Report shows rents are moving further out of reach for low-income renters as pandemic-era benefit programs expire
Washington, D.C. – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released today its annual report, Out of Reach 2023: The High Cost of Housing, highlighting the mismatch between the wages people earn and the price of modest rental housing in every state, county, metropolitan area, and combined non-metropolitan area in the U.S. This year’s report shows how high rents have combined with the expiration of many pandemic-era benefit programs to exacerbate the financial insecurity of low-income renters, leading to higher eviction filing rates and increased homelessness.
“Stable, affordable homes are a prerequisite for basic well-being, and no person should face the danger of losing their home,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. "Yet too many low-income renters are facing worsening housing instability as housing costs rise and pandemic-era safety net programs expire. Evictions are increasing, and homelessness is rising, just as House Republicans work to slash funding for key affordable housing solutions. To address the country’s long-term housing affordability crisis, Congress and the Biden-Harris administration must protect and expand our country’s vital affordable housing and homelessness programs, and implement robust tenant protections.”
The central statistic of the Out of Reach report is its “Housing Wage” – an annual estimate of the hourly wage full-time workers must earn to afford a rental home at fair market rent without spending more than 30% of their incomes. Nationally, the 2023 Housing Wage is $28.58 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $23.67 per hour for a modest one-bedroom rental home. In addition to the national Housing Wage, Out of Reach provides Housing Wages for each state, metropolitan area, county, and combined non-metropolitan areas within a state.
Out of Reach 2023 shows that housing is out of reach for workers across a range of occupations and wage levels. Sixty percent of all workers earn an hourly wage that is less than the two-bedroom Housing Wage, and nearly 50% of workers earn an hourly wage that is less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage. Thirteen of the 20 most common occupations in the U.S. pay median wages that are lower than the two-bedroom Housing Wage, and 10 of these occupations, which account for more than one-third of the workforce, pay median wages that are lower than the national one-bedroom Housing Wage. The problem is acute and widespread for the lowest-wage workers. In no state, metropolitan area, or county can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford a modest two-bedroom rental home. A full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a modest one-bedroom rental home in more than 92% of U.S. counties.
The gap between wages and housing costs is largest for people of color, and particularly women of color, according to the report. The disparities are the result of decades of racist housing policies that have led to people of color facing disproportionate challenges accessing decent and affordable homes. Nationally, the median wage of a full-time white worker is $2.23 higher than the one-bedroom Housing Wage, but the median wage of a full-time Black and Latino worker is approximately $.73 and $1.84 less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage, respectively. The disparities grow even starker for women of color. Black and Latina female workers earn median wages that are $3.96 and $5.47 less, respectively, than the one-bedroom Housing Wage.
As low-income renters face high rents and increasing housing instability without the supports provided by pandemic-era benefit programs, safe, stable, and affordable housing remains out of reach. Congress must address the extraordinary challenges that low-income renters face in finding and maintaining decent, accessible, and affordable housing. Addressing the roots of the housing affordability problem requires: a sustained commitment to investing in new affordable housing; preserving affordable rental homes that already exist; bridging the gap between incomes and rent through universal rental assistance; providing emergency assistance to stabilize renters when they experience financial shocks; and establishing strong renter protections.
Out of Reach 2023 is available at: https://nlihc.org/oor
# # #