Last Updated on May 13, 2023
A pdf of the above image is available at https://friendsoftheunsheltered.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Gap.pdf.
During the May 22, 2023 Seaside City Council meeting Rick Bowers shared this information during the 3-minute public comment period. Here is the link to the meeting (opens in a new window): https://www.youtube.com/live/BMsgAfeEkyI?feature=share&t=4072.
3-Minute Public Comments
Today I, Rick Bowers, would like to share some information about “The Gap”… an unfortunate situation where someone earns too much to qualify for subsidized affordable housing yet doesn’t make enough to afford retail rate apartments. This isn’t just theoretical; I know people in this situation.
I’ve created an example of someone peering into the gap. Suppose my friend makes minimum wage, works fulltime, and takes off a couple of weeks per year. Doing this she earns $27,000/year and qualifies for the 50% of Area Median Income program at the Gateway II (which is affordable housing in Astoria). Wonderful.
All is going well at work and she is offered a promotion that comes with a pay increase of $1 per hour. Great except she will now be above the income limit of this affordable housing program.
So, what about retail rate housing? HUD recommends paying no more than 30% of Gross Income for housing, including utilities. With the promotion, she would be able to spend up to $725. But as I showed in a previous Public Comment, studio apartments advertised rates range from $1,100 to $1,600 in the county. She can’t afford it.
What about stretching what she can afford? HUD categorizes her as Rent Burdened, living paycheck to paycheck, if she pays 50% on housing. That’s a limit of $1,208. But one missed paycheck and she’s in trouble. And in any case, many landlords require an income of 3 times the rent which would limit her to paying $805 per month… below the cost of a studio apartment.
To play it safe, she declines the promotion and will refuse all requests to work overtime for fear of losing her affordable housing.
Again, this is not just theoretical. Many folks coming out of recovery programs struggle to find housing. One reason is The Gap.
And perhaps worse… I know of people avoiding pay raises and avoiding overtime for this very reason… losing benefits such as affordable housing. And in creating this situation we’re creating a 2-tiered society… those in the bottom that rely on subsidies with limited options… actually disincentives… for moving up the ladder of success.
In this real-world example I’ve described, the rational response is to avoid a promotion to stay safely housed. Is that the world we want to create?
HUD Income limits for 2022: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il/il2022/2022summary.odn?states=41.0&data=2022&inputname=NCNTY41007N41007*4100799999%2BClatsop+County&stname=Oregon&statefp=41&year=2022&selection_type=county
Gateway Apartments: https://www.cascade-management.com/property/astoria-gateway-ii/details