Housing affordability out of reach for low wage workers

New report shows Alexandria renters need to earn more than $15 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment

 ALEXANDRIA, LA  July 14, 2019 – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair- market rent, Louisiana’s full-time workers need to earn a minimum of $17.48 per hour. In Alexandria, the number is just less than that, at $15.27 per hour.  Those numbers represent what’s called the “Housing Wage,” revealed in the new Out of Reach report released jointly by 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, and HousingLOUISIANA, a state-wide network of nine regional housing coalitions working to solve our state’s affordable housing crisis.

This year’s release of the Out of Reach report occurs during a time when the coronavirus has clearly illustrated that housing is healthcare. The mandate to “stay at home” was echoed by top officials across the country. However, as the report shows, having a stable place to stay was out of reach for millions of people before the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, more than 7.7 million extremely low-income renters across the U.S. were spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing costs, sacrificing other necessities to do so. The compounding of high job losses and the lack of access to proper healthcare and resources considerably depleted already limited resources and access.

 

“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,” said Andreancia Morris, President of HousingLOUISIANA. “ 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 week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair-market rent. Working at the minimum wage of $7.25 in Louisiana, a wage earner must have 2 full-time jobs or work 80 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and for a two-bedroom apartment it would take 2.4 full-time job(s) or work 96 hours per week,” Morris said.

 

MOST EXPENSIVE AREAS

2020 HOUSING WAGE

New Orleans-Metairie- HMFA

$20.73

Lafayette HMFA

$17.54

Baton Rouge- HMFA

$17.19

St. Mary Parish

$16.98

Houma-Thibodaux MSA

$16.79

 

Alexandria’s Housing Wage means that in the middle of this pandemic, renters must find a job paying an hourly rate of $15.27  to afford a two-bedroom apartment, despite the fact that businesses aren’t hiring and those that are, do not pay that much due to COVID-related restrictions. Essential workers (grocery store clerks, trash collectors, nursing care workers, etc.) do not typically make $15.27 an hour. The typical renter in Louisiana earns $14.64 an hour, which is $2.84 less than the hourly housing wage needed to afford a modest unit.  According to the Out of Reach report, the economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus further increased the risk of housing instability for millions of low-wage renters at a time when stable housing is vital. Millions of renters were one financial shock away from housing instability, and for many the pandemic and economic fallout is that shock.

 

A recent analysis found that Louisiana ranks 3rd in the nation for having a high risk for evictions due to job losses, with 130,000 households across Louisiana at risk for eviction. The parishes most in need of rental assistance beyond July 31st when federal protections and assistance expire are (in order of need): Orleans, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, Lafayette, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Calcasieu, Ouachita, and Bossier.

Almost half of all renters in Louisiana spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs pre-COVID-19, including rent and utilities. Housing advocates are asking Governor John Bel Edwards to identify funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, Community Development Block Grants, and Emergency Solutions Grants to provide rental assistance for those unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 through the end of 2020. It is estimated that a range of $250-$500 million will be needed to keep Louisiana renters in their homes through the end of this year. In addition, it is imperative that state leaders demand our Congressional delegation vote for bills that will provide the rest of the money to support housing stability for Louisiana’s families. Such bills include:

 

The full Out of Reach report is available at: http://www.nlihc.org/oor

 

About HousingLOUISIANA:

HousingLOUISIANA is a statewide network of housing practitioners and advocates whose primary goal is to ensure that all Louisiana’s housing needs are met. Through our statewide network of the nine regional housing alliances in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette,  Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans, Northshore, and Shreveport, we work to better coordinate efforts and build collaboration across the state on housing issues.

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