Lehigh Valley

Affordable housing in Lehigh Valley out of reach for many

A two-bedroom model apartment in Strata West consists of granite countertops and top-flight amenities. 

Manager Robert Fox says these downtown Allentown apartments are in high demand and they sell anywhere from $1,365 to $1,450 per month.

New apartments like Strata cast an out of reach shadow for many.

Mother of four, Verinqia Ortiz, makes more than minimum wage but not much. She lived in the Sixth street homeless shelter for a year despite working 90 hours a week at a child day care.

"I don't like handouts but in these circumstances I need it. Because let's face it even with the hours I work everyone closed the door on me and said I don't make enough," she said.

Ortiz and her kids are currently living in a rent free transitional housing program. She is part of the working poor who are getting priced out of housing as private sector builders are catering to the high end market and not low income families.

A study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows in the Lehigh Valley a minimum wage worker needs 110 hours per week to afford the average two-bedroom apartment cost of $1,038 per month.

Someone making $13.50 an hour -- the average renter's wage -- needs to work nearly 60 hours per week to afford it.

Lori Van Doren runs the transitional housing program Ortiz is a part of; a program that allows working women to live rent free to save money.

Van Doren says their six-unit building in Allentown has a constant waiting list, which she says is spurred by landlords raising rents as a result of the downtown building boom.

"It's unfair, I've been at the same job for so long and you can only get so many raises. They can only give you so many hours," Ortiz said. "I don't want to come home, take them to another day care center, for me to have to go back to work and not ever see my children except on weekends."

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