A new infographic just released shows that more than half of all Latino households in Rhode Island are living with a housing cost burden that impedes their ability to afford other necessities in life, and as a result, limits their ability to contribute to the economy in a healthy way, according to the Latino Policy Institute (LPI) at Roger Williams University and Housing Works which produced the findings.
The new infographic measures the purchasing power facing some Latino households by quantifying the amount of money being spent on housing. There are 138,550 Latinos living in Rhode Island. Over half of all the Latino households, the report indicates, carry onerous housing costs that are significantly disproportionate to their income levels.
“It’s a fact that Latinos make less, a lot less,” says Anna Cano Morales, Director of LPI at Roger Williams College, “and so we are making less, but we are still paying the same rent of people who are able to pay. We are definitely a young community, so we haven’t really evolved in the fields or the sectors where there is a higher earning potential, so that is certainly a factor. And education is a factor. I think it’s a combination of all those things, and we hope this infographic is the beginning of a conversation that RI policy makers start to have on looking at this fast growing demographic and really understanding economic development in RI.”
While on average 60 percent of residents own their own homes in RI, and 40 percent rent, only 25 percent of Latinos own their own homes, and 75 percent rent. Of those Latino renters 98 percent of the households earn $39,000 or less. This means that over half of all Latino households are cost burdened. Most of them are paying 30 percent of their income on housing, while many are even paying 50 percent of their income on housing.
“This doesn’t leave a lot of resources or a lot of money to make other investments in the community,” says Morales.
The data released by this infographic quantifies the decreased purchasing power that results from the housing cost burden. Overall, Latino renters in RI spend an estimated $152.7 million on rent and utilities each year. If homes were more affordable for these renters they would spend around $70 million a year. This would leave, roughly, $82 million a year that could be circulated into other parts of the economy.
“The annual savings generated by alleviating housing cost burdens would allow more Latinos to pursue such dreams as homeownership and higher education, or even purchase necessities such as healthcare and reliable transportation,” said Nicole Lagace, the Interim Executive Director for HousingWorks RI. “We encourage policymakers to consider how housing affordability affects local economies and develop strategies to ease the housing cost burden facing so many of our state’s renters.”
Morales says that LPI doesn’t proclaim to have any specific recommendations or solutions, and explains that this is a huge problem that does not exist in a silo or a vacuum. She says that this is basic economic development and warns that anybody who is in a position of authority or leadership — be it a mayor, general assembly member, or a governor of RI — that ignores housing and the cost of housing would do so at their own peril, because, she explains, this issue is attached to a whole host of issues that could either move RI’s economy forward or hold it back.
“There really is an economic development ramification that is happening right now, that will continue to happen if policy makers really don’t include the need for the cost burden of living in RI,” says Morales. “If we can address housing affordability for Latinos, this young and fast-growing demographic can play an even larger role in Rhode Island’s economic growth.”
As Morales has stated, this is not an issue that is isolated to RI, however. The infographic seems to demonstrate that it is an issue that is more pronounced in the Latino community of RI. It is an issue that is seen in the rest of the country as well, where many people work full time jobs, yet, still live in poverty. As the President of the U.S. is questioning the minimum wage and the ability of many people to manage the their own cost burdens throughout the states, Morales and her team are asking similar questions here in RI, specifically in regards to the Latino community — and it seems, rightfully so.