Minimum wage not enough for average housing rental - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Minimum wage not enough for average housing rental

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December 13, 2006

Albany - - You may take it for granted, but you need to be thankful for a roof over your head. Here's why. Many people right here in south Georgia struggle to afford even a modest place to live.

The minimum wage $5.15 an hour hasn't changed in 10 years. And people who make minimum wage or slightly more, need help paying for a home.

A person making minimum wage takes home less than $10,700 a year. That's a little under $900 a month - not including taxes or insurance. When you add it all up, the $500 a month for the average apartment in Albany is just out of reach.

Mattie Williams knows best. "I was staying with my mom and I had put in for the low income and I was on the waiting list and finally it came aboard where she called me, I said Hallelujah, thank God."

She's on a tight budget and pays a couple hundred dollars a month to live in her three bedroom two story home. "I said 'Thank God, I can afford that.'"

Many like her have no choice but live in public housing because average rent for a standard apartment doesn't fit in to their budget. In Albany, there's a larger problem.

"We need more housing absolutely, we need more housing because you have 289 people on a waiting list. We're not able to service those people within a year's time," says Jeanette Henderson of Albany's Public Housing Authority.

The housing authority is just about booked to capacity. It won't even add names to the waiting list right now.

"We haven't had any new money to build public housing in the last five or six years, Henderson says.

Some churches like Mt. Zion Baptist, offer affordable housing for low income people. With government assistance, some residents at Mt. Zion's rental units only pay $8.00 a month. These apartments, too, have a waiting list.

Williams is counting her blessings. A few years ago, she lived with her mom. Now her and her daughter have a place to call home. "I really love my home. I love it."  

Affordable housing advocates say your rent shouldn't be more than 30 % of your income. Albany's Public Housing Authority charges its tenants right at that 30 % mark.

The National Housing Coalition says on average nationwide, a person needs to earn more than $16.00 an hour just to afford a two bedroom apartment.

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