Despite the growing demand for health-care workers, many in the sector cannot afford housing in the communities where they work.
Consider this: Home health aides would need to devote 120 percent of their income to monthly housing costs in order to purchase a median-priced home in Honolulu. In Long Island, N.Y., medical billing clerks would have to spend more than half their income on rent for a two-bedroom home at fair market rent. And, a typical geriatric nurse in San Francisco would have to spend nearly 85 percent of her monthly income to buy a median-priced home.
The Center for Housing Policy, the research arm of the National Housing Conference (NHC), shines a light on the sizable gap between wages of key health-care workers and the costs to rent or buy a home in 210 metro areas across the nation. In 2013, the group looked at workers in the tourism industry.
The latest Paycheck to Paycheck report focuses on five health-sector jobs—medical records transcriptionists, medical billing clerks, home health aides, case managers, and geriatric nurses—at a time when jobs in the field are expected to grow by 30 percent between 2012 and 2022. Home health-care jobs alone are projected to increase by 60 percent during that time.
Despite the surge in demand, many health workers struggle to afford housing.
“Wages are not rising as fast as rents or home prices in many metro areas, and this is creating a severe housing cost burden for health-industry workers,” says Janet Viveiros, NHC research associate and report co-author. “Housing affordability challenges in some parts of the country may exacerbate the existing shortages of health workers.”
With a national median salary of $26,789, home health aides have the greatest struggle among the jobs studied. The typical home health aide can afford to buy a median priced home in only one metro area (Mansfield, Ohio) and can rent a two-bedroom home at fair market rent in just 18 metro areas. In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., an aide would have to spend almost 60 percent of his or her paycheck on monthly rent.
As more older adults require assistance, the number of home health aide jobs is projected to increase almost 50 percent by 2022.
If there is an insufficient supply of affordable housing, especially in metro areas with high and growing concentrations of older adults who often require some level of home health care, communities may find that they are not able to attract workers to meet the health needs of their residents, says NHC.
Health workers who are unable or do not want to move to lower-cost regions often struggle to find housing they can afford without having to cut back on other essentials, such as food or child care.
The full report is available at http://www.nhc.org/chp/p2p/.
For a list of the most-to-least expensive metros, click here.
Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF.