The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 1

My housing problems started three years. It was December 2014. I was about to graduate with a Master’s degree. It was an exciting time. It had taken 2 1/2 years of sweat, tears, and sacrifice. I was finally going to be free from the rigors of graduate studies. However, I made a mistake. I didn’t have a back up plan for my after college life. I relied heavily on student loans and an on campus job for living expenses.  I was so focused on my final project for my degree, I didn’t devote enough time to job hunting. Plus, I figured I would find a job easily, anyway. I had a Master’s degree, right?

I was in for a rude awakening. I found myself dead broke when school money dried up. I lost my job since it was for students only. I applied for several jobs, but nothing came up. I couldn’t afford to pay my half of the rent with a new roommate. The roommate tried to be patient, but I knew I had to be fair and leave so they could find a more stable roommate.  It was during this time, I found out I was pregnant.  I couldn’t believe it. I was older, and never really wanted children. Also, I thought my childbearing days were almost behind me, as my cycles were thinning out.

I moved in with someone I thought was a good friend.  It turned out to be a disaster. I was living in a hostile situation and the stress was too much. I decided to give my city the finger, and move back to the south were the majority of my family resided.

It went fairly well the first couple of months. I stayed with my biological father. Soon it turned another dramatic situation. I’ll just say, I’ve gots no love for my step-mother. Four days after the birth of my son, we moved into a homeless shelter for women and children. We lived there for seven months.  I was forced out after a new director thought I should be doing X,Y,Z since I was “highly” educated compared to many of the women in the shelter. But she didn’t take into account I was a single mom with a small baby, struggling with childcare issues like most parents. I was “highly” educated in a mostly service-industry town, where most people barely had GEDs. I was seen as over-qualified. I had nowhere to live if she kicked me out. What good is a degree when you are in crisis mode?

What if the problem of poverty is that it’s profitable to other people?

An aunt on my mom’s side let me stay with her (my mom passed away several years ago). Unfortunately, she was dealing with health issues and needed to move herself from an unhealthy apartment. I was at wit’s end. I was going to have to move again. I had been approved for a housing voucher, but it was hard finding a decent place. The housing list provided to search for places, many of the apartments had already been rented. Also, what folks aren’t told with housing vouchers you still have to pay application fees (there was only one apartment complex that waived the fee for those with vouchers), deposits, etc. This can get pricey as most application fees vary between $15-$40 dollars. If you put in 3-4 applications at $35 dollars a pop that’s easily $100 +.

The deposits depend on your credit/other issues. One place I looked at (which was raggedy as hell) wanted first and last and a $600 deposit. Obviously, if you are using a housing voucher it’s because you have limited funds. The applications/deposits can eat into whatever you have saved up to move into an apartment.

The amount of rent you pay is also distorted when it comes to housing vouchers. Despite popular belief, not everyone will only pay $50 bucks or some other low amount for rent. It depends on your income. While the myth is that those who get vouchers are lazy bums, the truth is Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that you have some type of income. You can’t just not work, unless you are on disability, SSI, etc. This can affect how much they will cover in rent. For example, if your rent is $900 a month, depending on your income, HUD may only pay $300 of the rent which means you still have to come up with $600.

This may not seem like a lot, but when you are of the working poor it can be expensive. Also, many apartments require you pay water/sewage/garbage and/or electricity. The only thing the vouchers cover is rent, nothing else. So, even with vouchers, rent/bills can still be overwhelming for most low-income families.

See Me Housing Support GOFUNDME

If you do happen to find a place that works with your budget, it may be all void if the apartment does not pass HUD’s inspection…which is very strict. I remember waiting in the local HUD lobby, and a couple was upset because the inspector refused to approve an apartment they liked. They were having a hard time finding another place. They were about to be homeless. On one hand, the inspections are meant to protect tenants from living in less than desirable conditions. The thing about it, it can be a hinderance to finding housing before your voucher expires if the apartments keep failing HUD standards. Perhaps, you are willing to tolerate something in an apartment because it’s spacious, close to work, etc., but HUD says NO! Then you have to start the search all over again.

It was because of application fees/deposits, why I lost out on my housing voucher. It was time-consuming looking for a place, and when I thought I found an apartment that worked for me, I had to figure out how to scrap up money to cover the fees.

Luckily, a friend I made at the shelter invited my son and I to stay with her. A few weeks later, I found a job. It seemed things were looking up. But as the saying goes, “shit happens…”



Author: Tonya J.

I enjoy reading, writing, and traveling!

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