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Report: Illinois' Poorest Live on Unstable Ground

In Illinois, 42 percent of the renters considered extremely low-income are people in the workforce. Another 26 percent are senior citizens. (Elvert Barnes/Flickr)
In Illinois, 42 percent of the renters considered extremely low-income are people in the workforce. Another 26 percent are senior citizens. (Elvert Barnes/Flickr)
March 18, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – Housing is a foundation for living, and a new report suggests it's an unstable foundation for hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans.

"The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Rental Homes" by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, finds 72-percent of the households considered extremely low-income in the state are spending more than half their monthly income on rent.

Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, explains that's more than 326,000 families that have to make difficult decisions to keep a roof over their heads.

"Anything – like loss of a job or having your work hours reduced, or a health care emergency or your car breaking down – is going to put you at risk of not being able to afford the rent, which is going to lead to you being at risk of eviction and you being homeless,” he points out. “And obviously, that's a huge crisis."

The coalition considers people "extremely low-income" if they make only 30 percent of their area's median income.

The report says these renters face a housing shortage in every state. Illinois has just 35 affordable rental units available for every 100 households that need them.

Palmer contends policies are needed to lower housing costs and help end homelessness. He adds lawmakers have an opportunity to invest in affordable housing in the state's next capital budget.

"And we're asking for $1 billion, and we believe with that money that the State of Illinois could find 10,000 affordable rental, homes which would go a long way towards addressing the shortage," he states.

Palmer says that investment would create 16,000 jobs in its first year, and generate $755 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments.

At the federal level, the report calls for increased funding for affordable housing programs such as the National Housing Trust Fund, Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL