Rental housing “out of reach” for many

On April 21st, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach 2010, its annual analysis of the cost of rental housing in the United States.

Among the findings, the report states that a family in this country needs to earn $18.44 per hour in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental home.  That amounts to a yearly wage of $38,360, which is $16,310 more than the federal poverty level for a family of four.

Not surprising to us, the report also found that rents continue to rise across the country, while wages continue to fall.

When reading the report, two definitions are important to understand: Fair Market Rent (FMR) is the average cost of a rental unit, usually a two-bedroom; and Housing Wage is the amount a person working full-time must earn to afford the Fair Market Rent on a two-bedroom unit.

With those definitions in mind, we found some of the national findings especially interesting:

  • The two-bedroom Housing Wage topped $20.00 in 10 states.  One of those states is Florida.
  • In 2010, the estimated average wage per hour for renters in the United States is only $14.44, a decline from $14.69 in 2009.
  • At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have to work 102 hours each week to afford the nation’s average FMR for a two-bedroom home.
  • There is no county in the United States in which a full-time minimum wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at the FMR.

So, what does the report tell us about Florida
We scouted the report to see what it says about Florida and, more specifically, Central Florida.  We found that for 2010 in our state, the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,055. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of their income on housing, a Florida household must earn $3,517 monthly, or $42,201 a year.  Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $20.29.

A minimum wage earner in Florida, at $7.25 per hour, must work 112 hours per week, 52 weeks per year to afford that apartment.  Another way to look at this is the household must have 2.8 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make that two bedroom FMR affordable!

How about Central Florida?
The report also told us that Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Central Florida is $1,052, just shy of the same size unit statewide and more than last year’s amount of $985.  The Housing Wage in our area is $20.23, necessitating 2.8 minimum wage earners, working 40 hours per week year-round, to afford the unit.

That’s why we at Coalition for the Homeless work to help homeless single adults and families get the education, job skills, life skills, and other services they need to make a living wage and get back to independence.  We want to thank our community for helping us do what we do and invite you to learn more about how you can help.