On July 14 the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing 2021. The report compares rents and wages nationally and in every state, country, and metropolitan area in the United States. The annual Out of Reach report shows the degree to which workers throughout the U.S. are struggling to afford their homes. The report compares both average renter wages and prevailing minimum wages with the “Housing Wage” needed to afford modest rental apartments throughout the country.
Here in North Carolina, in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, $960 for a 2 bedroom apartment, full-time workers need to earn $18.46 per hour. This is NC’s 2021 Housing Wage, while the state’s minimum wage is only $7.25 per jour.
Across the country, a renter needs to earn $24.90 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs, or $20.40 per hour to afford a one-bedroom home. While the Housing Wage varies by state and metropolitan area, low-wage workers everywhere struggle to afford their housing.
In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard of $7.25, can a minimum-wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market rent. Working at the minimum wage in NC, a wage earner must have 2.5 full-time jobs or work 102 hours per week to afford a modest apartment.
In addition to the lives lost, COVID-19 also created an economic crisis that pushed millions of low-wage workers out of work. The public health crisis is not over, but as the country begins to imagine life after COVID, it is imperative that we also address the profound economic fallout for the lowest-income and most marginalized members of our communities. Prior to the pandemic, more than 7.6 million extremely low-income renters were already spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing costs, sacrificing other necessities to do so.
After a year of job losses, furloughs, and limited hours, many of these households will be even worse off. “Housing is a basic human need and should be regarded as an unconditional human right,” said Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO. “With the highest levels of job losses since the Great Depression and a pandemic that continues to spread, low-income workers and communities of color are disproportionately harmed. The enduring problem of housing unaffordability ultimately calls for bold investments in housing programs that will ensure stability in the future. Without a significant federal intervention, housing will continue to be out of reach. This leaves millions susceptible to the overwhelming consequences of Congressional inaction.”