In Illinois, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,085. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $3,617 monthly or $43,406 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of: $20.87
The problem is systemic and is reaching almost epidemic proportions. Rents are soaring in every state and community at that same time when most Americans haven’t seen enough of an increase in their paychecks.
The result: more than 7 million extremely low-income families do not have an affordable place to call home and half a million people are living on the street, in shelters, or in their cars on any given night. The human toll this places on families – through stress and job loss – are extraordinary and well-documented by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond in his recent book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.”
…The most shameful part is the fact that we already have the resources and solutions needed to effectively end homelessness and housing poverty for millions of families. We just need the political will to do what is right
When I moved into this duplex, the landlord gave me permission to do a little gardening. It was one of the many questions I had before moving in and the representative from the company that manages this building assured me it was ok. Of course, this is a place I rent, not a place I own, so I have been both cautious and careful about what I plant and how much money I spend.
We’ve had an unusually large amount of rain this year, and most of the plants in my little garden plots are doing extremely well – therefore, I have decided to brag about my garden.
Herbs In The Front Yard
I removed the weeds, put down mulch, and planted (from left to right) Swiss Chard, Cilantro, purple Sage and Chives (purple flowering). The Hosta (in the center) was already there.
All of these plants are doing really well except the chives. For some reason, the chives are struggling.
Pretty Flowers Beside The Door
I’d taken the time to give this bush a much-needed trim before putting down mulch and planting some pretty purple and pink flowers for mother’s day (a family tradition). I’m glad we chose the flowers we did because, soon after, the bush burst into bloom with pretty pink (bright pink!) flowers in the spring. Sadly, I did not take a picture before the flowers were all gone – they are rather short-lived.
For some reason, this house has two doors, and two sets of cement steps leading up to those doors, on the same side of the house. The bush in this picture is the same bush in the previous picture. Since this second door is never used (it even has a ‘do not use’ sign), I played around with using this stoop as a home for plants in pots.
This flower is the only thing that really took to this location (and survived the squirrels). It’s such a pretty flower! I wish I’d thought to take a picture when the whole thing was in bloom. I’ll have to try to remember to snap a photo with my phone the next chance I get.
I pulled all the weeds out of this area along the side of the house, put down mulch and planted strawberry plants. They have not started to produce strawberries, but they have been growing strong. A few are starting to send out little vines, so they should spread out nicely.
The large leafy flowering plants behind the strawberries were already there. They produce pretty orange flowers when they are in bloom. The low leafy flowering plants (tiny purple flowers when in bloom) around the edges are all over the yard. There isn’t much grass on this property because these plants cover everything, so the grass grows up around them. It’s actually kind of nice because they are just as soft as grass, so it doesn’t get in the way of lounging/playing in the backyard.
I allowed some of the purple flowers to remain around the strawberries because they were pretty when they were in bloom but they spread aggressively, so I have to weed them away from the strawberries from time to time.
Old Laundry Line Pole
When I did the walk-through on this place, this old metal pole in the backyard stood out like a sore thumb. It’s left over from a time when people did laundry outside. There’s nowhere to attach a laundry line/rope, so it has no purpose except to just stand there looking like…well, like this.
I was trying to find a way to make it less ugly when I noticed that it was both extremely solid/sturdy and it had holes drilled into the arms. So, I went out and bought some hanging baskets, planted some flowers and decorated with a wind chime. Much better! (Not perfect, but BETTER!)
If I owned this place…or if I had the tools, time and skills…I would seriously look at turning this thing into some kind of hanging garden with several tiers of wide (the width of the arms) garden boxes. Another option is to plant a flowering vine (of some sort) at the base and let it consume the entire pole.
This is an excellent example of one of the primary reasons why I find renting so frustrating – I just want to get out into the yard and fix it!
Former Wood Pile Is Now A Garden
When I moved in, I noticed a wood pile in the back of the yard. Throughout the Midwest, burning wood in your yard is extremely common. Even in the middle of the city, on rented property, people will have city-approved fire pits. So, the wood pile wasn’t unusual.
When spring arrived (I moved in during the winter) I realised it was a wood and trash pile, filled with all sorts of rotting things that needed to be dealt with (somehow). There were also lots of broken glass, beer bottle tops and cigarette butts all over the yard – I guess the former tenants had many gatherings (or something). When you rent, this sort of problem is common. People just don’t take care of places they don’t own.
So, I sorted out the wood pile, got the trash hauled away (including the glass and cigarettes, when I found them), put everything into the yard-waste garbage can that was allowed and used the former wood-and-trash-pile space to create a tiny vegetable garden.
I had several pots full of dirt that I’d attempted to use for gardening-from-seed, but the squirrels kept digging in the dirt. Every single time little shoots of plants would appear, I would come home to find the entire pot dug up – it was as if the squirrels had decided to stir it up (like a soup).
I finally decided to just dump all of the dirt into the former-wood-pile location, use some of the large wood pieces (not allowed in the yard waste bin) to create a garden border, and planted some already-grown plants purchased at local garden centers.
The end result is two tomato plants (in the back) and (from left to right in the front) zucchini, cucumbers and pumpkins.
There’s also a section of those flowering plants that are growing in other parts of the yard. This fence is really ugly, and a portion of the flowers was over-grown (potentially root bound), so I moved a small section out of the overgrown area and replanted it in this tiny garden plot. The thought was, long-term, these flowers would spread and cover up the fence line.
Wish It Were My Own
I really enjoy doing yard work on the weekends and playing around with little gardening projects. Obviously, I’m not a master gardener, but it’s fun.
Sadly, this is an apartment and, sooner or later, we will have to move. I’m going to miss this place when we leave.
In Milwaukee’s poorest black neighborhoods, eviction had become commonplace—especially for women. In those neighborhoods, 1 female renter in 17 was evicted through the court system each year, which was twice as often as men from those neighborhoods and nine times as often as women from the city’s poorest white areas. Women from black neighborhoods made up 9 percent of Milwaukee’s population and 30 percent of its evicted tenants. If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.
A black woman whose hearing had just concluded stepped back into the room, holding her child’s hand. Her head was wrapped, and she had kept on her heavy blue winter coat. She continued down the middle aisle of Room 400, walking by an anemic white man with homemade tattoos, a white woman in a wheelchair wearing pajama pants and Crocs, a blind black man with a limp hat on his lap, a Hispanic man wearing work boots and a shirt that read PRAY FOR US—all waiting for their eviction cases.
Tenants in eviction court were generally poor, and almost all of them (92 percent) had missed rent payments. The majority spent at least half their household income on rent. One-third devoted at least 80 percent to it. Of the tenants who did come to court and were evicted, only 1 in 6 had another place lined up: shelters or the apartments of friends or family. A few resigned themselves to the streets. Most simply did not know where they would go.
“Well I walked over the bridge
Into the city where I live,
And I saw my old landlord.
Well we both said hello,
There was no where else to go,
‘cuz his rent I couldn’t afford.”
We forget what we got,
Who we are.
Or who we are not.
I think we gotta chance,
To make it right.”