The National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual “Out of Reach” report for 2021, detailing the gap between the cost of rental housing and tenants’ incomes across the nation. This year’s report reveals the extent to which costs have outpaced wages far before the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further exacerbated hardships and inequalities for low wage workers disproportionately affecting those who are Black, Brown, Indigenous and/or Latino. Whether the market is in a period of economic growth or downturn, low-wage workers struggle to find affordable homes.   

The report calculates an Annual Housing Wage, an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a rental home at HUD’s fair market rent (FMR) without spending more than 30 percent of their income.  

The 2021 National Housing Wages are:  

  • $24.90 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home ($1,295 per month FMR) and 
  • $20.40 per hour for a modest one-bedroom rental home ($1,061 per month FMR). 

Though COVID-19 inspired changes in the affordable housing and rental sector have been useful for some tenants, these short-term solutions are unlikely to solely solve the affordable housing crisis. The “Out of Reach” report suggests the following policies:  

  • Expand access to rental assistance program by fully funding the Housing Choice Voucher program and 
  • Expand the supply of affordable homes affordable to the lowest income people with significant increases in capital investments through an annual congressional investment of at least $45 billion to the national Housing Trust Fund.