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Vermont’s Rental Housing Affordability Gap Continues to Grow

Posted June 13, 2016

BURLINGTON, VT – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in Vermont, renters need to earn $21.13 an hour, or $43,947 a year. This is Vermont’s 2016 Housing Wage, revealed in the annual Out of Reach report released late last month by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, and today by the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.

The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market (affordable means paying no more than 30% of income).  Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage for all states, counties, and metropolitan areas in the country.

The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.  With an estimated mean renter wage of $11.79 an hour, average Vermont renters are left $9.34 an hour short of what they need to earn to afford a decent place to live.  They can afford just $613 a month for rent and utilities while the average statewide Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,099.  Vermont has nearly 75,000 renter households.

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“This report shows exactly how hard it is for ordinary working Vermonters, for seniors, for people with disabilities and others living on fixed incomes to afford safe, stable housing,” said Erhard Mahnke, the Affordable Housing Coalition’s Coordinator.  “Vermonters have to earn more than twice the minimum wage for something that should be considered a basic human right, leaving them with little left over for other basic needs and just a step away from homelessness.”

Even though Vermont’s minimum wage has increased annually for the last several years year, it is not enough to pay for decent housing:  2.2 full-time jobs at minimum wage – or 88 work hours a week — are needed to afford the average two-bedroom apartment.  A full-time minimum wage worker in Vermont can only afford $499 a month for rent and utilities, leaving a gap of $600.

While some might consider this is an unfair comparison because they think most minimum wage workers are high school students, this is not the reality.  According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a minimum wage worker is 35 years old, and 88% are at least 20 years old.  Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

“Our chronic housing shortage and affordability gap make it harder for low-income and vulnerable Vermonters to find and retain housing,” said Ted Wimpey, Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s statewide Fair Housing Program and Chairperson of the Affordable Housing Coalition.  “To make true and lasting headway against this shortage and towards the goal of ending homelessness, we need significant new state and federal investments in affordable housing, coupled with rental assistance for the lowest income families, and supportive services for those with the greatest challenges.”

Unfortunately, federal funding levels for housing, rental assistance and supportive services are far below what they were five or six years ago.  The state of Vermont suffers from chronic budget shortfalls, preventing it from making the needed investments.  Key federal programs like HOME and Community Development Block Grants have been underfunded for years.  Congress still has not seen fit to restore all the rental assistance vouchers lost through sequestration.   The State has shortchanged the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, our primary tool for increasing the state’s affordable housing portfolio, for years.  It has been unable to make the necessary increases to such key housing safety net programs as the Vermont Rental Subsidy Program, which helps close the gap between what low-income Vermonters can afford and what’s available on the market.

Additional findings from Out of Reach:

  • The national Housing Wage is $20.30 in 2016.
  • Vermont is the state with the sixth largest shortfall between the two-bedroom housing wage and the renter wage.
  • Vermont is the seventh most expensive state for rural (non-metro) areas.
  • Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation for renters.
  • The Housing Wage in the greater metropolitan area of Burlington is $26.08, almost $5.00 an hour higher than the state average.
  • The one-bedroom Housing Wage is $16.58 an hour ($34,479 a year), requiring 69 work hours a week at minimum wage to afford the monthly rent of $862.
  • Someone with a disability living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford $236 a month, leaving them $863 short for a two-bedroom, and $626 short for a one-bedroom apartment.

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For additional information, visit: www.nlihc.org/oor/.

For a link to the full press release and supplemental materials, click here.

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The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition is a statewide membership organization dedicated to ensuring that all Vermonters have decent, safe and affordable housing, particularly the state’s low and moderate-income residents, elders, people living with homelessness, and people with disabilities. For more information on the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, visit
www.vtaffordablehousing.org
.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. For more information on the National Low Income Housing Coalition, visit www.nlihc.org

 



Renters Struggle To Afford Steep Housing Costs, Report Finds

Posted May 26, 2015

Over the weekend Vermont Public Radio spoke with our coordinator Erhard Mahnke to discuss the Out of Reach Report and the struggle to find affordable housing in Vermont:

Andrea Craft is looking for a new place to live. But she’s not having much luck.

“Most of the time I don’t even really get the chance to apply for the apartment because people won’t respond to my attempts to contact them,” she says.

A few things about Craft. One: She’s a college student. Two: She’s a single mom. Three: She receives rental assistance in the form of a Section 8 voucher.

She says when landlords learn those last two facts, they stop returning her calls.

“I have in the past actually created another email address and made up a story like, ‘Oh, I’m a college student looking for an apartment,'” remembers Craft. “And they respond immediately.”

She says this has happened five or six times. Craft is currently looking for a two-bedroom apartment to share with her four-year-old daughter. As a student at Champlain College, she’s lived in Burlington. But she say’s she’s open to looking for a home farther from the city.

