As the cost of living continues to rise, and federal housing resources decline, more and more Americans simply cannot afford to pay their rent. Many are being forced into homelessness. This crisis does not discriminate by age, race or gender, and we all have a moral obligation to address it.

A call to action

Congress has yet to step up and provide real solutions for millions of Americans in need. It is time for that to change. We must start by raising awareness on a nationwide scale to show federal elected officials that they can no longer ignore the crisis taking place in their communities.

More U.S. households — approximately 43 million — rent their homes now than at any other point since 1965, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau housing data. Nearly 40 percent of those households are rent-burdened, meaning that their homes are unaffordable because they pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

The situation is particularly dire for low-income families. A Harvard University study found that approximately 80 percent of all renters who make less than $30,000 annually are rent-burdened. And let’s be clear: when families are rent-burdened, they struggle to afford basic necessities like food, health care and child care. Even if they avoid homelessness, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty that cuts off opportunities for them and their children. In a country as rich in resources as ours, this should be unacceptable.

It's happening in your own backyard

It must not be forgotten that this is a problem that affects rural and urban areas alike. Consider Greene County, a collection of small towns and villages in upstate New York located hundreds of miles north of New York City. Census data shows that residents in Greene County are under the same pressure as those in the Bronx with 61 percent of renters in both communities considered rent-burdened, struggling to afford their homes.

We can only address this crisis if more federal resources are devoted to increasing the supply of housing for low-income families and those Americans in need of affordable housing. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, demand for rental housing is outpacing supply by as much as 30 percent annually.

But the reality is that those federal resources cannot be unlocked until Congress steps up. That is why NYSAFAH is working with our partners across the country as part of the Council of Independent State Housing Associations (CISHA) to raise awareness nationally and help federal officials understand that they must act now.