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It’s difficult for low-income renters throughout the country to afford a modest one- or two-bedroom rental home, according to findings from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) Out of Reach 2019 report. The national housing wage, or the hourly pay rate a worker would need to afford a rental home, is $22.96 for an average two-bedroom rental home and $18.65 for a one-bedroom.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which means that a worker earning minimum wage would need to work 127 hours per week, which would equate to having three full-time jobs, in order to afford a two-bedroom rental home. To afford a one-bedroom rental home, a minimum-wage worker would need to work 103 hours per week.

There are currently only 4 million rental homes that are affordable and available to the nation’s 11 million extremely low-income renter households below the poverty rate, leaving a shortage of 7 million homes. A family of four below the poverty rate earns no more than $25,750 a year, which means they can only afford $644 a month in rent. This family would be short $550 in affording an average two-bedroom rental home and $326 short in affording a less ideal one-bedroom rental home.

Families below the poverty line and minimum-wage workers aren’t the only ones struggling to afford rental housing. The average renter’s hourly wage is $5.39 less than the national two-bedroom housing wage and $1.08 less than the one-bedroom housing wage. Shockingly, a full-time worker earning an average wage could afford a two-bedroom rental home in only 10 percent of counties in the entire United States.

The most expensive two-bedroom rental housing wages are found in coastal states on the West and East Coasts. Full-time workers in the following states need to make over $25 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental home:

  • California
  • New York
  • Colorado
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Washington, D.C.

Women face greater challenges affording rent because they, on average, earn less than their male counterparts. Recent Census Bureau data reveals that women earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, or 25 percent less than men. A median-wage, full-time male worker can afford a modest one-bedroom apartment at the national fair market rent, but a female median-wage worker cannot.

This gender disparity in wages and housing affordability adversely affects children, since children that don’t live with both parents are likely to live with their mother. When a mother has difficulty affording rent, this can negatively affect a child’s health and cognitive development, as the parent isn’t likely to have additional income to spend on other necessities.

Rent affordability is a pervasive issue in the nation’s economy. It’s in our best interest to develop affordable housing for citizens so they can attain jobs, earn money for short-term and long-term financial wealth and contribute to the economy at the state and national level.

Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit