Nazworth says the unfortunate decision many have to make is sacrificing the cost of rent for potentially an unsafe neighborhood.

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“People are forced to make decisions — they’re going to live in a car or they’re going to stay in an apartment that isn’t safe for them and their children and that’s just inappropriate,” she said.

Nazworth said there is no easy way to get comfortable, saying the need outweighs supply but some websites, like FloridaHousingSearch.org, can help find affordable housing for those in need.