In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in North Carolina, renters need to earn $16.35 per hour — North Carolina’s Housing Wage . That’s the news from yesterday’s release of the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s report Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing. As an advocate, I spend a lot of time helping people wrap their mind around the scope of the affordable housing need. Many say “well if they can’t afford it, why don’t they just move?” I’m sure you’ve encountered people like that in your work as well. This report helps answer that question. People don’t move because there isn’t a more affordable place given what folks are making. The math just doesn’t work.
In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in North Carolina, renters need to earn $16.35 per hour but the average renter only makes $14.66/hr.
Affordability has two variables — household income and housing cost. I spend most of my time trying to get the cost down, but one could spend equal time on the income side. Each year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage — the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs. The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at Fair Market Rent. The average renter in NC earns $14.66 per hour, 9% less than the state’s Housing Wage. To put that another way, a minimum wage worker in North Carolina must have 2.7 full-time jobs or work 90 hours per week to afford housing.
This report underscores the need for more investments in affordable housing. At the national level housing investment is down drastically from a decade ago in spite of the recent budget. State government has a crucial role to play in this as well. We’ve seen slow trends upward, but overall our state’s investment is still down from a decade ago.
Safe, decent, and affordable housing is the first rung on the ladder of opportunity, but it is out of reach for too many families. With 1.2 million cost-burdened households across the state, we can and we must do more. North Carolina has proven affordable housing programs funded by the NC Housing Trust Fund and the Workforce Housing Loan Program work, but they lack the scale to meet the enormous need. Opportunity starts at home, and our state should invest accordingly.