Tonya Papanikolas ReportingUtah's working low-income population is finding it harder and harder to pay the rent. Utah's poor aren't alone. A new study says the problem is taking place all over the country. In fact, people earning minimum wage can only afford rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment in four of the nation's counties.
We have a problem just like the rest of the country. If a one-bedroom apartment is hard to afford, a two-bedroom is worse. Someone who makes minimum wage would actually have to work 104 hours a week to afford it here in Utah.
Melody Lloyd and her four children are happy to have a roof over their heads. A little over a year ago they were living in a homeless shelter because they couldn't afford a place of their own.
Melody Lloyd, Home Renter: “We shared one room and it was two bunk beds.”
Now Lloyd has a job working for America Online and a community housing program helps subsidize her rent.
Melody Lloyd: “It if wasn't for housing, there is no way we'd be able to afford this place, no way. With my income and everything, there's no way. We'd be in, not even a two-bedroom apartment."
In fact, a two-bedroom apartment typically costs almost 700 dollars in Utah. But according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a Utah worker would need to earn $13.36 an hour to afford that and still have money left over for necessities.
Ingrid Caceras, Apartment Renter: “You divide your money between your rent, you have to have rent. And then you get whatever’s left for food.”
Guadalupe Avila, Home Renter: “We sometimes don’t buy the food for our kids because we have to pay our house payment.”
Kerry Bate, Salt Lake County Housing Authority: “We get heartbreaking calls every single day from people who have just terrible housing situations. People who work every day who are playing by the rules, who are doing everything they should be doing, but they just don't have the income to find affordable housing."
And there are a lot of people in that category. More than 27,000 Utahns earn less than 30-percent of the annual median income. And while the Housing Authority is trying to help, thousands of people sit on a waiting list. Melody Lloyd knows she's lucky to be one of the success stories.
Melody Lloyd: “I'm very fortunate for what I have. I'm very fortunate."
In Salt Lake County alone the Housing Authority helps assist about 3,000 families. 4,000 are on the waiting list. The director there says unfortunately, many people end up in homeless shelters because they can't meet their housing costs.