As anyone on a campus, or that has moved out, will tell you, housing can get incredibly expensive. The living conditions in many areas are not safe, and yet the cost of housing continues to rise-especially for rental units. Many people refer to housing as, “the key to reducing intergenerational poverty and increasing economic mobility.” If that is the case, then we should be taking steps to address our affordable housing crisis.

Nationally, “there is a shortage of more than 7 million affordable homes for our nation’s 11 million plus extremely low-income families. There is no state or county where a renter working full-time at minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment.

In fact, in 2016, Harvard researchers found nearly half of renters were cost-burdened (defined as spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent). In the majority of areas around the US , even a 1 bedroom apartment can not be within budget for someone working minimum wage. However, zoning laws that are currently in place only further fuel the rising demand for housing and allow current landlords to continue to raise their rent prices and mistreat their tenants. With a suppressed housing supply , landlords have no incentive to improve their units or services because there is no better alternative available. Furthermore, due to zoning and increasing costs many people and families are forced to move to less-expensive areas which contributes to high transportation costs. Many urban and suburban areas in the United States do not have reliable or efficient public transportation unlike their international counterparts. Therefore, many families have an additional cost burden for all of the added transportation costs.

Without affordable housing, many Americans suffer in several ways. Many Americans struggle with landlord disputes and especially with larger rental organizations. This can take valuable time and resources from a family that is already barely making ends meet. Furthermore, the lack of stability makes financial planning for the future nearly immposible. How can families be expected to factor in sudden added costs? According to the National Low Income Housing coalition, it is estimated that the US needs a minimum of 7.2 million more affordable housing units to begin to bridge the gap.

Housing has a lot of ramifications for many people. Without adequate affordable housing we continue to perpetuate a number of catastrophic poverty cycles. People cannot move into better neighborhoods with good education systems which perpetuates students dropping out of schools in underserved communities. Furthermore, when job-seeking, employers require or prefer a stable address and phone number because it is seen as “reliable.” This means that many people will stay in a bad rental situation to avoid moving during their job search and may need to take far longer commutes to find a good paying workplace. There have been countless stories of rental and mortgage nightmares. Families that don’t have an adequate income often cannot threaten to sue or sue for breaches or violations of contracts as readily as the middle and especially upper middle class and thus continue to suffer in silence.

Furthermore, subprime lending and redlining furthers the issue for black and hispanic families in the United States. Mortgage lending discrimination has unfortunately been very prevalent in the housing market. Besides subprime lending, these families are also more likely to get denied for mortgages which forces them to stay in the rental sector as purchasing a house, for most families, requires a mortgage.