Life in the city, booming with business and opportunities, is becoming a luxury unavailable to our blue collar community. For too many in the District, mere survival has become an all-consuming struggle. At Thrive DC, we see families and individuals from Ward 1 and beyond who work hard to simply make rent, and use our services as a last ditch effort to keep from falling off the edge of survival and into poverty and homelessness.
Unfortunately many do fall, and we are here to provide assistance.
Families who have lived in the nation’s capital for generations are no longer able to afford the high cost of living that has come to earmark the District of Columbia. Half the apartments that rent for $800 or less have disappeared since 2002; among DC’s lowest income residents, 64% spend half or more of their income on housing.
I am talking about the working poor. I am talking about those who labor in low wage jobs, the same jobs that keep this city running, but who can never make ends meet. Those who are committed to working hard and supporting themselves but depend on service agencies to survive.
It should not take free groceries from Thrive DC to put food on your family’s table each week.
The minimum wage in DC is now $10.50/hour, or an annual salary of $21, 840 (before taxes). Our new minimum wage, the highest in the country, still does not even cover the cost of rent – much less anything else. With the average one bedroom apartment costing $1,741/month, DC residents can expect to pay $20,892/year just to have a place to sleep at night.
I believe that the average citizen of DC overwhelmingly supports a living wage. The clients who come to Thrive DC don’t want charity; they want good jobs in their own city. The question is: how do we get there?
The answer is simple: more affordable housing throughout the city and a wage that promotes opportunity, not dependence. This combination creates mixed-income communities that thrive because everyone is able to afford the cost of living. The alternative is a DC immersed in the kind of economic disparity that breeds polarization and dangerous animosity.
We are the fourth most expensive rental market behind New York, San Francisco, and Boston. If DC refuses to address the inequity created when people cannot afford to live where they work, we rob the city of its history, its diversity, and risk becoming a dangerous monolith that only supports a select few. This is not the kind of community to which this city’s smart, progressive, and remarkable residents aspire.
I challenge the District of Columbia, the Nation’s Capital, to lead by example and create a diverse city that values and supports all residents. I support working toward a living wage of $15, and the chance for our poorest neighbors to find stability and security.
-Alicia Horton, Executive Director of Thrive DC