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Almost Half of California’s Households Are Housing-Cost Burdened

But by working together, we can make a difference.

The Problem

The unfortunate reality for low income families is the lack of affordable housing throughout the nation. As the economy lags and the pandemic crisis exacerbates this economic slump, the gap between what a family can afford and the rising expense of housing costs will drive more families into homelessness.

San Mateo’s and California’s Challenges

In California, families face even deeper challenges:

  • The San Mateo Human Services Agency stated that fair market rent has increased an extreme 47% since 2016.
  • It would take about four minimum-wage jobs to support a family of four in San Mateo County.
  • According to the Public Policy Institute, California rents remain the most expensive in the nation. And they continue to rise. From 2011 to 2019, rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased an alarming 22%.
  • The California Housing Partnership reported that 1.3 million California renter households are considered on the brink of poverty, making less than $25,000 a year. These at risk households are the most in jeopardy of becoming homeless.
  • In a study, an estimated 42% of California households were “housing cost-burdened,” meaning they spent 30% or more of their income on housing. This figure remains dramatically higher than national estimates.
  • At last count, there were a shocking 53,692 homeless families in California.

All of these statistics were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will create previously unforeseen difficulties for families already living from paycheck to paycheck.

The Result — Families Are at Risk

Potential outcomes from this housing crisis paint a worrisome picture. According to a study:

  • Families that spend more than half of their income on housing tend to spend much less on essential items, such as food and health care.
  • Unstable housing and residential overcrowding is linked to an increased frequency of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, psychological issues, and behavioral and emotional problems in children.
  • Unaffordable housing increases the chances of moving, changing schools, and academic interruptions, which can hinder a child’s academic success, increase the chances of repeating grades, and result in an increased risk of being expelled or dropping out of school.
  • Children experiencing homelessness have been shown to experience separations from their families, increasing their chances of future homelessness as an adult.

But there is hope. The best way to help children in poverty is to help their parents.

The Effects of COVID-19

Though no one can definitively predict the short- and long-term effects that COVID-19 will have on the economy and homelessness, anecdotal information has painted a picture of extreme challenges for low income families. According to Family Promise:

  • Parents considered essential employees in the service, retail, and hospitality industries encounter an increased risk of contracting the virus and then bringing the virus home to an often overcrowded living environment.
  • Parents in these same industries face unpaid sick leave, layoffs, and delays in social welfare benefits. The results include evictions, food insecurity, and homelessness.
    The stress of unstable housing and poor access to nutrition and wellness make families more susceptible to the virus.
  • Securing housing involves meetings, touring apartments, and obtaining benefits; all of which are much more difficult to do virtually, and many families don’t have the means to get online.
  • Shelters that provide support and services to homeless families are themselves faced with acute financial uncertainties ahead and a decrease in volunteerism due to the pandemic.

But pulling back the curtain on these alarming statistics reveals a ray of hope. Homelessness is an issue that we can solve, if we work together.

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