WHAT IS AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
The simplest definition of affordable housing is housing that doesn't cost more than 30% of your family income. If you’re paying more than that and you’re making less than the Median Family Income (MFI) for a family of four, then you’re probably struggling to make ends meet.
Regarding the sales tax measure currently before the Anacortes City Council, Washington State law (RCW 82.14.530) limits affordable housing and related programs to specific groups whose income is at or below 60% of the local Area Median Income or as it is also called the MFI. These include:
People with mental illness;
Homeless, or at-risk of being homeless, families with children;
Unaccompanied homeless youth or young adults;
People with disabilities;
Domestic violence survivors.
The law also specifies that the remainder of the money collected under this section be used for the operation, delivery, or evaluation of mental and behavioral health treatment programs and services or housing-related services.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines MFI for each area of the country and states that families who pay more than 30% of their income for housing are likely to have difficulty affording food, clothing, transportation and health care.
Health care insurance is rarely offered by companies employing minimum-wage earners or those working less than 40 hours a week.
Low-income families are often only one illness away from being destitute.
A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States, reports HUD. Even in Washington State, which along with Massachusetts has the highest minimum wage in the country, a significant percentage of our population must struggle to afford adequate housing.
In Anacortes, 33% of our residents are paying more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities, according to HUD data.
Median Family Income for Anacortes is $79,100, which means the income of 50% of our residents is above that figure and 50% is below.
To get a better understanding of the implications of that MFI, let’s look at a hypothetical family of four here in town. The father works year-round for a lawn service company, the mother flips hamburgers part-time at a local fast food restaurant. They have two school-aged children: a boy and a girl. The family owns one car, which the father drives to work; the mother walks to her job.
Our hypothetical family earns 60% of the MFI, for a total of $47,460. Going back to our definition of affordable housing, 30% of their yearly earnings is $14,238. Divided by 12 months that means they can afford $1,186.50 a month for rent. If they earned 70% of MFI, they could afford a rent of $1384.25 a month.
The chart below lists rents on the open market: our family of four cannot afford a two-bedroom unit earning 60% of the FMI. Only if they made the full FMI of $79,100 could they pay the rent on a three-bedroom unit.