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How Affordable is Housing in Mississippi?

A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows the need for more affordable housing in Mississippi. Helm Place in the Farish Street Historic District (pictured) won a national award in the Affordable Housing category.

A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows the need for more affordable housing in Mississippi. Helm Place in the Farish Street Historic District (pictured) won a national award in the Affordable Housing category. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— Rental housing in Mississippi is not very affordable, the new "Out of Reach 2017" report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows. The research found that in order to afford rental housing in the state, on average, a Mississippian needs to make $14.84 per hour, or more than double the minimum wage.

While Mississippi ranks on the list at 43rd, meaning it has one of the lowest two-bedroom housing wages in the country, residents have to work several hours over the standard 40-hour work week to afford rental homes at fair market rent, which is typically based on the 40th percentile of gross rents for standard rental units as determined by HUD.

In order to afford one-bedroom rent, the average Mississippian needs to work 67 hours at a minimum-wage job, the study found, or the equivalent to 1.7 full-time jobs to pay rent.

The Out of Reach report found that Lafayette County, Hattiesburg and Jackson are the most expensive areas for housing. A closer look at the data shows that affordable housing rates differ based on ZIP code. Market rent for a one-bedroom home in the 39201 ZIP code is $980, while the same home market rent in the 39203 ZIP code is $570. The median household income in the ZIP code 39201 is more than double the median income in ZIP code 39203.

Scott Spivey, the executive director at the Mississippi Home Corporation, which administers federal tax credits to developers for affordable housing as well as several HUD grant programs, said affordable housing is becoming a greater need nationally and in the state.

"(The report) basically said that in Mississippi to afford a (two-bedroom) market-rate apartment, someone working minimum wage would have to work 82 hours a week so their housing cost is not more than a third of their income," Spivey told the Jackson Free Press. "And obviously working parents can't work 82 hours a week, so market-rate housing is out of reach, hence the title of the report."

Spivey said programs like the housing tax-credit program, which was used to develop 88 affordable housing units in the Farish Street Historic District, are the most successful at housing those in the state who cannot afford market-rate apartments. The housing tax-credit program is run through IRS federal funds that the Home Corporation allocates out to the most successful developer applications each year. Spivey said Mississippi usually receives around $6.9 million in tax credits to administer the program.

The Out of Reach report suggests a realignment of federal housing spending to meet "our most critical housing needs."

"While millions of renters struggle to afford their rent, higher income homeowners receive a significantly greater share of federal housing expenditures than low income renters, predominantly through the MID (a federal tax expenditure)," the report says. "Homeowners are eligible to subtract the interest paid on their mortgage interest from their federal taxable income if they itemize their deductions rather than claim the standard deduction."

The authors of the report endorse the "Ending Homelessness Act of 2017" introduced in Congress that would provide billions of dollars in new funding through federal programs to "address the shortage of affordable housing and homelessness."

Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com and follow her on Twitter @arielle_amara.


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