‘We have a full pool of existing applicants’: Many needing rental assistance in Birmingham

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A study by MyEListing, a commercial real estate website, shows 25% of Alabamians are behind on rent.

The CEO of Birmingham Urban League, which helps with rental assistance, said he is not surprised. His own pool for rental assistance is full.

“We see people in the big cities like Birmingham, but also in some of the smaller cities like Brighton and other places, and I have to tell you that across the board, you’ve seen the exponential rent climb in all of those areas,” said William Barnes, CEO of Birmingham Urban League.

They have seen a steep rise in clients needing rental assistance. Right now, they are able to help about 80 families per week. Barnes said that they average about 400 families per month. He said families are having to spend much more than the recommended 25% of their income on rent.

“As much as 40 to 45%, as much as 15% of their income higher,” Barnes said.

A researcher with Rent.com says one reason this is hitting families so hard is because wages are not able to keep up.

“Wages are up particularly for lower income people, wages are up, but wages are not rising as fast as rents are rising. And so any of that extra money you might be seeing in your paycheck is really going to get eaten up by your housing costs,” said Jon Leckie with Rent.com.

He says Birmingham and other city’s costs are slowly declining, but they’re still high compared to pre-pandemic and even last year at this time.

“It’s up a little over 18%,” Leckie explained.

Urban league’s rental assistance programs have been full for a while but they and Jefferson County just announced this week they’re accepting applications for the 18-month rent help once again.

“There’s very few people that can say that they haven’t had any impacts in any part of their life. And so it’s open up to a much more robust amount of folks,” Barnes said.

For more information on the Urban League and how to apply, click here.

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