4 Facts All Housing Advocates Should Know

We’re continuing our countdown today with 4 Facts All Housing Advocates Should Know from our Research Team. NLIHC’s Research Team works tirelessly to provide powerful, educational resources for housing advocates at the national, state, and local levels. You’ll find our research woven into letters we send to Administration officials, featured in local news stories, and included in packets taken to meetings on Capitol Hill. In today’s political climate, we know that having up-to-date, reliable data is ever important to strengthening the work of housing advocates. Our research is here for you; help us continue to provide essential resources with a donation this holiday season!

1. The federal minimum wage is not enough for a renter to afford a two bedroom unit in America. A renter household must earn at least $18.46 per hour to afford a two bedroom rental unit, while the federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour. This data is part of the detailed look at the cost of housing nationwide that NLIHC provides each year in our Out of Reach report. While the cost of renting varies across the country, the cost of housing universally exceeds the earnings of many low wage American workers. In other words, virtually everywhere in America, a minimum wage worker cannot afford an apartment with only one full-time job, yet alone afford other living costs. Advocates can use these OOR data to respond to claims that people in need of more affordable housing just need to work more hours.

2. The working poor are hardest hit by the burden of housing costs. Our first Housing Spotlight supports this conclusion. In 2010, 19.4 million American renter households faced housing cost burden, meaning they paid over 30% of their income towards rent. This high cost burden takes away from the income households could use to buy fresh groceries, school supplies for children, or to cover unexpected expenses like a health bill or car repair. Do you have a meeting scheduled with a Member of Congress or state legislator? Bring a copy of this NLIHC resource to demonstrate the impact of housing cost burden on communities and people.

3. There is a shortage of affordable rental units across America. For example, in California there are just 22 affordable and available rental units per 100 extremely low income households, and there is a need for nearly 900,000 rental units to serve extremely low income households. Advocates can use NLIHC’s Congressional District Profiles to reveal the local story. The profiles show readers the depths of the need in their state and their local district. Our analysis of data explains why so many households are housing cost burdened – there are simply not enough rental units to meet the demand for affordable housing. The scarcity of units means that more families are living in substandard housing or overcrowded conditions.

4. Foreclosure hits renters, too. In fact, roughly 40% of all families facing eviction due to foreclosure proceedings are renters. The foreclosure crisis had widespread effects, and low income renters were not spared. NLIHC’s research draws attention to the impact of the crisis on low income households, especially renters. Our 2009 publication, Renters in Foreclosure: Defining the Problem, Identifying Solutions revealed the extent to which renters were in need of protections to assure that they received proper notice of foreclosure and that leases are honored. As new legislation regarding Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure is considered in Congress, this research publication will again prove valuable for low income housing advocates.

How have you used NLIHC’s research tools and publications? Tell us in the comments!

Tomorrow: 3 Inspiring Local Advocacy Stories from NLIHC’s Outreach Team.


  1. why would a single person on minimum wage try to get a two bedroom apartment? When I was making barely more than minimum wage, I had a one bedroom apartment in an area people consider a ‘rich’ part of town, and was never thinking about getting a two bedroom, but I didn’t see that as a negative thing… It was a nice place, pretty spacious, nice area…. I’m sure I could have afforded a two bedroom in a part of the city where housing is cheaper too, but I’d rather live in a nicer place.
    If you are married or living with someone else who also makes minimum wage, you could then afford a two bedroom…chances are you’re sleeping in the same bedroom, so you have an extra room for an office or room for a child.
    Even when I started looking at condos and made well above minimum wage, I was looking at one bedrooms, and living comfortably… Where is this idea coming from that a minumum wage worker should be able to afford a two bedroom home?? I would guess there are a lot of areas where prices really are out of control and you couldn’t afford even a one bedroom…but what this article is talking about seems fine to me…

    • Thank you for your comment, “me.” We use a 2-bedroom apartment as the standard for this measurement because it is the most common apartment size in the United States. The minimum wage is but one wage level we use in Out of Reach , from which the statistic you’ve commented on was taken.

      Unfortunately, minimum wage is a very relevant income level in today’s economy. Many Americans are currently underemployed. While they are willing to work in higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs, those jobs are not available to them, and they must subsist on minimum wage.

      We encourage you to visit Out of Reach on our website. Take a look at the rents for your community, and see how they match up with the wages working people make where you live.


  1. […] week we’ve taken a look back at some of NLIHC’s favorite photos from 2011, facts that drive our advocacy, and member stories that inspire us. Still, it’s hard to deny that this […]

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