'National Disgrace': Poverty Wages Make Affordable Housing a Myth for Low-Income Americans

A new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows that “affordable housing” is virtually nonexistent—and that in many states, even efforts to institute a minimum wage of $15 per hour would still leave many American workers struggling to find suitable housing that they could easily afford.

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“Make no mistake: while the housing market may have recovered for many, we are nonetheless experiencing an affordable housing crisis, especially for very low-income families. That is because wages have been stagnant for decades, while the cost of housing keeps going up,” wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in his preface to the report, entitled Out of Reach.

The study’s authors calculated the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30 percent on his or her rent—as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends.

In no state would it be possible for a worker to afford this modest housing arrangement while earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the coalition found:

In just 22 out of more than 3,000 counties in the country, the report found, the report also found, a minimum wage worker would be able to afford a one-bedroom rental apartment at fair market rent.

“The affordable housing crisis demands that we think big and act boldly. We must make a historic and sustained commitment to ensure that every family has an affordable place to live and thrive,” wrote Sanders, who urged investments in housing programs like the National Housing Trust Fund and the HOME program—rather than plans to raise rent for low-income households who receive federal housing assistance, like the one put forward in recent weeks by President Donald Trump’s HUD secretary Ben Carson.

The report comes as North Carolina lawmakers passed a budget that guarantees most state workers a $15 minimum wage—a goal of the fight for $15 movement, but one that will still leave many state workers unable to comfortably afford housing.