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How can assisted renters gain economic independence in today’s economy? New research sheds light.

Posted by Keely Jones Stater, PhD, Director, Research and Industry Intelligence
Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC)
800-873-0242, ext. 222
Keely Stater is the director of research and industry intelligence at PAHRC. With nearly fifteen years of social science research experience, Keely directs PAHRC’s research activities and oversees its data tools. Prior to working at PAHRC, Keely taught as a public policy professor at several universities. As a researcher, her work includes publications on affordable housing, public administration, and civic engagement. Keely holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Notre Dame.

Keely Stater

Although many low-wage workers work full time, they still need help affording decent rental homes. They also face the same challenges that other, better paid American workers struggle with—finding meaningful work with gainful wages and opportunities for advancement, paying for childcare, and affording tuition for continuing education—but the hurdles are higher. That’s because low-wage workers lack the ability to save money, which puts them at a disadvantage when compared with families whose incomes enable them to save. Our new research also finds that many assisted renters start a step behind their low-income peers in terms of educational attainment, and face additional difficulties like health limitations and caregiving responsibilities. These disadvantages are exacerbated in today’s economy, where more and more jobs require advanced training, mid-wage jobs are shrinking, and low-wage jobs don’t pay enough to cover decent rental housing or childcare.

The good news? Our research shows that there are several ways housing providers and policymakers can help able-bodied, working-age renters get ahead. A few are highlighted here.

  • Provide affordable child care and care for disabled family members. The top reason assisted renters don’t work full time—or at all? They’re caring for family members. Access to affordable childcare services such as daycare or before- and after-school care would help parents attend training classes, enter full-time employment, or pursue opportunities for advancement at work.
  • Invest in education. Many working-age, able-bodied individuals who live in publicly supported housing need advanced education and training if they are to experience economic mobility. Support may include financial assistance for tuition, help selecting a program that fits their talents and interests, aid in locating skilled apprenticeship programs or internships, and help negotiating the college application and financial aid process.
  • Offer savings incentive programs. Work and savings incentive programs that also provide support for educational and training investments, such as the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), can also help assisted individuals advance at work and position themselves for a better paying job. These programs incentivize savings by depositing rent increases related to increases in income into escrow accounts. They may also provide case management and training opportunities that help position residents for better-paying jobs.

To read more about these and other policies that may help families reach economic independence—as well as new research behind current employment trends among assisted renters—download PARCH’s latest report.