The Impossible Task of Finding Rent on a Budget: Tonia’s Story

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“They were passing out evictions like ice cream in South Congaree,” says Tonia. Tonia lives in Richland county – at least, she is trying to.  

It was just a couple of years ago when she suddenly was forced to move away from her home on Farrow Road. Desperate for a place to go, she heard through her friends about a mobile home property that was available. This property, though unstable due to deplorable conditions, was home for Tonia and her household for nearly two years, until major news broke out that changed everything.

Early in 2023, Tonia’s landlord was forced to close her properties when it was found that she was operating without a business license and taking as much as $1,500 from renters. Her license had been revoked by the Town of South Congaree in October after her homes were found in deplorable shape, but she continued renting the properties unlawfully.  

“This isn’t a regular situation. This woman took our money let us stay in dilapidated housing. They hurt and damaged a lot of people,” Tonia told us.

Once the news broke, others in the community of Halter’s homes, including Tonia, were told that they had until March 2nd to vacate the premises.  

“When the properties were evacuated, money would’ve helped. Finances would’ve helped. Over 30 families had to relocate,” says Tonia.  


“I don’t like being homeless and sleeping in my car. I got a family; I won’t be safe if my family isn’t safe.”


Tonia held on as long as she could until the police came and served her 24 hours’ notice. With nowhere to go, she put everything she owned away into storage and lived out of a car as she sought a new place to live. She worked for GrubHub in the meantime, trying to save what she could to get by.  

Three months later, Tonia has yet to find a space to call home. She, her fiancé and son have been living in a hotel for the time being. To date, she’s spent $2,000 at her hotel. 

One of the biggest hurdles for Tonia is the extremely high application fees for rentals. The cost of moving is a tremendous burden. From application fees to down payments to the cost of moving itself, finding a new place to call home can come at a very high price. Tonia is on disability, and money is always tight. It’s not feasible for her to spend so much money on application fees for apartments when she’s saving what she can.   

“It takes money to get your credit score right. Life happens and sometimes unexpected situations come about, and you have no control over them,” Tonia explains. The reality for people in Tonia’s situation is that it can be almost impossible to find the money and stability to improve one’s situation.  

Working minimum wage in South Carolina ($7.25), each week you have to work 103 hours to afford a modest 1 bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent.

National Low income housing coalition’s out of reach report

When it comes to housing, as months of searching for Tonia has shown, there simply aren’t enough options for low-income renters today. Per the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) Gap Report, there are only 42 affordable, available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renters like Tonia. There is a dire lack of housing options available, and even when that option is provided, over 74% of those renters currently face a severe cost burden. This means that more than half of their income goes toward rent, leaving little room for savings, utilities, food, and more. It creates a never-ending cycle of poverty that makes it almost impossible for renters like Tonia to succeed and be able to grow and find stability. 

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