North Texas

Poor Can't Afford Housing Even With Government Assistance

Economic boom leaves poorest behind, experts say

The economic boom in North Texas is pushing up apartment rents so high that poor people are having a hard time finding affordable homes – even with government assistance, experts say.

"There are so many people who are moving to North Texas who are competing with our voucher holders that many of the voucher holders just can't find a unit," said Selarstean Mitchell, vice president of assisted housing for Fort Worth Housing Solutions. "The rental market right now is so tight."

She asked landlords to do more to help.

"We appeal to the property owners, give us a chance, take one voucher holder and see how that person works," Mitchell said. "We're not telling you to have a whole bunch, but just one."

Apartment communities are full, increasingly upscale, and rents are skyrocketing.

The average apartment in Fort Worth now costs $1,000 per month and occupancy rates are above 90 percent.

Fort Worth is racing to build its own complexes, including one off Campus Drive. But experts said the need still far exceeds the supply.

"Poverty is increasing," said State Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth. "This is everybody's problem."

He blames the homeless problem partly on the lack of affordable housing and said the situation won't improve until the economy worsens.

"Until we have the market slow down a little bit, then we'll see people build more affordable housing," Romero said.

Perry Pillow, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Apartment Association, said the organization does not track how many owners accept vouchers.

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