If you’re familiar with the National Low Income Housing Coalition, then you probably know about our annual Out of Reach report. This report is a side-by-side comparison of wages and rents in every county, metropolitan area, combined non-metropolitan area and state in the United States.

For each jurisdiction, the report calculates the amount of money a household must earn in order to afford a rental unit in a range of sizes at the area’s Fair Market Rent (FMR), based on the generally accepted affordability standard of paying no more than 30% of income for housing costs. From these calculations the hourly wage a worker must earn to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom home is derived. This figure is the Housing Wage. A link to last year’s report is here.

The purpose of Out of Reach is to make sure that every public official and every housing advocate, at the local, state and national level, has sound and easily accessed data to argue for housing justice, and to make decisions about allocating public resources.

At our annual housing policy conference last month, we released this year’s national Out of Reach findings. The national 2011 Housing Wage is $18.46. The median hourly wage for workers in the United States is only $16.56, while the estimated mean renter wage is significantly lower than that at $13.52. On average, a minimum wage worker must work 102 hours a week, the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent.

While the information presented in Out of Reach is compelling, it doesn’t promote itself. We rely on our State Partners and other housing advocates across the country to spread the word about the results of the report and to encourage policy makers to address the absolute shortage of housing affordable and available to the lowest income people in our communities. Out of Reach will be officially released on May 2. As we approach its release, NLIHC will share posts from some of our State Partners about how they’ve used Out of Reach data to enhance their advocacy. NLIHC staff will also provide our perspective on ways to make good use of this important information.

How have you used Out of Reach in the past? What questions do you have about the data? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.