A 2018 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that a St. Louisan who earns minimum wage would have to work 81 hours per week in order to afford a modest apartment. That reality is part of what Esther Shin describes as a “national affordable-housing challenge” stretching from San Francisco to New York City.
Shin is president of Urban Strategies, Inc., a national nonprofit based in St. Louis that is among several organizations working to address the crisis.
“There is a shortage of 7.2 million units of housing across the country,” she told host Don Marsh during Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, “and on average there are 3.5 million individuals that are facing homelessness every year. And about a third of those are children.”
Shin is on the team responsible for managing a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Grant that aims to improve life in north St. Louis. The group is also involved in managing a grant intended to help residents of East St. Louis.
Some families, Shin said, are in a situation where they are “housing burdened,” with few financial resources left for food and other necessities after covering shelter.
“[That’s] where you’re spending over 50 percent of your household income on housing, and we’re seeing more and more families [facing that],” Shin explained.
The affordable-housing crisis overlaps with a range of issues, she noted.
Some of Urban Strategies’ work involves supporting residents in skill building and financial empowerment “so that [people] can actually afford to live in safe, quality, affordable housing.”
“I think that we need to advocate to ensure that families aren’t struggling with the benefits cliff,” she added, referring to the so-called “disincentive to work” where housing benefits decrease and work time increases. “Oftentimes our families have to make a tough decision about working or losing their housing benefit.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.