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Travel and Tourism Workers Struggle to Cover Housing Costs in Many Metros

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Key Findings

• In a substantial portion of the U.S., buying a typical home is unaffordable for four out of five travel workers studied. In nearly 40 percent of 207 metro areas studied, front desk managers and auto mechanics could not afford the monthly mortgage payments for a median-priced home. Low-income travel workers, such as housekeepers and wait staff, could afford a median-priced home in less than 5 percent of the study’s metro areas. On the other end of the spectrum, just 12 percent of the metro areas were unaffordable to flight attendants. Even when home prices were affordable, amassing a sufficient down payment or getting access to credit pose additional barriers.

• Lower-income travel workers also face rents that are unaffordable at typical wages. The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment was unaffordable for housekeepers and wait staff in all 207 metro areas. Even a one-bedroom apartment was unaffordable for housekeepers and wait staff in the vast majority of metro areas.

• Housing affordability challenges for travel workers were concentrated in major vacation destinations. Unaffordable metro areas included Suffolk-Nassau, New York (home of the Hamptons); Barnstable, Massachusetts (home of Hyannis and the rest of Cape Cod); and Ocean City, New Jersey (home of Cape May and other southern New Jersey shore towns). In these metros, fair market rents and median-priced homes were unaffordable for housekeepers, wait staff, front desk managers, and auto mechanics. Flight attendants could afford to rent a typical two-bedroom unit in every metro area studied, but they could not afford to buy a home in 25 destination communities, including the metro areas of Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and New York.

• More metro areas were affordable for travel workers looking to buy a home in 2013 than in 2012; however, affordability declined in areas with rebounding home prices. Overall, more metro areas become affordable for potential homebuyers than became unaffordable over the past year, but still the gains were modest. For example, auto mechanics could afford to buy a home in twelve areas that had not been affordable last year, yet five other metro areas saw median home prices rise out of auto mechanics’ price range.

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