Affordable housing top list of SWLA economic concerns

Published: Feb. 3, 2020 at 9:35 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Experts say high-paying jobs in the Lake Area can be hard to come by.

One trip through parts of Lake Charles and you’ll notice a clear case of supply and demand...a growing inventory of for sale and rent signs, but not many people signing on the dotted line.

Why? It could be, they just can’t afford it.

“I don’t understand why rent is so high,” said resident Kim Witherwax. “There are a lot of people here that can’t afford housing...with the cost of living, groceries, and everything else compared to what their check is.”

Witherwax attended Monday’s Affordable Housing Listening Tour hosted by Housing NOLA said an average paycheck for him is about $750 dollars, making it hard for him to make ends meet.

Housing Louisiana and Housing NOLA put the median household income in our area, at less than $50,000 dollars. Those and other factors, mean affordable housing is a major concern for lake area residents.

“Rents have skyrocketed...there’s not been a lot of new creation,” said Executive Director Andreanecia Morris. “Even folks with vouchers can’t find places to live.”

Morris said across the Lake Area there’s a shortage of affordable homes available to low-income families. It’s an issue she says is growing statewide.

This is something we find across the state where there’s not a lot of community development organizations or nonprofit guys have some really great nonprofits here," said Morris. “They just need that support to work together as well as community standing up with one voice saying 'we want affordable housing for all of us.”

In Calcasieu Parish, Morris said the average cost of rent sits at a little over $824, with a median household income of $49,000. According to reports, some households are spending more than half of their income on housing.

Population: 25,661
Households: 7,920
Population: 36,769
Households: 13,219
Population: 203,112
Households: 78,351
Population: 6,869
Households: 2,718
Population: 31, 467
Households: 11,501
Median Value: $93,000
Median Rent: $606
Median Value: $116,000
Median Rent: $724
Median Value: $162,400
Median Rent: $824
Median Value: $113, 900
Median Rent: $823
Median Value: $111,600
Median Rent: $614
Median Household Income: $41,009Median Household Income: $50,738Median Household Income: $49, 113Median Household Income: $55,000Median Household Income: $39, 653
Poverty Status: 19%Poverty Status: 17%Poverty Status: 17%Poverty Status: 14%Poverty Status: 19%
Residential Building Permits: 35Residential Building Permits: 174Residential Building Permits: 996Residential Building Permits: 67Residential Building Permits: 581

“Most people that are buying are higher-end buyers because most of the workforce are renting," said local realtor Grace Robideaux.

In Louisiana, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $877. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities--without paying more than 30% of income on housing--a household must earn $2, 923 monthly or $35,074 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly housing wage of $16.86 per hour (State housing wage)

Facts about Louisiana:

Minimum Wage$7.25
Average Renter Wage$14.29
2-bedroom Housing Wage$16.86
Number of Renter Households600183
Percent Renters35%

Going forward, Morris said they look for needs that resonate across the state, placing consultants in each region that can help with an action plan to tackle the issue.

“Affordable housing is a challenge across America and Southwest Louisiana is no exception. Every day, individuals are looking for clean, safe, housing - to no avail,” Director of CPPJ’s Department of Human Services, said Tarek Polite said. “If community members take collective action to assist us by participating in this listening tour with our strategic partner Housing NOLA, we have a greater opportunity to educate and influence people in decision-making positions concerning the housing needs for our region.”

For more information, call Human Services at 721-4030 or visit

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