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Central Illinois Affordable Housing Shortage Unchanged By Pandemic

Now Leasing For Lease
Emily Bollinger
There is a long-term shortage of affordable rental housing in the state and in central Illinois, according to a new report from advocacy group Housing Action Illinois.

It takes pay of more than $16.40 an hour for a full-time worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Bloomington-Normal and Peoria. That's according to a new report from Housing Action Illinois and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Housing Action Policy Director Bob Palmer said the gap means it's really tough for a lot of people to pay for a place to sleep. And for those who don't work full time, have disabilities and depend on Social Security payments, or are in or near poverty, he said there's not much hope at all.

"The deficit is around 270,000 affordable and available rental units statewide for people who are in that extremely low-income category," said Palmer.

The Out of Reach report said a minimum wage earner in Bloomington-Normal and Peoria must work 1.5 jobs to afford a two bedroom apartment.

The report said 35% of Bloomington-Normal residents and 28% of Peoria residents rent. Palmer called on state and federal governments to maximize distribution of housing assistance funds.

"We need really more robust investments from the federal government to increase the supply of affordable housing, but also increase rental subsidies through the housing choice voucher program that helps people pay their rent in the private market," said Palmer.

Palmer said Illinois did more than most states to provide pandemic-related rental assistance. Palmer said average rents went down slightly at the start of the pandemic because people weren't moving. He said that didn't last. A moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent will soon expire and Palmer said the aid only delayed the need to address the larger issue of affordable housing.

"In general, particularly for the lowest income households just because the existing deficit of affordable rental housing was so significant I think throughout the pandemic there really hasn't been any decrease in the rental costs," said Palmer.

It takes about $850 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Bloomington-Normal and Peoria. Palmer says a lot of people have to pay half to 75% percent of their income on housing. To be considered affordable, people shouldn't pay more than 30 % of their income on housing.

"As they do every year rents at the lower end of the market increased just because the competition is so great," said Palmer.

Palmer said increases in the minimum wage and labor market wage pressure from worker shortages are making housing more affordable for some. But he says a lot of people don't have full-time work or have disabilities and the average rent of more than $850 a month in Bloomington Normal and Peoria is more than they earn.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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