Working Towards a Fundamental Human Right to Be Housed

The National Low Income Housing Coalition works to ensure everyone can afford a decent place to live.

A Housing Crisis and a Sense of Urgency

For the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the time to solve our housing crisis is right now.

The affordable housing crisis in this country is obvious. According to a report prepared by the NLIHC, the hourly wage you need on average to afford a two-bedroom apartment nationally is $22.10 ($17.90 for a one-bedroom)—but the mean hourly wage is just $16.88, and the federal minimum wage is $7.25. That explains in part a rise in homelessness across the country.

Serving those in need

“There's no doubt that if we don't act the crisis will only get worse—and we will pay for it one way or another.”

According to Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the nonprofit National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the affordable housing crisis isn’t new. “You have to go all the way back to the late 1970s to find a time when there was actually a surplus of homes that were affordable for the lowest income people,” she says.

“After the foreclosure crisis,” she adds, “millions more people entered the rental market when the supply was not keeping up. In short, we've had stagnating wages, rising rents, and declining Federal funds.”

Yentel is no newcomer to the battle for affordable housing, she has spent most of her adult life trying to be of service. With the NLIHC she focuses on those who need help the most. “The lens through which we do all of our work is focusing on the lowest income people—people with disabilities, seniors on fixed incomes, or families working really low-wage jobs.”

The tipping point

Yentel believes local communities and small businesses can have an impact. “Local communities should look at local zoning restrictions,” she says. “When you don't build any rental housing at all, much less housing targeted for the lowest income people, you see really skyrocketing rents like in San Francisco. There's no doubt that if we don't act the crisis will only get worse—and we will pay for it one way or another.”

We can be thankful that dedicated people like Yentel are out there fighting for affordable housing—and start thinking about what we can do in our own communities to help.