The lack of truly affordable housing has long fueled record homelessness in our city: Nearly 62,000 New Yorkers, including 22,000 children, bed down in shelters each night.
Communities across the country are similarly feeling the impact of the affordable housing crisis. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report, released today, found that in 99 percent of counties in the United States, a full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent. Even more jarring, nowhere in America do minimum-wage full-time workers earn enough to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment.
Compared with all states, New York has the fifth-highest “housing wage” – the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest apartment without spending more than 30 percent of income on housing. The figures are particularly striking in the New York City region, where the 2019 Fair Market Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $1,599, and for a 2-bedroom apartment is $1,831. This means that a renter needs to make $30.75 per hour to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in New York City, or $35.21 per hour for a two-bedroom apartment – in either case, more than twice the recently increased $15 hourly minimum wage. This explains why so many New Yorkers are only one missed paycheck away from homelessness, and it also illustrates why an estimated one-third of families with children in shelters include a working family member but are still unable to find an affordable apartment.
The report underscores the fact that the housing affordability crisis cannot be solved by increasing wages alone. Indeed, all levels of government must more fully invest in truly affordable permanent housing for people with the lowest incomes. To start, New Yorkers are urging Mayor de Blasio to embrace the House Our Future NY Campaign recommendation to build at least 24,000 new units of deeply subsidized, affordable housing for homeless households through the Housing New York 2.0 plan, and set aside at least 6,000 more apartments for homeless New Yorkers through the preservation of already-occupied housing, for a total of 30,000.
Laura Paddison wrote about the Out of Reach report’s sobering findings for HuffPost:
There’s no sign that affordability is going to improve anytime soon – mainly because of the jobs the economy is creating.
The median wage for eight of America’s 10 largest occupations – from retail salespeople to fast-food workers to home health aides – is not enough to cover a one-bedroom rental. And these are the jobs that are likely to see the biggest growth over the next decade, further entrenching the disparity between wages and housing costs.
Nearly 40% of all U.S. renters now pay more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs, and the number of renters paying more than half of their income toward housing costs increased by 3.6 million from 2001 to 2016. Many Americans are just one unexpected expense away from potential disaster: Around 40% said they would not be able to cover a $400 emergency.
The human cost is clear. Research shows that affordable housing improves pretty much all life outcomes. “So the flip of that is also true,” said Yentel, “when people are housing insecure or homeless, their health suffers, kids are not able to do well in school, they often have to change schools, they are not able to earn as much over their lifetimes.”
The National Low Income Housing Coalition has called for bold government action on housing, including a huge injection of federal funds to increase affordable housing.