Wages are falling and rents are rising to create an increasingly wide gap in how much people earn and the amount needed for an affordable, decent home, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
The recession has worsened an already severe housing situation, says the group, which released its annual Out of Reach report, an often-cited study that shows the disparities between incomes and rents.
The report calculates the housing wage, the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford the fair market rent on a two-bedroom unit in his or her community.
The latest report finds the 2010 national housing wage to be $18.44, up from $17.84 last year. This means a household must earn $38,360 a year to afford a modest rental home.
One positive is that the federal minimum wage recently increased to $7.25 per hour from $6.55, said Megan DeCrappeo, NLIHC research analyst.
Even so, at the federal minimum wage, a household would have to work 102 hours each week to afford the nation’s average fair market rent for a two-bedroom home. The national two-bedroom fair market rent is $959 a month.
There is not a single county in the nation in which a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent, according to Out of Reach.
DeCrappeo added that there are only 37 affordable and available rental units for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
The two-bedroom housing wage topped $20 in 10 states: Hawaii, the District of Columbia, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Alaska, and Florida.
The Stamford, Conn., metro was the most expensive region with a housing wage of $34.62. It was followed by San Francisco, $33.85; Honolulu, $32.77; Santa Cruz, Calif., $31.85; and Westchester County, N.Y., $31.17.
Data for every state and metro area is available at .
Continued high rates of unemployment and underemployment during the recession is making it even more difficult for families to secure decent housing, noted Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
During a call with reporters, he pointed out that the situation is not likely to improve soon. The latest data is a reminder of how many people are struggling with the necessities of life, said Baker.
NLIHC President Sheila Crowley used the release of the report to call on Congress to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, which would provide money for affordable housing.