Why we need affordable housing

After this year of bleak climate reports and unprecedented wildfires, the need for a regenerative built environment has never been clearer. The need for affordable housing is similarly clear and dire. At least ten cities and the entire state of Hawaii have for years been in a formally declared State of Emergency over homelessness and affordable housing, yet rates of homelessness continue to trend upward in many cities. For example, Seattle saw a 15 percent increase in unsheltered individuals in 2018, while overall homelessness in California increased 14 percent.

Compounding the issue of affordability, low-income households routinely have far higher utility cost burdens than moderate and high-income households. The issue is not only a matter of income; affordable units tend to be older and less energy-efficient, meaning that low-income households pay more for utilities on a square foot basis — up to twice as much as median-income households and three times as much as high-income households. One of ILFI’s new affordable housing pilot projects is located in the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, where nearly 50 percent of the community lives below the federal poverty line and residents face utility bills of up to $600 per month. Nationwide one in five families miss utility payments each year, 70 percent of which have their utilities shut off. Researchers in Milwaukee even found that eviction rates tracked seasonally with utility bills.

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