Out of Reach Report Makes a Case for Investing in Housing

Affordable housing remains out of reach for countless people in New York and across the United States. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s latest annual Out of Reach report underscores the ever-growing divide between stagnant incomes and rising rents throughout the nation. This year’s report found that a full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford a two-bedroom rental in any state, county, or city in the country, and they can only afford a one-bedroom rental in a paltry 9 percent of all U.S. counties.

The data for New York are particularly troubling. Compared with all states, New York State has the fourth highest “housing wage” – the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to rent a modest home without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Consistent with the annual report’s findings from past years, the affordability issues are even more dire in the New York City region, where the 2022 Fair Market Rent is $2,054 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,340 for a two-bedroom apartment. A full-time worker needs to make $39.50 per hour to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in New York City, or $45 per hour for a two-bedroom apartment – which is triple the $15 local hourly minimum wage. The brunt of this affordability crisis disproportionately falls on Black and Latinx renters, and especially Black and Latinx women, whose incomes in low-wage industries are often insufficient to match the exorbitant cost of housing. About one-third of families in NYC shelters include someone who is employed, but they still cannot afford rent. In a June brief, we highlighted the pronounced lack of affordable housing in New York City and how our housing market is mismatched with the needs of the population.

We know the solution to homelessness is affordable and accessible housing. Rather than painting homelessness and housing instability as personal moral failures or using them for political fanfare, we must acknowledge that these are systemic issues and hold elected officials accountable for affirming that housing is a human right.

All levels of government must recognize the severity of the housing crisis and invest in housing on a scale to match the need. This means fully funding housing vouchers, including making Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers an entitlement, to help bridge the difference between incomes and rents. As we explained in our State of the Homeless 2022 report, the City must also build significantly more housing that is actually affordable to people with the lowest incomes, by producing at least 6,000 apartments per year for homeless households and 6,000 apartments per year for households with extremely low incomes. Such bold action is necessary to reverse course and finally make affordable housing a reality within the reach of all New Yorkers.