Millions of Americans struggle with high housing costs, or, worse, find themselves at risk of losing their homes altogether. Even before the coronavirus, nearly a third of U.S. households spent more than 30% of their income on housing — the widely accepted gauge of affordability — with low-income households and renters the most likely to face high expenses, according to the Aspen Institute.
Why affordable housing is more crucial than ever
With the coronavirus leaving more Americans struggling to afford a home, these nonprofits are working to provide housing in their communities.
Nearly half of Black and Hispanic-Latino households are cost-burdened, compared with about a third of White households.footnote1 Now the economic fallout from the health and humanitarian crisis has led many to fall behind on rent or mortgage payments.
Below, three nonprofits share how they are working to help local residents find safe and affordable housing now:
United Way of Greenville County
Like many American cities, Austin, Texas has seen rapidly rising home prices and soaring rents in recent years. “It's very hard to live and work in Austin and not know somebody who needs an affordable place to live,” says Walter Moreau, executive director of Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit housing agency. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, 46% of Austin area renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing; one in five spend at least half.footnote2
In the below video, Moreau discusses how Foundation Communities is working to help, providing housing and supportive services, including education, health and financial programs. The agency operates 27 affordable housing communities with about 7,000 residents, many of whom are working people earning $15,000 or $20,000 a year who can’t find affordable rentals in town.
“People sometimes ask me ‘Who lives at Foundation Communities?’, and I describe them as people that you know,” says Moreau. “It may be somebody from church or school, somebody who you know from work.” Many are exiting homelessness or have physical or mental disabilities. Today a home is more essential than ever, Moreau adds. “This year has brought home, literally, the need for a great place to live that is stable.”
United Way of Greenville County
Greenville County, S.C. is home to the city of Greenville, once a major textile center and now a park-filled urban area that shows up on lists of the best places to live. Still, poverty is prevalent. “Time and again, the data show that people of color and other marginalized populations fare worse across almost all measures,” says Meghan Barp, president and CEO of United Way of Greenville County, which for nearly 100 years has partnered with local nonprofits and community leaders to support the area’s most vulnerable residents.
In the wake of the coronavirus, the challenge of providing affordable housing in Greenville has become more acute. A portion of the United Way’s Covid-19 Community Response Fund, which received a $70,000 grant from Bank of America, part of its $100 million commitment to local communities in need, has been earmarked to help those struggling with housing. Nearly nine out of 10 of those who’ve received emergency housing funds are minorities. To date, through the United Way of Greenville’s efforts, 450 households — including Evora Bentley and her daughters, pictured here — have received assistance with rent, utilities, mortgage payments and temporary hotel stays.
Hartford Interval House
As the coronavirus has led to social isolation, job losses, school closures, travel restrictions and other financial stressors, homes have become dangerous traps for some. “The pandemic has wreaked havoc on victims of domestic violence,” says Mary-Jane Foster, president and CEO of Hartford Interval House, Connecticut’s largest agency dedicated to ending domestic violence. Demand for the free services it offers, from counseling to emergency shelter, is at a record high. Its 20-bed safe house has been at 143% capacity, leading the agency to pay for hotel rooms for the overflow. But no one has been turned away.
What’s more, Interval House has seen more requests for help with food, utilities and other household expenses from current and former clients. “The victims of domestic violence that Interval House serves have always been economically challenged, but the pandemic magnified the disparity,” Foster says. Private support like a $30,000 grant from Bank of America is enabling the organization to respond to these kinds of client needs — and look ahead. “This allows us to get beyond the basics and set our sights on the future,” Foster says.
As nonprofits adjust to addressing increased needs in their local communities, Bank of America is committed to supporting them. Learn more about the bank’s efforts to help local communities address critical needs their residents are facing, from career development, to supporting small businesses, to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity.