While there’s no place like home, finding a place to live ain’t always easy.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there’s not a single U.S. county where a full-time minimum wage employee can afford a two-bedroom apartment. In total, our country would require more than 7 million additional affordable housing units to meet the needs of low-income families nationwide.
Seeing those numbers, it’s no wonder why many of our Chime members cite affordable housing as one of their biggest concerns. To get a better understanding of the issue, we asked three Chime members about the main obstacles they’ve faced in finding a place to live.
Here’s what they said — and what you can do if you’re having similar struggles.
1. Credit scores
One thing every Chime member mentioned again and again was their frustration over credit scores. Even when our members found an apartment they could afford, they were often denied because of their less-than-sterling credit history.
Jeninne, 48, lives in Vermont with her boyfriend and two cats. She said that her credit has “absolutely” been the biggest barrier in securing housing. She never imagined the mistakes she made in her 20s would still be haunting her today.
Patricia, 39, faced similar issues when she and her husband moved to a new state. “We had an excellent rental history,” she said. “[We] paid on time every month, had … dependable income coming in on the same day of every month. No matter how good everything else looked, it was still all about that three-digit number.”
✅ Chime tip: Make improving your credit your No. 1 priority, as it could be your key to getting into a house you love. Apply for a secured credit card, like the Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card. With Chime, once you open a Chime Spending Account and receive a qualifying direct deposit, you’re eligible to apply¹. After that, you can help avoid late payments by automating your bills by turning on Chime’s optional Safer Credit Building feature². Woo!
2. Security deposits
When Jeninne finally found a landlord who didn’t run a credit check, she had to jump on the apartment — and quickly. Which meant she had to scramble to collect the money the landlord required at move-in.
“Coming up with the first month’s rent and a security deposit and a pet deposit was a little bit of a struggle,” Jeninne said. “I had just lost my job … then I just totaled my car … so I tried to come up with that $1,800 in a couple weeks which was hard.”
Luckily, Jeninne had found a kind landlord who was willing to wait for her and her boyfriend to amass the deposit. The couple ended up saving every dollar they made for a few weeks, and also borrowed money from family and friends. They’ve now been happily living in that apartment for two years.
✅ Chime tip: Start setting aside money for your security deposit now, even if you don’t plan to move for a while. To make it easy, sign up for Chime’s automatic savings feature, after enrolling in Chime’s Spending Account, which allows you to round up the change from debit card transactions³ or funnel 10% from every paycheck into your savings account⁴.
3. Cost of good neighborhoods
Latoya is a 34-year-old mother of five; four of her kids still reside with her at her mother-in-law’s in Detroit. Though Latoya wants to find a place for them to call their own, she said it’s been “very difficult” to find an affordable house in an area they want to live.
“These rental properties and private landlords want to charge suburban rent prices for houses that don’t meet the standard. And even the ones that come close to the standard, they’re in crappy neighborhoods.” And, Latoya added, “I refuse to have my children around certain things.”
Jeninne experienced the same challenge when moving from the countryside to the city center. “The difficulty was finding a place that we felt was a nice part of town,” she said. “The ones that were in my budget were in the neighborhoods I didn’t want to be in.”
✅ Chime tip: Think hard about what you’d need to do to earn more — could you learn some new skills? Could you take on additional responsibilities to prove your worth? Or could you adopt a side hustle in addition to your full-time gig? And always, when starting a new job, try negotiating for a higher salary.
4. Low availability
Patricia and her husband lived in Panama City, FL, until 2018. That’s when Hurricane Michael hit, taking away everything they had worked for. The couple soon moved to Georgia to be closer to family, staying with Patricia’s brother because they couldn’t secure housing.
“It’s hard finding housing right now,” Patricia said. “There’s just a shortage here… Even now, my sister-in-law, she’s been looking for somewhere for almost a year.”
That lack of inventory was compounded by the fact that Patricia and her husband have two dogs. “Having pets, it’s hard finding somewhere that will take them,” she said. “And, you know, they’re our babies.”
✅ Chime tip: Scour websites like Zillow, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist, setting up alerts for apartments within your desired budget and neighborhoods. When a suitable spot pops up, contact the landlord immediately with a professional email or phone call, and try to tour it that same day. You can also try posting your needs in Facebook housing groups for your area. (P.S. Don’t be afraid of listings without photos, as they can sometimes be hidden gems!)
5. Family matters
Many of our Chime members sought help from family when they couldn’t find a place to live. As noted above, Latoya’s been staying with her mother-in-law, Jeninne borrowed money for her security deposit, and Patricia lived with her brother.
Although they’re all thankful for the support, our members admitted that relying on family isn’t always easy. As Patricia put it, “You gotta worry if you’re going to wear out your welcome.” Complicating her situation, there wasn’t room for Patricia’s mother-in-law or dogs at her brother’s house. “We were all separated,” she said. “It was just a stressful time.”
Latoya, who’s been living with her mother-in-law since July 2019, has leaned on her faith to help her overcome any familial challenges. “I am a spiritual person,” she said. “And I feel like it’s not my time to leave, even though I’m rushing to do it… I feel like the reason why [a house] hasn’t come to me yet is because I’m supposed to be here to help my mother-in-law.”
✅ Chime tip: When living with your family becomes difficult, take a breather — go for a walk around the block, and reflect on how lucky you are to have family you can rely on. Make sure to demonstrate your appreciation, too, by helping around the house as much as possible: cleaning, babysitting, cooking, gardening, whatever will make them (and you!) feel like you’ve earned your keep.
Finding a place to call home
The search for a place to call home can be deeply trying — physically, mentally, and financially.
But for many Chime members, what’s most discouraging is the unwillingness of landlords to overlook past credit mistakes. “Right now I have the money to move,” Latoya said. “It’s just who is going to willingly say ‘O.K., you know what? I like you, we’re going to give you a shot,’ you know? I’ve just been hoping and praying.”
If you’re in a similar boat, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone — and that there are ways to rebuild your credit over time. Follow the tips above, and hopefully you’ll find your way home very soon.
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