Across the country, rents are on a continual upward trajectory while wages have remained stagnant.
Americans have risen to meet the challenge of increasing rent in several ways. Living with roommates is the most popular arrangement for people trying to lessen the impact of housing costs on their paychecks. According to Make Room data, among millennials living in Massachusetts in 2013, 13.2 percent reported living with roommates; in Colorado this figure was 11.7 percent, marking a three percent increase from 2008 for the Rocky Mountain state.
Americans have also staged protests and campaigns to fight for higher pay. The Fight for 15 campaign launched in 2013 with the goal of raising minimum wage to $15 per hour. The movement has had notable success in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Berkeley. Earlier this year, the Department of Labor (DOL) also contributed to the movement for higher pay, releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would increase the salary threshold for employees eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $50,440 in 2016 and be updated yearly.
This progress in wage is noteworthy, but it is trumped by rent increases. According to Enterprise Community Partners analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, over one in four families spend more than half their monthly income on rent and utilities. This leaves minimal money for food and other expenses such as car insurance and student loans, especially for households with children.
The Make Room campaign “partners with and convenes corporations, policymakers, nonprofit organizations and advocates to raise awareness in support of the 11 million families struggling to make rent.” The campaign is partnering with Enterprise Community Partners, an organization that advocates for and creates affordable housing throughout the U.S.
Make Room has been holding living room concerts with prominent musicians in the homes of struggling renters. Dubbed “Concerts for the First,” these events have taken place in Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville and Denver. To raise the awareness of increasing rent, Make Room compiles videos of these performances, as well as of the individual stories of these families.
The fight to afford rising rents on perpetually unchanging paychecks is a reality around the country, and significant change must occur in order to provide Americans with the basic necessities they are undeniably earning.