OSHKOSH – For the past few weeks, Garrett Krause has been living in his SUV, where it is difficult to sleep after sunrise, even though he works second shift until 11 p.m.
Krause is a member of the Oshkosh Community YMCA, where he can shower, but he buys snacks for meals because he has no way of heating the food.
He joined the growing number of residents of the Oshkosh area who are struggling to find affordable, permanent housing.
Krause said he fell behind on rent after taking time off work due to family emergencies. After missing several rent payments, he was evicted from his home in Omro in June and has not been able to find accommodation since then.
“It’s embarrassing to be homeless,” said Krause, a single father whose daughter currently lives with a family member.
He is homeless, but not unemployed. Krause said he makes enough money as an assembler at Generac to pay rent, but the problem is the lack of affordable housing in the Oshkosh area.
Al Rolph, a Salvation Army social worker who works with the Oshkosh Housing Coalition, said housing issues for his clients are even worse for those with evictions on their record.
Some local landlords are willing to work with people who have been evicted in the past, Rolph said, but often add extra fees to rent accommodation to those tenants.
But it’s not just people with difficult rental histories who find it increasingly difficult to find accommodation within their budget. There just aren’t enough places to go around.
The number of affordable units does not meet the demand
Oshkosh is experiencing a rental vacancy rate of less than 2%, and a healthy rate is expected to be around 5% to 7%, said Donn Lord, local landlord and president of the Winnebago County Apartment Association. He posted a rental ad on Facebook and within 24 hours he received over 100 rental requests.
It is unable to meet the demand of people looking to rent, a situation that gives landlords more discretion over who to sign up as tenants. People with evictions or a drug charge on their records find it extremely difficult to hire, he said.
The situation became so dire that the city hired RDG Planning and Design, an architectural firm, to examine the condition affordable housing in Oshkosh. A final report will be available in August, but initial data confirmed a lack of units available for rent, Mayor Lori Palmeri said.
The community has virtually no one-bedroom apartments for less than $ 500 a month, which is roughly what a person earning less than $ 25,000 a year can afford, Palmeri said. Most one-bedroom apartments in the city are between $ 700 and $ 800, she said.
The strong demand for housing, meanwhile, pushes rents even higher.
Andrea Carpenter, hairstylist at Super Cuts, couldn’t find anything within her budget or an owner who will work with her. Since December, she has spent over $ 10,000 renting hotel rooms because she can’t find a place that fits her budget – $ 800 or less per month – to live.
Before having to stay in hotels, Carpenter lived in her grandparents’ house, which went on the market in December, so she had to move. Since then, she has struggled to cross the barriers to even be considered a possible tenant of a house.
She also doesn’t want to pay the administrative fees, demanded by many property owners and rental companies, unless she has a guaranteed spot.
“It’s so stressful,” Carpenter said. “It’s so much the fear of not having a home.”
Carpenter is a voucher recipient through Section 8, a federal housing program that provides rent assistance to low-income people, but many landlords won’t accept vouchers, she said. She also had to file for bankruptcy a few years ago due to medical debts, a credit history that also distracts landlords from potential tenants.
“I just feel like I’m never going to get a spot,” Carpenter said.
Krause was also disheartened by his search for a place to live. He can afford an apartment for $ 700 to $ 800 a month with no utilities included, or an apartment for about $ 1,000 a month with utilities included, he said. When Krause first rented in 2010, he paid $ 450 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
One apartment he was looking at had over 20 applicants, making the competition fierce.
“It’s hard to be positive when you hear things like that,” Krause said.