Research and discussion for citizens and decision makers

The myth of affordable housing

Rents rising, wages stagnating

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As rents continue to rise and wages stagnate, affordable housing has become increasingly hard to come by, according to The Washington Post’s Wonkblog:

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group, calculated how many hours of work at the minimum wage would be required to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent—the government’s measure for the monthly cost of a “modest, non luxury rental unit” in a specific area, plus utilities. In no state was a 40-hour work week enough.

Nationally, the NLIHC calculates that a household needs to earn $37,960 in 2012 to afford a two-bedroom unit at the national average Fair Market Rate of $949 a month. By comparison, someone earning the current federal minimum wage, working 40 hours a week, earns only $15,080 a year.

Meanwhile, low-income housing units have become increasingly scarce. The group points out in its report that the number of housing rental units for $500 a month or less fell by one million between 2007 and 2010, according to the Census Bureau. Federal funding for affordable housing has also been slashed. The NLIHC notes that in 2012, funding for the Public Housing Capital Funding was cut by 8 percent, and a separate funding program for states and local governments to create low-income housing was cut by 38 percent.

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