Affordable Housing is Out of Reach in Washington for Low Wage Workers

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2017
CONTACT: Reiny Cohen, 206.251.4083, reinyc@wliha.org

AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS OUT OF REACH IN WASHINGTON FOR LOW WAGE WORKERS

In order to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in Washington, renters need to earn $23.64 per hour. This is Washington’s 2017 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing, was jointly released by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people.

 

Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage (the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs) for all states, counties, and metropolitan areas in the country. The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.

 

“Rents are increasing across Washington at the same time homelessness is rising, and the two are not unrelated,” said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. “Out of Reach reinforces what we already know: Pay for low-wage workers isn’t keeping up with rising rents. And we’re not investing nearly enough to create homes that are affordable for low-income households. That’s what’s driving increased homelessness.”

 

As the second special session comes to a close, the state legislature should address this problem. House bill 1570, which passed the House two weeks ago would increase the state funding for solving homelessness. And a significant investment in the Housing Trust Fund in the state capital budget would create new affordable homes for low-income families and individuals.

 

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, not keeping pace with the high cost of rental housing. In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom home at the average Fair Market Rent. Working at the minimum wage of $11.00 in Washington, a wage earner must have 1.7 full-time jobs or work 69 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment.

 

“The Out of Reach 2017 data shows why millions of low-income renters are struggling to afford their homes. The federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009. The national Housing Wage has increased to $21.21 for a two-bedroom rental home, more than 2.9 times higher than the federal minimum wage and $4.83 higher than the average renter’s wage,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis by realigning the federal tax expenditures and reinvesting the savings in the rental housing programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable. We lack only the political will to do so.”

 

For additional information, visit: http://www.nlihc.org/oor