No Place to Call Home: The crisis

Rents are soaring. Affordable housing is disappearing. People can’t afford to keep their homes.
Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 10:02 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES, Ill. and Iowa (KWQC) - Rents are soaring. Affordable housing is disappearing and people can’t afford to keep their homes. These are all problems Quad Citizens are facing.

The Quad-Cities is in a housing crisis that threatens our neighborhoods. And if action isn’t taken now:

“You’re going to see a lot more people living unsheltered, says Ashley Velez, the executive director of Humility Homes and Services, a nonprofit housing group. “It’s going to turn more into like a Chicago or like a Seattle where there’s people outside. Nobody wants that. It’s not good for the person. It’s not good for our businesses. It’s not good for our community.”

While women, minorities and the poorest are most at risk, the crisis in the Quad-Cities affects everyone. Growing research shows that communities that lack affordable housing struggle to attract workers. Economies stall. Neighborhoods degrade. Schools suffer. Even rates of disease rise.

TV6 analyzed data from the U.S. Census and local housing groups that paint a grim picture. With spiking rent, fewer homes and depressed wages, it’s becoming increasingly hard for Quad-Citians to make ends meet:

  • To avoid spending more than 30% of her income on housing, a single mom with two children must make $33,000 a year to afford a two-bedroom apartment at about $800 a month.
  • A single adult must earn $26,000 annually for an efficient apartment at $650.

Rising rent

The figures come from a report by the Quad Cities Housing Cluster, a coalition of housing advocates, which in 2019 formed a task force to address the local housing situation. It compiled a comprehensive housing report for the Quad-Cities.

The major finding: Quad-Citians are earning more money, but not enough to keep up with exploding rent.

The median income in Davenport is $53,140, up by about 16% since 2010.

But rent has risen far faster: up 24% in Rock Island County and 22% in Scott County.

Today, the median gross rent in Davenport is $815 a month, according to estimates from the census bureau. It’s $736 in Rock Island.

For the extremely poor, those dwellings are out of reach.

About 12% of the Quad-Cities – or 15,455 households – live with incomes less than $22,000 a year. Of those, 76% pay more than 30% of their total income on rent.

Leslie Kilgannon is the executive director of the Quad-Cities Housing Cluster.

“As we’ve emerged from the pandemic and are in this new stage we’re seeing more and more people fall into housing instability,” she said. “And as rents increase and mortgage rates increase, a lot of options for affordability are no longer available to a larger swath of people. We’re talking about it impacting our community in a myriad of ways.”

Not enough homes

This all comes as the number of homes for low-income people is dwindling.

Affordable housing units in the Quad-Cities have declined by 5,976 since 2010 – a staggering 30.5%.

“For starters, we don’t have a large stock of affordable housing that’s safe, decent and affordable,” Kilgannon said. “We have units that are offline– either people have been priced out so they can’t afford those units and they aren’t available to them. Or the houses have gone offline, literally. They are unavailable because they are dilapidated, abandoned, not taken care of, so they’re off the market to rent or purchase.”

Houses built before 1977 are likely to contain lead and need remediation. Old boilers need to be replaced. Foundations need to be repaired.

Plus, absentee landlords are allowing properties to deteriorate, housing advocates say.

Altogether, renters are losing options.

Most troublesome: Advocates don’t see the situation improving without immediate changes to how housing is funded, built and maintained.

Coming up in the No Place to Call Home series, why Davenport has one of the highest eviction rates in the nation, what policies got us here, and who are the people on the brink of losing their homes?