Eighty to 90 hours a week, Steven Allan Schulz is working. At the Clover Ridge townhomes in Chaska, he serves as a live-in personal care assistant and childcare provider to a single mother and her two children.

In exchange for his babysitting, cooking and cleaning, he does not pay rent — a deal he wouldn’t be able to forego.

“There’s no way in the world that I could afford rent myself,” the 36-year-old said. “Chaska is actually really expensive.”

According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, 17-18% of all households in Scott and Carver Counties are rentals. Around 20% of those renters put over half their income towards rent.

In order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in either county, a minimum-wage employee would need to work 75 hours a week, according to the MHP.

“The pace of the need is outpacing the growth of affordable units in our community,” said Corey Magstadt, director of Launch Ministry, a Chaska nonprofit that works with unhoused young people.

From 2000 to 2019, median Scott County rent has gone up 21% while renter income has gone down 1%, per the MHP. Carver County renters are only making 6% more than what they made in 2000, yet rental prices have risen 22%.

“That’s a pretty unmanageable number,” Magstadt said. “And there’s not much we can do about that. That’s in the landlords’ hands and it is really challenging for us to find places that (all people) can afford.”

THE ROAD TO STABILITY

Leading up to his PCA job, Schulz lived in Florida and couldn’t afford his house after getting a divorce. Once moving to Minnesota, he participated in a shelter program where he got help renting an apartment with his then-girlfriend to help afford it.

“Eventually, I was asked to get out of there and I never really got established again,” he said. “There have definitely been a few bumps in the road as far as getting and keeping housing.”

Even at his Clover Ridge place, Schulz says it’s hard for him to feel like he has housing stability.

He claims that management is making “a big deal about me even receiving mail here because I’m not on the lease.”

Schulz says the only other place he can receive mail is at his mother’s house in Saint Peter, a tough distance for someone without a car.

IT’S NOT AS EASY AS SAYING, ‘JUST GET A JOB’

Magstadt knows personally what it’s like to have someone stay at your home, though he hasn’t run into the same issues as Schulz. He encourages people to find a way to do the same.

“There are an awful lot of people that have space in their homes. Do you have a basement that you could find somebody that could rent there affordability or stay there for a little while to get on their feet?” he said. “For a lot of people, what they really need is time. Time to save, time to build up a little bit of equity so they can get into some place they can afford.”

Magstadt recently worked with a young man who worked a decent full-time job. But he had to stay in Launch Ministry’s emergency hotel shelter for half a year to save up enough money to afford an apartment.

“I just feel like that’s wrong. Somebody who is working, has transportation, is doing all the things that we tell them they should do, and yet it still takes that long to find a place they can be able to afford,” Magstadt said.

Though people may commonly suggest owning is cheaper than renting, that’s not the case at first, he said. In order to own a house, you need to have a somewhat lengthy credit history, work history and successful rent history, not to mention a down payment.

“It’s not something you can get overnight,” Magstadt said. “Even looking at home prices in our community ... that becomes a barrier in itself.”

The average home value in 2019 was $313,200 in Carver County and $299,700 in Scott County.

“Not every job pays what you need to afford rent. And we need healthcare workers, we need retail people like cashiers. They’re working in our communities already. What their salary is just doesn’t afford them. It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Just get a job’ when the rents are too high,” said Director Allison Streich with the Carver County Community Development Agency.

“Part of it is there’s just not enough units to serve the people that need them,” she said.

The CDA is in the process of adding at least nine more new construction units and rehabbing another property. It’s also working on funding new senior and multi-family units, she said.

Magstadt says people need to put pressure on local community leaders to make affordable housing a priority, like the city of Chanhassen’s recent plan to develop one affordable housing project each year.

“I think local communities set priorities and set values,” he said. “What would it look like for us to develop a community that has passion for people in need and put our money where our mouths are?”

Events