The real estate boom continues to have an impact on workers at the lowest end of the pay scale. According to the most recent data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person working full-time at a minimum-wage job can't afford to rent a two-bedroom home anywhere in the country. There are only four counties (Crawford, Lawrence, and Wayne counties in Illinois and Washington County in Florida) where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment.
The statistics are based on the prevailing minimum wage and the fair-market rent in each market. HUD defines fair-market rent as “the dollar amount below which 40 percent of the standard quality rental housing units rent.” A unit is considered affordable if it doesn't take more than 30 percent of a full-time worker's gross salary.
The report notes that workers' paychecks haven't kept up with the increase in housing costs. Between October 2003 and October 2004, rent on primary residences increased by 2.9 percent. Hourly wages went up by 2.6 percent in the same time period.
Overall, 35 percent of the households in the United States—nearly 95 million people—have some type of housing problem, including housing that's unaffordable, inadequate, or overcrowded, the council reports in its new study, “The Crisis in America's Housing: Confronting Myths and Promoting a Balanced Housing Policy.” Only about half the low-income families with housing problems own their homes.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.