What does it mean to have resource stability? CCFW’s Research and Evaluation team defines it as having one’s basic needs met. This includes housing, food, transportation, childcare – to name a few. Simple, right? Well, the reality is more layered than we might think.

This blog post is the first of a series exploring the basic human needs that make up resource stability and the resource-related challenges faced by families in our community. 

Housing

 

The Problem  

When we think about poverty and housing, our minds often jump to homelessness; however, other, equally prevalent forms of housing instability exist, and it’s these that we’ll focus on below. 

In a 2018 needs assessment commissioned by the City of Fort Worth, it was estimated that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Fort Worth is between $947 to $1,543 per month. 

The problem is, according to the United Way’s calculation of poverty – the ALICE threshold – more than a third of our friends and neighbors in Tarrant County earn a wage that allocates just $600 in housing per month in a county where a one-bedroom apartment likely costs $1,000 or more. Using the ALICE threshold, a single adult would need to earn at least $1,860 per month to afford basic necessities, including housing, but 36 percent of our neighbors in Tarrant County do not meet that income threshold. (City of Fort Worth, 2018; United Ways of Texas, 2020) 

Of course, housing is more than just being able to afford rent or a mortgage. There are other forms of housing instability.

Quality of Housing: For example, many of our neighbors live in housing units that are substandard. Specifically, 1,763 occupied homes in Tarrant County lack complete plumbing and 4,437 lack a kitchen. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019) 

Cost Burdens: Housing instability also refers to a situation in which tenants or borrowers are shouldering risky cost burdens – in its simplest form this means paying more than 30 percent of income on housing expenses. The City of Fort Worth reports that nearly 31 percent of all Tarrant County residents are at risk of this and roughly 46 percent of renters, specifically, are shouldering risky cost burdens to afford adequate housing. (City of Fort Worth, 2018). 

Why It’s Important  

Housing instability, when understood as our neighbors paying more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing expenses, has an obvious connection to their ability to afford other necessities. Individuals and families in these situations commonly forgo other basic needs, including food, medical care or childcare. Forgoing these needs has documented ramifications on one’s employment, emotional resilience, and financial resilience. (Fischer & Sard, 2016) 

What’s more, studies have shown that the disproportionate cost of housing is associated with tenants contributing less to emergency savings, putting their financial resilience further in jeopardy. (Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2018) 

Finally, when circumstances are especially dire, this high-cost burden can lead to foreclosures and evictions, tarnishing a renters’ credit and their ability to secure housing in the future. (ibid) 

The mismatch between the availability of affordable housing and low wages often forces people to live in less-than-desirable locations or units. This has multiple ramifications that adversely affect our neighbors’ journeys out of poverty, including: 

Employment: Often, low-cost units are further away from many work opportunities in a city. Given the fact that 95 percent of workers in the US do not have access to public transportation, this means they must also budget for the costs of owning and maintaining a personal vehicle – further crowding out other essential needs and threatening their ability to save. (Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2016; Crabtree, 2010) 

Education: Units with lower rent or home values also tend to be in areas with low-performing (and underfunded) schools and less public amenities, threatening even our youngest neighbors’ ability to get a fair start. (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2018) 

Safety: Lower-cost units are more likely to be in flood zones, areas with high-crime and near environmental hazards. These risks can disrupt work productivity, lead to health complications or learning disabilities and even depression. (Greater Houston Mitigation Consortium, 2019; NAACP, 2017; Taylor, 2018; Freedman & Woods, 2013). 

How We Help 

CCFW programs help address housing instability in a few different ways:

Short-term and immediate needs: Our Community Care and Community Connections programs focus on helping families that have an urgent and pressing need, providing a combination of resource connection and temporary financial assistance, which can include rental and utility assistance.

Chronic resource issues: Our long-term case management programs integrate resource connection and strategic financial assistance with service planning, addressing more chronic resource-related issues, including a family’s need for affordable and stable housing.

CCFW has a team of Resource Specialists who are the agency’s in-house experts on community resources and help our programs guide clients in the right direction. CCFW has a Resource Specialist dedicated specifically to housing. Resource Specialists are available to all CCFW program staff, and they assist via one-on-one consultations, trainings and education on resource connection, and an on-demand, curated information knowledgebase on available community resources. Through one-on-one consultations, staff also have access to the preferred resource partners developed by the Resource Specialists and access to supplemental financial assistance for their clients. This multifaceted strategy helps CCFW program staff more strategically and effectively leverage community resources for their clients.

Interested in more spotlights like this one? Get them in your inbox every month via our Research Spotlight Newsletter! Sign up below. 

Our Research and Evaluation team works diligently to stay on top of current poverty-related research, as well as evaluate our own agency’s impact. This newsletter and blog series is an initiative to share our learnings and keep our supporters in-the-know.

References

City of Fort Worth. (2019). Community Needs Assessment. https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/files/assets/public/neighborhoods/documents/cap-community-needs-assessment.pdf.  

Crabtree, S. (2010). Well-being Lower Among Workers with Long Commutes. Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/142142/wellbeing-lower-amongworkers-long-commutes.aspx. 

Fischer, W., & Sard, B. (2016). Chart Book: Federal housing spending is poorly matched to meet need. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/chart-book-federal-housing-spending-is-poorly-matched-to-need. 

Freedman, D., & Woods, G. W. (2013). Neighborhood effects, mental illness and criminal behavior: A review. Journal of Politics and Law, 6(3), 1-16. doi:10.5539/jpl.v6n3p1.  

Greater Houston Mitigation Consortium. (2019). Affordable Multi-Family Housing: Risks and Opportunities. Retrieved from https://www.houstonconsortium.com/graphics/images/MFReport.3.19-19-FINAL-Spreads.pdf. 

Joint Center for Housing Studies. (2018). The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018. Harvard University. Retrieved from https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Harvard_JCHS_State_of_the_Nations_Housing_2018.pdf. 

NAACP. (2017). Fumes Across the Fence-Line: Clean Air Task Force. Retrieved from http://www.catf.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CATF_Pub_FumesAcrossTheFenceLine.pdf. 

National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2018). Out of Reach 2018: How Much More do you Need to Earn to Afford a Modest Apartment in your State? Retrieved from https://tishmancenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CR_GaiaReportFinal_05.21.pdf. 

Taylor, L. (2018). Housing and health: an overview of the literature. Health and Affairs Health Policy Brief. Retrieved from https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20180313.396577/full/. 

United Ways of Texas. (2020). ALICE: A Financial Hardship Study. Retrieved from https://unitedforalice.org/all-reports. 

U.S. Census Bureau. (2019). American Community Survey, 2019. Retrieved from http://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=United%20States.