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Latest “Out of Reach” Report Documents Housing Struggles Low-Wage Earners Face

August 6, 2021 | by Michael Wilt

Categories: Affordable Housing, Rental Housing

Every year the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) releases its annual ‘Out of Reach’ report comparing rental housing prices with hourly wages of renters.

The most recent numbers paint a bleak picture for low-wage earners trying to secure affordable housing. According to the 2021 report, on a national level, minimum wage workers must work 97 hours a week to afford the fair market rent (FMR) of $1,295 for a modest, two-bedroom apartment. 

But the report takes into account that most hourly wage workers earn more than the minimum wage. Therefore, it references a "Housing Wage" which is what a full-time worker must earn to afford FMR without spending more than 30% of income on rent. The national Housing Wage is $24.90 to afford FMR for a two-bedroom apartment. 

Alarmingly, 11 of the 20 largest occupations in the country on average pay less than this Housing Wage. These are professions like administrative assistants, clerks, pest control workers, home health aides, food preparation workers, and retail workers (a complete list is available on page 5 of the report).

texas specific data

With a Housing Wage of $21.98 and a FMR of $1,143, Texas fares a little bit better than the national average. However, there are two concerning data points. The first is that rents continue to increase sharply. Since 2017, FMR has gone up nearly 20% from $956 to $1,143.

But what's more troubling is that wages are not keeping up with rent increases. Since 2017, the statewide average hourly wage only increased 13% from $17.89 to $20.25. Each year, affordable rents continue to get further out of reach for hourly wage earners.

METRO SPECIFIC DATA

Here are the 2021 Housing Wages and respective average renter wages for the largest metro areas in Texas. Among them, only Houston currently has an average renter wage higher than the Housing Wage.

  • Houston: Housing Wage: $22.62; Average renter wage: $23.31
  • Dallas:  Housing Wage: $26.00; Average renter wage: $24.38
  • San Antonio: Housing Wage: $21.42; Average renter wage: $16.81
  • Fort Worth: Housing Wage: $23:88; Average renter wage: $18.58
  • Austin: Housing Wage: $27.58; Average renter wage:  $22.69
  • El Paso: Housing Wage: $15.98; Average renter wage: $12.13

Housing Wage vs. Minimum Wage

The $21.98 state Housing Wage is particularly problematic for minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) workers.  Minimum wage workers logging 40 hours per week can only afford $377/month in rent before becoming cost burdened by housing expenses or being forced to work additional hours.

In fact, workers earning the minimum wage must work 3 full time jobs to afford FMR for a two-bedroom apartment. That equates to working 121 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment and 100 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

Want to see affordability statistics for the Housing Wage and average renter wage in your area? We encourage you to view the full 2021 'Out of Reach' report, which includes statistics for each metro area and county in Texas (beginning on page 232).


On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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