Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wages and Rents: Welcome to the 156 Hour Work Week!

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has released their 2013 Out of Reach report, an annual survey of wages and rents around the country. The NLIHC is a membership organization and advocacy group made up of nearly 1,000 organizations and individuals, and are a leading voice for the preservation and development of affordable housing. Each year, they look at every state and metropolitan area in the country, and determine how many hours the average renter would have to work for their home to be considered “affordable.” (According to the federal government’s definition, if you’re paying more than of 30% of your income toward rent, you’re living in unaffordable housing.)

What are the results? A renter making minimum wage would have to hold down about 4 simultaneous jobs to maintain affordability! To afford a two bedroom apartment, tenants in the NYC metropolitan area would have to make $28.35 an hour; that’s significantly higher than average incomes in every borough but Manhattan. On average renter’s wages, tenants in the Bronx would need to work 1.6 full time jobs; in Queens, it’s 1.7 jobs; in Brooklyn, it’s 1.9. These “housing wages” put the New York City area in the highest tier of unaffordability nationally.

Through this surreal portrait, the data points to the fact that most New York tenants must live in apartments beyond their means. Last year’s NYC RGB Price Index of Operating Costs reported that with an average rent burden of 35.2%, “a majority of rent stabilized tenants are not able to afford their apartments.” With rent burdens already at historic highs, another rent increase would send tenants even further into crisis.

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