Phoenix was once nationally known for having affordable housing options in the West. Today, that’s no longer the reality.

Now the fifth-largest city in the United States, Phoenix residents are struggling to make ends meet as the rising cost of rent is outpacing average income and salaries.

Former Halle Women’s Center client, Tricia, knows first-hand what this is like.

Her landlord increased rent and her income wasn’t enough to pay the new price of rent. Without having the safety of savings or the support of family to fall back on, Tricia no longer had a place to live.

Phoenicians must earn nearly $20 an hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The nonprofit says the average Arizona renter now earns about $17 an hour, while Arizona’s minimum wage is merely $11.

In 2014, monthly rent in Phoenix was around $800. Today, rent averages about $1,100 per month. This increase has left nearly half of Phoenix-area renters spending more than one-third of their income just on housing (Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard). For most people, paying more than one-third of their income for housing is more than a burden; it puts them in a place of choosing to pay rent over purchasing food, transportation, healthcare or other basic living costs.

When Tricia arrived at Halle, she was scared that she would never be able to find success or sustainable housing again.

Once she connected with her personal case manager, an employment specialist at the New Day Employment Center, and healthcare professionals, Tricia’s confidence began to return. She created a resume and met with potential employers for interviews. Tricia was offered employment and hired for her new job with the support of these services.

Now that Tricia has income from employment, she worked with her case manager to find budget-friendly housing options and ultimately found a new place to call home.

Phoenix is still in need of more affordable housing options.

Apartments where rent is below one-third of a household’s income would create opportunities for Phoenix employees to live closer to their workplaces. Older complexes with lower rents in Central Phoenix and Tempe have been torn down to make space for new luxury living units, squeezing out the families and individuals who once resided there. Lower-income earners struggle to rent even barely affordable apartments and homes; this is where homelessness ensues.

Starting with housing affordability will allow the city to help a significant amount more people and ensure that fewer Phoenicians experience homelessness.