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Family of four stuck living in north Mississippi motel

The housing crisis has forced a Mid-South family to live in a motel because they can't find affordable housing.

SENATOBIA, Miss — A low supply of affordable housing is affecting families across the Mid-South.

Abbey Russel, her two young children, and her husband are forced to live in a motel off East Main Street in Senatobia because they have nowhere to go.

The family was evicted from their home in September after they got behind on rent because of COVID. Russel said her husband is the only person who works, so when the entire family caught the virus, he was out of work for 28 days. 

The family packed what they could and moved into the Dreamland Inn Motel, thinking they would only be there for about a week, but Russel said the family has been there a month, and now they're stuck. 

"We are trying to figure out if we should pay the money here or if we should go sleep in the street until we get the money. With paying the money here I feel like we are never going to pay where we need to be," Russel said.

Although her husband is working again, all of his income is going into paying the motel $350 a week. Before their eviction, the family was living in a 3-bedroom house paying $1,000 a month. They've been trying to find something similar but she said the average price for what they are used to living in is now about $1,500. That's almost double their previous rent. 

Amy Woods, a Mississippi realtor, said Russel's situation is becoming more common. She explained the biggest issue in the housing market is that inventory is down and said one of the reasons is because investors are coming into the region and buying up property from local buyers and raising the prices.

"I am constantly receiving calls from people in that same boat where they need a rental property and they just can't find it. "Rent rates have gone up so much, that the average rent is $1,600 a month," Woods said.

Russel said she understand her family may not be able to live in a 3-bedroom house because of the price, but she said it's been hard finding apartments too. 

"Apartments are the same way. We even thought about campers. We have tried to think of everything to get them out of this little room," Russel said.

The family has been put on several waiting lists, including with the Senatobia Housing Authority, but she was told it could take months because she could get housing. 

Even if they could find an affordable house, Russel said it is hard for her family to save up for a security deposit because they have dished out hundreds of dollars just in rental application fees and paying the motel weekly.

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