From graduate student Mariah Seater, Young Alaskans for Anti-Poverty Initiatives (YAAPI).
Thousands of low-income working families in Alaska struggle because of our affordable housing crisis. Low-income households have incomes that do not exceed 80 percent of the local median income, which is equivalent to $59,150 for a family of three in Alaska. Extremely low-income households have incomes that do not exceed 30 percent of the local median income, which is equivalent to $23,500 for a family of three in Alaska (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).
Over 9,000 low-income households in Alaska use federal rental assistance to rent modest housing at an affordable cost. At least 56 percent have extremely low incomes, as shown by data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Federal rental assistance helps struggling Alaska seniors, people experiencing disabilities, veterans and working families keep a roof over their heads and make ends meet. In Alaska, this means that for every assisted household, over twice as many low-income households are homeless or pay more than half their income for rent and do not receive any federal rental assistance due to limited funding.
When housing costs consume more than half of household income, low-income families are at greater risk of becoming homeless. In 2016, 1,940 people in Alaska were homeless or living in shelters, including 168 veterans and 413 people in families with children.
Simply put, rental assistance supports low-wage working families. Most importantly, rental assistance helps families in urban and rural areas of Alaska. More than 2,600 Alaska households receiving federal rental assistance live in rural areas. When it comes to the dollars and sense, these programs brought $75 million in federal funding into Alaska in 2016.
During budget negotiations, I hope our congressional leadership fairly evaluates, considers and supports federal rental assistance to help house the people of Alaska because everyone deserves a home.
Mariah Seater, M.S.
MPH Student | Student Advisory Council (SAC) Member
Department of Health Sciences