Rental housing still “out of reach” for many


On May 2, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach 2011, its annual analysis of the cost of rental housing in the United States.  We are always interested to view this report to see how the findings compare with the previous year.     

Up slightly from last year, though incomes have fallen, the report states that a family in this country needs to earn $18.46 per hour in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental home.  That amounts to a yearly wage of $38,400, which is $16,050 more than the federal poverty level for a family of four.    

There are two terms used in the report that 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 other national findings especially interesting:

  • In 28 states, including DC, more than two full-time minimum wage jobs are required to afford the two-bedroom FMR.
  • In 2011, the estimated average wage per hour for renters in the United States is only $13.52, a significant decrease from $14.44 in 2010.
  • With the exception of 8 Municipios in Puerto Rico and a handful of counties in Illinois, there is no county in the U.S. 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? 

As usual, we scouted the report to see what it says about Florida and, more specifically, Central Florida.  We found that for 2011 in our state, the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,028, down from last year’s FMR of $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 $3,428 monthly, or $41,140 a year.  Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $19.78.  Interestingly, last year’s was $20.29.

A minimum wage earner in Florida, at $7.25 per hour, must work 109 hours per week, 52 weeks per year to afford that apartment.  Another way to look at this is the household must have 2.7 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 states that FMR for a two-bedroom apartment in Central Florida is $988, a decrease from last year’s amount of $1,052.  At $19.00, the Housing Wage in our area is also down from last year, but necessitates 2.6 minimum wage earners, working 40 hours per week year-round, to afford the unit. 

Though the findings indicate that FMR in our area has fallen, recent media articles have predicted rents will rise.  In fact, we are already finding that to be the case through anecdotal experience in our Community Housing Program.  We are also finding higher application fees and increased competition for affordable units.

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.