FILE - Illinois, apartment, rental housing, for rent

A rent sign displays outside apartment in Mount Prospect, Ill., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – A recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Housing Action Illinois showed $22.11 is the hourly wage a full-time worker needs to earn in order to afford an average apartment.

Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, says there is a disconnect in the market.

“The majority of rents in society are set on what the private market can charge, so basically there’s a disconnect between the demand and the supply,” Palmer said. “The supply of rental housing, particularly for people with the lowest incomes, isn’t sufficient and the basic costs of operating and maintaining a rental apartment building are such that the rents aren’t affordable to the people with the lowest incomes.”

He adds that, unfortunately, this has long been the case.

“There’s a shortage of about 270,000 rental units that are affordable and available to households with the lowest incomes who are renters, and about two thirds of extremely low-income renters are paying more than 50% of their income for housing,” Palmer said.

The state’s minimum wage is $11, but the lowest the state’s housing wage goes in more affordable areas is $13.46, according to the report.

“Nowhere in Illinois can a minimum-wage earner afford the average rent on a one- or two-bedroom apartment if their only income is from minimum wage,” he said.

Palmer says government interference is needed to fix the problem.

“It’s so important that we have government investment – particularly from the federal government – to address this supply/demand mismatch and make sure everyone has an affordable place to call home,” he said.

Palmer would like to see rent assistance in the form of housing choice vouchers be made available to every income-eligible household.

“Right now they’re only available based on how much funding the federal government provides. In Illinois, almost every waiting list for housing choice vouchers is closed. If you’re in Chicago, for example, if you’re on the waiting list, the time you have to wait to get a voucher is years and years.”