A new report titled “Out of Reach 2015,” finds that many other Vermonters are also struggling to find affordable rental housing.

The state was ranked as the 13th most expensive in the country. The report estimated a Fair Market Rent of $1,075 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Erhard Mahnke is the coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, the group that released the report locally.

He says that figure is based on a modest apartment in an older building. He points out that many new apartments are priced much higher, particularly in Burlington.

“Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in a newly constructed development in and around Burlington is about $1,900,” he says.

He says those new developments can affect housing costs in nearby areas.

“They have a tendency to set the market-wide rent as what is affordable,” Manhnke says. “That’s one of the reasons why there’s some concern among affordable housing advocates that if there’s a lot of new, market-rate construction, and it all comes in at this $1,900 average, that’s going to set the standard for the entire market.”

The report also looked at how much a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities in the private housing market.

“It’s an affordability crisis. I think it’s driving our homeless numbers.” – Erhard Mahnke, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition
In Vermont, that’s an average of a little over $20 per hour, or over $43,000 per year.

Vermont’s minimum wage is $9.15 an hour. That means 2.3 minimum wage workers in the household would need to work full time. One minimum wage worker would need to clock 90 hours per week.

That means many Vermonters pay a disproportionate share of their income toward rent.

Mahnke says that puts Vermonters in a dangerous situation.

“I think it means more families in crisis in the state of Vermont,” he says. “It’s an affordability crisis. I think it’s driving our homeless numbers.”

And housing assistance like the kind Andrea Craft receives is at a premium in the state, often with long waiting lists.

Mahnke says greater investments in affordable housing are needed at both the federal and state levels.

Nationally, the report found that no renter working full-time at minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

VTOOR

To view the full article, including audio, click here. To read more about the 2015 Out of Reach Report, click here.

 



Annual Report Finds Vermont Rents Continue to Climb Out of Reach

Posted May 19, 2015

Burlington, VT – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in Vermont, renters need to earn $20.68 per hour, or $43,017 a year. This is Vermont’s 2015 Housing Wage, revealed in a report released today. The report, Out of Reach 2015, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.

The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market.

“Rents in Vermont continue to rise every year, making it harder and harder for low wage, service sector workers and people living on fixed incomes to get by,” said Erhard Mahnke, Coordinator for the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. “With a Housing Wage of over $20 an hour for the first time, ordinary Vermonters must pay an ever-increasing portion of their income for rent, leaving little left for other basic necessities and often precipitating them into the downward spiral of homelessness.”

Even though Vermont’s minimum wage was increased last year, a family must have 2.3 wage earners working full-time at minimum wage, or one full-time earner working 90 hours a week, to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the average statewide Fair Market Rent of $1,075. A full-time minimum wage worker in Vermont can only afford $476 for rent and utilities, leaving a gap of just under $600 between what they can afford and the cost of the average two-bedroom apartment. While it is possible for a household to work more than one job to make ends meet, a 2011 Vermont study showed that 62% of the state’s households had only one, or less than one full-time worker.

“With rents going up steadily and a one percent vacancy rate statewide, it is not surprising that we are seeing increased homelessness, and for longer periods of time, especially among families with children,” said Sara Kobylenski, Executive Director of the Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction and Co-Chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness. “To make headway, we need more affordable homes, coupled with rental subsidies and supportive services for our lowest income Vermonters and those with special challenges.”

Greater investments in affordable housing and ending homelessness are needed at both the federal and state levels. Unfortunately, federal funding for housing, community development and rental assistance have suffered deep cuts over the last several years. Recent proposals in Congress are to eliminate funding for the National Housing Trust Fund – the first new federal housing program since the early 1990’s. Vermont’s own fiscal woes have resulted in cuts to the Vermont Housing Conservation Board for next year, while funding to alleviate homelessness has not seen the increases needed to make lasting progress, and the state’s safety net continues to fray further.

Additional Facts:

  • The national Housing Wage is $19.35 in 2015.
  • Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation for renters (including DC).
  • Vermont is the ninth most expensive state for non-metropolitan/rural areas.
  • The Housing Wage is up 29% since the Great Recession began in 2008.
  • The Housing Wage in the greater metropolitan area of Burlington is $25.54, 24% higher than the state average.
  • A Vermont renter with a full-time job at the mean renter wage of $11.78 an hour can only afford $613 for rent and utilities, leaving them with an affordability gap of over $460 for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Someone with a disability living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford $236, leaving them $839 short for a two-bedroom, and $600 short for a one-bedroom apartment.

Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage and other housing affordability data for every state, county, metropolitan area, and combined non-metropolitan area in the country. The report presents housing costs nationwide, highlighting the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value. For additional information, visit: www.nlihc.org/oor/.

Click the images below to view larger image:

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housingwageOOR
 

To download the full press release and supplemental materials for Vermont click here.

