Recently, my son and I went to look for apartments near the University of Florida in Gainesville. Since we live near Sarasota, a 3 ½ hour drive away, we decided to contact as many apartment communities as we could in order to filter out the ones that met our very limited budget. We called nearly 20 different places before we finally narrowed it down to a select few. One particular property had a reasonable rate advertised, so we made an appointment, and we were on our way. Upon our arrival, I asked to see the price sheet for their market rate apartments. The leasing agent informed us that since the property was 100% Low Income Housing Tax Credit, there were no market rate apartments available.
Working in the affordable housing industry, I knew we had wasted 3 ½ hours, because my son, as a full-time student, did not qualify for income-based affordable housing under the housing credit program. The question that popped into my head at that very moment however was, “Why not? Why don’t students qualify for affordable housing? Don’t most students need affordable housing?”
Unfortunately, my son has to take out student loans to pay for his tuition and living expenses, because I am not wealthy enough to afford to pay for everything, yet I’m not poor enough to where he or I could qualify for any type of federal grants or assistance for his tuition or living expenses.
Recently, there have been many articles, lectures, and political discussions on the subject of the student loan debt in the U.S. far surpassing the national credit card debt by a landslide.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
“Student loan debt has reached a new milestone, crossing the $1.2 trillion mark — $1 trillion of that in federal student loan debt….”
Forbes Magazine states,
“Two-thirds…of students graduating from American colleges and universities are graduating with some level of debt…one in 10 graduates accumulates more than $40,000…It’s a negative sum game for both student-borrowers and the economy…”
So, wouldn’t it appear to be a viable solution, for at least a portion of the “student debt” problem, to develop programs specifically geared toward affordable housing for students? Wouldn’t that directly effect the amount of loan money a student would have to borrow? In Gainesville, Florida, for example, the average cost to rent a one bedroom apartment is approximately $700 per month, or $8,400 per year, excluding utilities and other expenses, on top of a tuition that is approximately $6,500 per year (in state). How then is the lack of affordable housing not contributing to the ever-increasing issue of student loan debt?
There are some that would argue that, “If students qualified for affordable housing, then everybody would qualify for affordable housing.” But, isn’t that kind of the point? The need for affordable housing, without question, exists more than ever; so, why not appropriate funds from certain tax credit programs to go towards affordable student housing? Aren’t those students people who, on average, would contribute more to our economy with better paying jobs? You decide…