While statistics on the gap in affordable housing clearly indicate the magnitude of the problem, they mask the extent of the difficulties that certain low-wage workers often face in obtaining a unit they can afford, particularly in major metro areas.
Making sense of the story
- Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that in many markets, most full-time cashiers, retail and sales persons, and food preparation workers would have been unable to afford even a modest one-bedroom apartment.
- The fair market rent of a two-bedroom apartment was even further out of reach for these workers: as high as $2,062 in San Francisco and over $1,400 Washington, DC, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.
- Other occupations where median annual wages were inadequate for households to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment include—but are not limited to—EMTs and paramedics, childcare workers, security guards, and several types of healthcare support occupations.
- All of these jobs are vital to local economies, and support a variety of businesses and services required for healthy, growing communities.
- Wage stagnation among low-income households is certainly part of the problem. Between 2001 and 2014, the median real household income for renters in the bottom quintile fell 9.9 percent, while income for households in the top quintile was up 3.1 percent.
- To make ends meet, many low-wage households must reduce expenditures on food and healthcare, move to areas which are less accessible and require longer commute times, or double up with family or roommates.
- Nearly a third of the nation’s 7 million renters earning less than $35,000 in 2014 had minors living at home, and fully half of these families reported being severely cost-burdened in the same year—paying more than half of their incomes for housing.