CHICAGO (CBS) — There is a gap in the supply of affordable housing in every neighborhood in Chicago, even those with some of the lowest rents in the city.
Monica Rivera, a single mother of six, is settling into her new four-bedroom rental in the Chatham neighborhood. She used to live in Englewood, a neighborhood struggling with disinvestment; but her rent there for a similar home climbed to $1,700 a month.
“When I first moved into Englewood, my rent was pretty affordable, and by the time I left, it was like $700 more,” she said.
She found a house in Chatham she could rent for $1,500 a month, but the hunt took eight months.
“I didn’t think I was going to struggle finding a place, but it was very challenging,” she said.
Ben Austen, author of a book on the history of the city’s Cabrini Green public housing project, said the state of affordable housing in Chicago is not good. Austen researched the city’s battles with affordable housing while writing “High Risers,” about the legacy of public housing in Chicago.
“There’s a huge deficit of affordable housing,” Austen said.
It’s estimated there’s a need for 348,000 affordable housing units in Chicago, but supply falls short by about 119,000.
“Housing is so fundamental in everything you do; to health, to work, to schooling,” Austne said.
Reports show $1,014 is the average rent for a one-bedroom unit in Chicago. That’s more than half the take-home pay of a worker earning the city’s $12 per hour minimum wage.
“It shouldn’t be so difficult to do so. I was working 50-plus hours a week,” Rivera said.
Marcus Robinson, a successful musician who wanted to call Englewood home, spent four months hunting for a modestly priced apartment.
“I wanted personally to be more closely rooted in a community where I could be of help. So Englewood was like ground zero,” he said. “I didn’t expect to have to pay rent like $1,700, $1,800, $2,000 a month; because that’s a mortgage payment to me.”
Rivera said she’s at peace in her new house in Chatham, though she doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to stay.
“Right now, my kids love it. My 5-year-old is like, ‘Thank you so much for the new house, mom,’” she said.
For all of Cook County, including the city and suburbs, the supply of affordable housing falls short by 180,000 units.