Group: Affordable housing hard to find

LAWRENCEVILLE - Low-income families find it harder to afford apartments in Gwinnett and elsewhere, a housing advocacy group said Tuesday.

"The disparity between what people earn and what even modest rental housing costs grows larger each year," Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in the report.

A Gwinnett two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent is $818 a month, but to afford it would take an hourly wage of $15.73, according to the Coalition.

Georgia's minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, which is also the federal rate. Fifteen states have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

In its report, "Out of Reach 2005," the Coalition said rental housing costs increased to $15.78 an hour, or three times the federal minimum wage.

The group says households should need to spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities.

For the first time, it found a full-time worker at minimum wage can't afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.

The report also criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose housing subsidies for hurricane victims are set to expire in the coming weeks.

"This is the housing market in which millions of low-wage workers and elderly or disabled people must try to find safe and decent homes. Now tens of thousands of displaced people from the Gulf Coast have joined them in this competition for scarce housing that they can afford. And FEMA wonders why evacuees are still in hotels," according to the report.