You live in an apartment that needs repairs, but can barely afford to make rent even though you work two jobs. Your landlord just told you rents are going up next year, while your employer is cutting your shifts.

This is the experience of far too many people in the U.S., as median rents increased a staggering 18% while average incomes increased just over 3% from 2001 to 2021. In fact, there is not a single county in the U.S. where you can afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment while earning minimum wage–and housing and utilities account for U.S. residents’ largest monthly expense. After many consecutive years of decline, homelessness has been on the rise, with dramatic increases of people living unsheltered. Countless more in the U.S. are just one financial crisis away from losing their housing as the cost of rent skyrockets in most communities. These are our neighbors. This is us.

Last month, Funders Together to End HomelessnessFunders for Housing and OpportunityEconomic Opportunity Funders, and the Tax Equity Funders Network brought philanthropy together to explore how housing insecurity is an economic issue. During the webinar, partners outlined how racial and housing justice are inseparable and at the core of building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.

We can’t address housing affordability without fair wages and vice versa–and we can’t move forward solutions on either front without acknowledging and redressing how “the very basis of our economy was built on the exploitation of both land and labor,” said Michael Durham, Director of Networks at Funders Together to End Homelessness (FTEH), during the webinar.

Hard-wired into systems and programs at all levels of government and the private sector, generations of policies and practices bolstered white Americans’ stability, wealth, and access to opportunity while concentrating the effects of segregation, displacement, destabilization, gentrification, and poverty on Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.

Economics of Homelessness and Housing Affordability
Homelessness is a systemic failure and policy choice—not the result of individual choices. Housing insecurity is fundamentally tied to how today’s economic structures have made it so that too many poor and working-class people cannot compete in the housing market despite how hard they work. The financialization of housing is a key contributor to the global rise in homelessness. In a cultural and systemic shift driven by private equity firms and corporations, housing is increasingly treated as a commodity instead of a basic human need. As a result, housing financialization drives housing instability and raises housing prices at all levels.

We live in a world where solving homelessness and housing insecurity is possible, but to do so, we must dismantle our current systems and instead build new ways of being that put people before profit.

Read the full article about housing and economic justice by Christina Ostmeyer at Funders Together to End Homelessness.