Rents Out of Reach for Millions of Working Americans, Study Finds
A side-by-side comparison of wages and rents across the country by the National Low Income Housing Coalition finds that millions of American families are unable to afford safe and decent housing as rental costs continue to rise faster than wages and faster than the costs of other basic needs; as the affordable housing stock declines; and as an insufficient amount of affordable housing is being built.
A national median wage of $15.21 is needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a Fair Market Rent, based on the standard of paying no more than 30% of income for rent, according to the coalition’s “Out of Reach 2003” report, which was released last week. This is a 37% increase from an hourly wage of $11.08 in 1999 and a 3.74% increase over last year.
Hourly wages needed to afford two-bedroom apartments range from a high of $35.02 in Santa Clara County, CA, to a low of $7.12 in parts of Alabama, the report finds.
In 66% of the nation’s metropolitan areas, renters need to earn at least twice the prevailing minimum wage to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In 46 of those areas, between three and four times the minimum wage was needed; in eight more, between four and five times the minimum wage was needed; and in three areas the wage needed exceeded five times the minimum wage.
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Fair Market Rents are set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development each year and are defined as “the dollar amount below which 40% of the standard quality rental housing units rent.” This is what “it costs to rent modest, safe and healthy housing” in specific counties and metro areas, the report says.
Other findings from the “Out of Reach” data for 2003 include:
- Renters in 40 of the nation’s states, which account for 90% of all renter households in the U.S., need more than twice the prevailing minimum wage to afford a Fair Market Rent two-bedroom apartment. In 11 of those states, three times the minimum wage is needed.
- Housing costs are especially acute for families earning wages in the service sector, which continues to represent a fast-growing portion of the national economy. The average income earned by families with extremely low incomes (those at 30% or below of their area’s median income) is $8.34 an hour, yet there is no state in which an extremely low income household can afford the fair market rent on a two-bedroom apartment.
- In California’s Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco Counties, more than five times the state’s prevailing minimum wage of $6.75 ($1.50 higher than the federal minimum wage) is needed.
- The least affordable states are: Massachusetts (where an hourly wage of $22.40 is needed), California ($21.18), New Jersey ($19.74), New York ($18.87), Maryland ($18.85), Connecticut ($18.00), Hawaii ($17.02), Alaska ($16.75), New Hampshire ($16.49) and Colorado ($16.29).
- The least affordable metropolitan areas are: San Jose ($35.02); San Francisco ($34.13); Stamford-Norwalk, CT ($28.71); Oakland, CA ($27.31); Boston ($27.29); Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA ($25.79); Nassau-Suffolk, NY ($25.46); Westchester County, NY ($24.88); Orange County, CA ($23.46); and Washington, D.C. ($23.42).
The coalition began publishing “Out of Reach” data in 1989, and comprehensive data for every jurisdiction in the U.S. has been available since 1999.
Pillars Conference Showcases Multifamily Industry and Issues
To learn more about a variety of issues that affect multifamily professionals, attend the 2004 NAHB Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Conference & Awards Gala, the premier educational and networking event of the year for the multifamily industry, from March 28-30 in Palm Springs, CA.
For more information or to register, click here.
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