This afternoon, the NLIHC released Out of Reach 2011. During our call with members of the press, we discussed the research and its implications.

The NLIHC finds that high unemployment, falling wages, and low rental vacancy rates driven by a post-recession return to renting have combined to put housing stability beyond the grasp of low income households across the country.

The national Housing Wage- the amount a person working full-time must earn to afford the Fair Market Rent on a modest two-bedroom unit- is just one measure calculated in the report. Out of Reach also calculates the number of hours one must work at the minimum wage and the average renter wage in order to afford typical rents. The report also provides local wage and income data for comparison purposes.

According to Out of Reach 2011, the national two-bedroom Fair Market Rent (FMR) is $960 per month. A household must earn $38,400 annually in order to afford that FMR. Other key findings include:

  • The two-bedroom Housing Wage tops $30.00 in Hawaii, and is over $20.00 in 7 states: CA, MD, NJ, NY, CT, MA and AK.
  • In 2011, the estimated average wage for renters in the United States is just $13.52, a significant decline from $14.44 in 2010.

At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have to work 102 hours each week to afford the national average FMR for a two-bedroom home.

According to Raphael Bostic, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Policy Development and Research at HUD and a guest on the call, there are three areas where attention must be paid in order to solve the problems outlined in Out of Reach.

First, the affordable housing stock we already have must be preserved. Currently, HUD estimates that 10,000 units of public housing are lost annually due to lack of sufficient funding to maintain it.

Second, rental assistance must be made available, effective and as useful as possible. Contrary to what many Americans believe, rental assistance, such as Housing Choice Vouchers, is not an entitlement like Social Security or food stamps. Only one in four households who need rental assistance receive it because funding falls far short of the need.

Third and finally, Assistant Secretary Bostic said there must be continued support for the production of homes affordable to the lowest income people. There is a shortage of over 3 million units of affordable housing. This is a gap that cannot be filled by preservation and rental assistance alone.

What will it take to close the 3 million-unit gap? NLIHC believes it will take funding the National Housing Trust Fund. Created in 2008 by an act of Congress, the NHTF would fund the construction, preservation, and rehabilitation of rental housing affordable to the lowest income people. If the NHTF were funded at $30 billion a year for ten years, the gap would disappear.

View the report online and look at the data for your community at