Out Of Reach!

Posted on May 3, 2011

This week’s blog was written by VSH’s spring PR intern, Jonathan Glomb.

On Monday May 2nd, The National Low Income Housing Coalition released Out of Reach 2011, an annual report that contains a “side-by-side comparison of wages and rents in every county, metropolitan area, combined nonmetropolitan area, and state in the United States.” The report showcases the disparity that exists between money needed to pay for rent and money that is realistically earned by minimum wage laborers. The report’s title very accurately describes this gap between wages and housing expenses since, clearly, housing is quite simply out of reach for this sector of our population.

One feature of the report is a calculation of the Housing Wage, or the capital a person would need to earn working full-time in order to afford the Fair Market Rent on a modest two-bedroom unit. Furthermore, the report examines the amount a person would need to work for minimum wages to afford the most standard of rental units. The Out of Reach report also provides income and wage data for a variety of areas in the United States to offer rationale for the argument that housing must be made more affordable.

I found this report to be particularly eye opening, since it offers an irrefutable argument as to why many individuals find themselves on the streets. Economically speaking, an individual needs to work an extraordinarily large amount of hours earning minimum wage (or similar wages) to afford a standard two-bedroom unit. All of these calculations determine the situation strictly on hours and wages without consideration of other facets of life like children, unforeseen emergencies, other expenditures, illness, accidents and other problems that life throws at us.

The Out Of Reach report is fascinating in that it makes comparisons easy to notice. For example, The Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom unit in Virginia is $1,022. A household must bring in $3,406 monthly or $40,876 yearly to be able to pay for this amount of rent and utilities. At exactly 40 hours a week every week of the year, this translates to just under $20.00 per hour just to afford housing, all other surprises in life aside.

The equation is even more surreal for a minimum wage worker in Virginia. At $7.25 an hour, an hourly worker must work 108 hours per week, for the entire year, in order to maintain an average two-bedroom household! The fact that an 80 hour work week is considered grueling by most people makes 108 hours a week just to keep a roof over your head absurd! In this scenario, one can forget the idea of savings or leisurely spending. With the numbers in plain sight, it is a wonder why there aren’t more organizations like Virginia Supportive Housing that strive to help low-income people bridge this financial gap. Virginia Supportive Housing works to alleviate the grip that this earning gap has on many individuals all across the country.

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