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REPORT: Housing Is Largely Unaffordable for Low-Wage Workers

June 11, 2015

Renters need to earn $19.35 an hour to afford rent on a basic two-bedroom apartment in the U.S., a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows — a much higher wage than the average direct-care worker earns.

The report, “Out of Reach 2015: Low Wage & High Rents Lock Renters Out” (pdf), shows that average rents are already completely unaffordable for low-wage workers in states with large metropolitan areas, such as New York and California. It also shows that shortages of low-income housing are spreading into smaller cities and more rural areas of the country.

“Severely cost-burdened households must often make tradeoffs to pay for housing, spending less on food, healthcare, and other necessities,” the report says.

The highest-earning direct-care job in the country is nursing assistants, who earn a median wage of $12.07/hour, according to the PHI State Data Center. Home health aides make $10.28, and personal care aides (PCAs) earn just $9.83/hour.

Hawaii has the highest rents in the country, the NLIHC report shows. The average renter needs to earn $31.61/hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment there.

Average wages for direct-care workers in Hawaii do not even come close to that level. In 2014, nursing assistants earned $14.63/hour in Hawaii, home health aides earned $11.97, and PCAs earned just $11.92.

Most direct-care workers would struggle to afford even a one-bedroom apartment in Arkansas, the state with the least-expensive housing market. The NLIHC report calculates that a renter would need to make $10.17/hour to rent a one-bedroom there. But Arkansas PCAs and home health aides made median hourly wages of $8.63 and $8.65, respectively; nursing assistants, meanwhile, earned $10.19/hour.

— by Matthew Ozga

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