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NLIHC Releases Out of Reach 2024: The High Cost of Housing

Report finds that despite rising wages, cooling inflation, and low unemployment, the lowest-income renters continue to struggle to afford rent

Washington, D.C. – NLIHC released today Out of Reach 2024: The High Cost of Housing. Published annually, the Out of Reach report highlights the gulf between the wages people earn and the price of modest rental housing in every state, county, and metropolitan area in the U.S. This year’s report shows that despite rising wages, cooling inflation, and low unemployment, low-wage workers and other renters with low incomes continue to struggle with the cost of rent. Given the inadequate housing safety net and increasingly unaffordable rents, it is no surprise that homelessness is on the rise. Addressing these challenges requires long-term federal investments in affordable housing and the Housing First model for ending homelessness.

“Housing is a basic human need and should be regarded as an unconditional human right,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “This year’s Out of Reach report shows that even amid an improving economic landscape, low-wage workers and other renters continue to struggle with the high cost of rent. As evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic, federal policies and resources play a pivotal role in establishing a robust housing safety net, preventing evictions and homelessness, and mitigating housing instability among renters with the lowest incomes. Likewise, federal renter protections are needed to ensure decent, safe, and accessible living conditions for tenants around the country.”

Out of Reach’s signature statistic is the “Housing Wage” – an 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 2024 Housing Wage is $32.11 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $26.74 for a modest one-bedroom rental home. This year’s report shows that housing is out of reach for workers across a range of occupations and wage levels. Of the nation’s 20 most common occupations, 14 of these occupations pay median wages lower than the one-bedroom housing wage. These 14 occupations account for more than 64 million workers, or 42% of the workforce, showing that affordable housing remains out of reach for millions of renters in the U.S. despite a growing economy.

In addition to the national Housing Wage, Out of Reach provides Housing Wages for each state, metropolitan area, county, and combined non-metropolitan area within a state. For a modest two-bedroom apartment, the average Housing Wage ranges from $18.38 in North Dakota to $47.38 in California. States with lower housing costs also tend to have lower wages, so the lowest-wage workers in every state struggle to pay their rent. In no state, metropolitan area, or county in the U.S. can a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage, or the prevailing state or local minimum wage, afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent.

This year’s report focuses especially on the issue of homelessness. The annual Point-In-Time count conducted by HUD in 2023 found that approximately 653,000 people were experiencing homelessness on a given night, the highest number that has ever been recorded by the count and a 12% rise from the previous year. In a misguided attempt to address the challenge, many states and localities have increased efforts to ticket, fine, or arrest people for having no place to call home. This only worsens homelessness.

“Homelessness is a housing problem, and expanding housing assistance is the best way to reverse rising rates of homelessness,” said Diane Yentel. “Ticketing or jailing unhoused people is not only counterproductive, but also needlessly cruel.”

Out of Reach 2024 shows that those with the lowest incomes, including people experiencing homelessness, confront great challenges when faced with high housing costs, insufficient wage growth, and an inadequate housing safety net. Establishing a federal housing safety net to address these challenges will require sustained investments to expand both short- and long-term rental assistance, construct deeply affordable housing, preserve existing affordable housing, and strengthen renter protections.

Out of Reach is available at: