Renting is often touted as an affordable alternative to homeownership, but recent studies have revealed that renters are feeling the pressure of rising rents just as much as buyers are struggling to find reasonably priced homes.

  • According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average full-time worker must make $21.21 per hour to afford a basic, two-bedroom apartment and $17.14 per hour to afford a one bedroom -- well above the national federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Renting is often touted as an affordable alternative to homeownership, but recent studies have revealed that renters are feeling the pressure of rising rents just as much as buyers are struggling to find reasonably priced homes.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s latest study, Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing,” the average full-time worker must make $21.21 per hour to afford a basic, two-bedroom apartment and $17.14 per hour to afford a one bedroom.

For some, these hourly wages may seem easy to reach, but NLIH says the average hourly wage is $16.38 — $4.83 lower than the two-bedroom housing wage, and 0.76 cents lower than the one-bedroom housing wage.

“That difference means too many families must choose between paying for their shelter and buying diapers, fresh food, childcare or medicine,” said U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) of the coalition’s findings.

“These choices are only necessary because our most vulnerable communities are being held hostage by budget cuts to much-needed housing assistance, and programs that are already underfunded and scarce are being targeted by additional cuts in favor [of] tax breaks for the wealthy. This practice has got to stop.”

The study’s findings show no worker who makes minimum wage, including those who live in states that have raised it to $15, can afford rental housing working a single, full-time job.

A worker who makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 117 hours per week the whole year — no vacations or sick days — to afford a two-bedroom rental. To afford a one-bedroom rental, they’d have to work 94.5 hours per week the whole year.

Six of the seven occupations projected to add the greatest number of new jobs by 2024 — customer service representatives, personal care aides, nursing assistants, retail salespersons, home health aides, and food prep and service workers — all provide minimum wages that are well below the living wage set forth by NLIH, something the coalition says will only make any kind of housing, rental or otherwise, out of reach for these workers.

Rental inventory constraints are pushing rents higher, and builders will need to create 7.4 million affordable rental homes to close the gap and bring prices back down for low-income and middle-income families.

Out of Reach 2017 shows why millions of low income renters are struggling to afford their homes,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in a statement.

“We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis in America by rebalancing federal housing expenditures to serve our country’s most vulnerable households. We lack only the political will to do so.”

Email Marian McPherson

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