FRESNO, Calif. _ The apartments along Lowe Avenue in southeast Fresno, Calif. sound like a good deal. For about $600 a month, you can get two bedrooms, and bad credit won't keep you out.
But many costs aren't in the lease: Some apartments are teeming with roaches and mold, creating a veritable stew pot for illness _ and constant doctor bills. It's in a dangerous neighborhood, so costly possessions _ such as stereos _ have a way of disappearing.
People live here because they're poor and can't afford anything better. But compared to those with just a little more money, they must spend an enormous share of their household incomes on rent.
The same is true across the central San Joaquin Valley and the nation: When it comes to housing, being poor is expensive.
Being poor often means not having enough money for a down payment or security deposit. Often it means having bad credit, reducing options even more.
Then there are the hidden price tags _ the cost of limited mobility, a greater likelihood of getting ripped off in any number of ways, and expensive medical bills for things like lead poisoning from old paint.
"It's costly for families, for parents, for kids and for the hospital system," said the Rev. Sharon Stanley, founder and executive director of the nonprofit social-service agency Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, or FIRM.
The main program to help people afford housing is Section 8, a federal program that works with local governments to subsidize rents. And it's overwhelmed. In Fresno County, about 13,000 households receive Section 8 vouchers worth an average of $560 per month. Another 21,000 are on the waiting list, said Preston Prince, the executive director of the Fresno Housing Authorities.
Read the full story at fresnobee.com.