The Affordable Housing Homeowner: It’s Not Who You Think

Who Lives in Affordable Housing?
The topic of affordable housing may evoke memories of past public housing failures. However, data has shown that these fears are unwarranted. Below are a few myths we hope to dispel about the people who live in affordable housing.

“People who live in affordable housing don’t work.”

Some fear that people who live in affordable housing are in a state of absolute poverty or do not have jobs. However, Habitat homeowners are valuable employees who work right here in Broward County, including pre-school teachers, bank tellers, social workers, legal aides, and tourism and service professionals such as servers and bartenders. Most people living in affordable housing are hard-working service personnel.

If they work, why do they need affordable housing? More than half of Broward’s workforce earns less than the area median income. People we come across every day struggle to keep a roof over their heads. When the employees mentioned above spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, it limits their ability to cover necessary expenses such as food, education, insurance and clothing. It is especially hard to save any money for the future under these circumstances.

The United Way’s ALICE Report (Winter 2017) describes heads of households who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed. According to the ALICE Report, of Florida’s 7.5 million households, 14.5 percent earn below the federal poverty line and another 29.5 percent are ALICE. In 2015, out of 673,870 total heads of household in Broward County, a whopping 44 percent were in poverty and within the ALICE threshold parameters.

“People in affordable housing are all minorities.”

ALICE and poverty-level households exist in every racial and ethnic group in Florida. In fact, white households make up the largest number of households living below the ALICE threshold in the state, at 26 percent. There were 1.7 million white households both in poverty and at or below the ALICE threshold in 2015, compared to 1.5 million Asian, black, and Hispanic households in poverty and the ALICE threshold.

“People looking for affordable housing are just looking for a handout.”

Affordable housing is part of state and federal efforts to ensure hardworking Americans have shelter for themselves and their families. Habitat for Humanity does not simply give people homes. These future homeowners participate in an extensive pre-qualification process, attend a year of homeownership classes, make a modest down payment and pour a minimum of 300 hours of “sweat equity” into the construction. This earns them a zero-interest mortgage, payable over 30 years.

At Habitat for Humanity, we believe that everyone should be able to achieve his/her highest potential. Affordable housing makes that possible for people who work hard and deserve a decent place to live. Healthy, happy, engaged citizens are the result of affordable homeownership through Habitat.