Affordable Housing Remains Out of Reach for Some Americans

In May, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released its annual report Out of Reach 2016 reflecting the affordability of a modest two-bedroom rental apartment at the fair market rate to the average full-time wage worker. The report shows that a full time worker needs to earn $20.30 per hour to afford a modest two bedroom apartment.

Another NLIHC report, The GAP: Affordable Housing Gap Analysis 2016 demonstrated decreasing numbers of available, affordable apartments - this year's report shows that there are just 3.2 million rental apartments affordable and available to 10.4 million lowest income households.

Given that the average hourly wage of renters in the U.S. is $15.42, roughly 25% less than what it takes to afford the average apartment, making ends meet is increasingly difficult for the working poor. Worse yet, a worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 2.8 full time jobs, or work 112 hours per week and 52 weeks per year in order to pay the rent on an average apartment. You can do the math, but if this worker slept eight hours per night, he or she would have no time left to do anything but work and sleep.

And to be clear, this shortage is not unique to workers. It affects retired seniors just as drastically particularly those on fixed incomes. In the case of seniors, as an increasing percentage of their income is dedicated to rent, they have less income for food and medicine.

Volunteers of America is committed to housing America's most vulnerable. We believe in providing service-enriched affordable housing with over 490 rental properties with over 19,500 units for seniors, families and special needs households, including permanent supportive housing for veterans. But we cannot provide for all needs alone, nor are their sufficient sources available to build more affordable rental housing.

We believe that federal, state and local governments should do more to provide additional resources, or to make the development of affordable rental housing more expeditious. We suggest that we and the public can make a difference, by imploring our legislators and municipal officials to recognize the huge need for affordable homes. Please take up our cause and do what you can to promote the preservation and growth of affordable rental housing in your communities.

- Patrick Sheridan, Executive Vice President, Housing - Volunteers of America