Like food and water, shelter is a basic human need. But for many working families in North Carolina finding an affordable place to live can be difficult, if not impossible. The latest episode of WRAL-TV’s “Focal Point” documentary series explores North Carolina’s affordable housing shortage and profiles working people in our communities who can’t afford one of life’s most basic necessities. Hosted by WRAL Anchor Debra Morgan, Focal Point: Home Economics will air on Thursday, March 3, 2005, at 7:30pm on WRAL.
Experts say people shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. Based on that standard, a person making minimum wage, which is $5.15 an hour in North Carolina, can afford monthly rent of no more than $268. One-bedroom apartments in North Carolina typically rent for more than $500 and two-bedrooms for more than $600. The median monthly mortgage payment in our state is $1088. The gap between wages and housing costs means many people in our communities, from cooks and janitors, to teachers and firemen, can’t afford to live in the communities where they work.
People who can’t find affordable housing have few good choices. They can pay more rent than they can afford which can lead to increased debt and ultimately financial crisis. They can live in sub-standard housing that may be unhealthy or unsafe. They can look for scarce housing opportunities in more rural areas but face the additional time and expense of a long commute. Or, they can become homeless.
The state’s appropriation to the North Carolina’s Housing Trust Fund is $3 million a year. Advocates say that needs to be boosted to $50 million to meet North Carolina’s immediate need for affordable housing. This year they are going to make that case to the General Assembly in an effort called the Campaign for Housing Carolina. It will be a difficult challenge as the state is facing another billion-dollar budget shortfall.
Home Economics is the fifth episode in the WRAL News series called Focal Point. These in-depth news documentaries focus on a single topic, bringing depth and clarity to complicated issues facing North Carolina. From North Carolina’s economy and environment, to health care and race relations – Focal Point takes viewers inside the lives of the people most affected. Focal Point tackles the tough questions with leaders and policymakers who have the power to effect change. WRAL News anchors, including David Crabtree, Pam Saulsby, Bill Leslie, Gerald Owens and Debra Morgan, host the series. Six to eight new episodes of Focal Point will be produced each year.