For too long, low-income renters in America have struggled to afford housing. Even before the pandemic, rents were increasing much more quickly than wages, putting pressure on millions of renters. With the arrival of the pandemic, low-wage renters were hit with sudden job losses that posed unprecedented threats to their financial security and housing stability. Fortunately, the federal government stepped in, providing an array of supports – like emergency rental assistance, a national eviction moratorium, increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and childcare benefits, and economic stimulus payments – to reduce suffering among the lowest-income renters.
Now, however, many of these temporary supports have come to an end, even while renters still face significant gaps between wages and rents. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) recently published its annual report Out of Reach 2023. Out of Reach 2023 highlights the severity of the nation’s housing affordability crisis: in no state, metropolitan area, or county can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. Texas ranks 21st in the nation in housing affordability, with 138 hours of work per week at minimum wage required to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home. Last year, minimum wage workers needed to work 124 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home in Texas.
The report’s central statistic, the “Housing Wage,” is an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs – the accepted standard of affordability. Nationally, the 2023 “Housing Wage” is $28.58 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $23.67 for a modest one-bedroom rental home. In Texas, renters need to earn an hourly wage of $25.06 to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home and $20.96 for a modest one-bedroom rental home. Both wages are far higher than the current federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25.
The raw data shows us that too many low-income renters now face worsening housing instability as wages stagnate, housing costs rise, and pandemic safety net programs close down. Yet, it is important to acknowledge that the high cost of housing impacts some communities more severely than others. Due to historical and ongoing racial discrimination, Black and Latino households are more likely than white households to be renters and are disproportionately housing cost-burdened and extremely low-income. Native Americans also experience disproportionate rates of poverty and lower incomes and have fewer resources to meet their housing needs, leading many to live in overcrowded homes and lacking in basic amenities. Extremely low-income renters account for 19% of Black households, 17% of American Indian or Alaska Native households, and 14% of Latino households, but only 6% of white households.
These disparities are only exacerbated for women of color, who face even higher pay disparities, making it more difficult to afford housing. Black women earning the median wage for members of their race and gender make $19.71 per hour, $1.06 less than the median wage among Black male workers and $8.42 less than the median wage among white male
workers. The median wage of Latina women is $2.54 less than the median wage of Latino men and $9.93 less than the median wage of white men. Low-wage people of color, and particularly women of color, will continue to struggle to afford a roof over their head until long-term investments are made in affordable housing.
There is not a single county in Texas where minimum-wage workers can afford a modest two-bedroom rental.
Texas ranks 21st in the nation in housing unaffordability.
A full-time worker in Texas earning minimum wage needs to work nearly 3.5 full-time jobs or approximately 138 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent.
According to the recent NLIHC publication, addressing the roots of the housing affordability problem will require a sustained commitment to investing in new affordable housing; preserving affordable rental homes that already exist; bridging the gap between income and rent through universal rental assistance; providing emergency assistance to stabilize renters when they experience financial shocks; and establishing strong renter protections. Texas Homeless Network (THN) continues to advocate for key policy measures needed to solve this humanitarian crisis, as well as strengthen homeless crisis response systems so that communities across the state of Texas can prevent and end homelessness more efficiently. To learn more about our work and focus areas, please visit our 2022 Annual Report.
Sources and more information:
The Out of Reach 2023 interactive website includes data for each state, county, and metropolitan area and an easy-to-use search function for identifying data by metropolitan-area ZIP code. The website is located at: https://reports.nlihc.org/oor.