 



Revised Out of Reach 2013 information for Vermont

Posted May 29, 2013

The NLIHC recently revised the Out of Reach – Vermont information to reflect increases in Vermont’s statewide Fair Market Rent (FMR) and Housing Wage. The report, originally issued in March, highlights the need for more affordable housing across the country. The updates show an increase in the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment from $964 to $1,054. This means a household working 40 hours a week would have to earn $20.27/hr in order to make their housing affordable.

This is the first time ever that the state’s Housing Wage has gone over $20/hr and results in a $466 gap between what a mean renter, earning $11.32/hr, can afford and the FMR. The NLIHC issued the changes because of HUD’s increase to the FMR for the Burlington-South Burlington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

Link to PDF of Out of Reach Vermont 2013

 

 



Emergency housing requests rise amidst news of continued high Vermont rents

Posted March 25, 2013

By Leslie Black-Plumeau. Reposted from Housing Matters, March 18th, 2013.

“Calls fielded by Vermont 2-1-1 operators for emergency housing increased dramatically during January and February 2013.  Calls for housing and shelter assistance exceeded all other types of calls in February.

Meanwhile, Vermont found itself ranked among the 2013 most expensive jurisdictions in the country by the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report.  Vermont was among the nation’s top 10 states with the highest non-metro area rents.

Read more on the Vermont 2-1-1 and the National Low Income Housing Coalition‘s websites.”

Link to Housing Matters blog 

 



Paying rent: the ends don’t meet

Posted March 24, 2013

By Lisa McCormack. Reposted from the Stowe Reporter, March 21, 2013.

“A variety of economic struggles faced by many low-income Vermonters have exacerbated the housing crisis, said Alison Joyal, housing counselor and Lamoille service coordinator for the Central Vermont Community Action Council.

‘We have a perfect storm of incredibly high gas prices, high rents, fewer benefits and less employment,’ Joyal said. ‘People are choosing between paying for heating fuel and gasoline and paying rent, especially if they don’t live close to work…'”

Link to Full Stowe Reporter Article

View PDF of Full Stowe Reporter Article

 



Affordable housing is out of reach in Vermont

Posted March 14, 2013

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released it’s report, Out of Reach 2013, earlier this week. The national study highlights the growing gap between minimum wage and the cost of a basic apartment. Specifically, the report focuses on barriers to finding and maintaining an affordable home nationwide. Since it’s release, affordable housing has been spotlighted in local media:

Barre Montpelier Times Argus
Renting in Vermont: Gap remains between income and affordability
View PDF of Times Argus article

Vermont Public Radio News
Reports Paint Different Pictures Of Affordable Housing
View PDF of VPR News article 

 

Link to Out of Reach 2013 report

 

 



High Rents Make Housing Unaffordable for Many in Vermont

Posted March 11, 2013

Vermont Rents Out of Reach for Working Families

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released the Out of Reach 2013 report this afternoon, which highlights affordable housing needs in Vermont and across the country. To check out the report, click HERE.

To see how Vermont ranks nationally, view Out of Reach – Vermont

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Renters in Vermont need to earn $18.53 per hour in order to afford a basic apartment here, according to a report released today that compares the cost of rental housing with what renters can really afford. This works out to an annual income of $38,541.

The report, Out of Reach 2013, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. The report provides the Housing Wage and other housing affordability data for every state, metropolitan area, combined non metropolitan area, and county in the country. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market.

“Vermont has been and still is one of the states with the least affordable rental housing,” says Ted Wimpey, Director of the Fair Housing Project at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and Chairperson of the Vermont Coalition. “It is extremely difficult now for even moderate income people in Vermont to find affordable rental housing, and the situation has many serious consequences including increased homelessness and suppressed economic development in Vermont.”

Working at the minimum wage in Vermont, a family must have 2.2 wage earners working full-time, or one full-time earner working 86 hours per week at $8.60 an hour, the state’s minimum wage, to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at $964 a month, the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Vermont.

The typical renter in Vermont earns $11.67 an hour which is $6.86 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest unit.  Someone living on Social Security Income (SSI) of $750 a month can’t afford to pay more than $225 a month, leaving a gap of $739.

According to Jeanne Montross, Executive Director of Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) and Chairperson of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, “The economic difficulty in recent years has caused a real housing crisis for many Vermonters. With scarcer housing subsidies and reduced funding for the creation of new affordable housing, this is creating a wave of distress that we will be dealing with for years to come.”

Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, says that there is a role the federal government can play in easing the financial strain faced by low-income renters. “The federal government has used the tax code to make homeownership easier. In reality, the benefits are largely going to higher income people with million-dollar homes. It’s time to make housing policy work better for middle and lower income people by reforming mortgage interest tax breaks and directing the savings to the National Housing Trust Fund to build and preserve homes affordable to the lowest income Americans.”

The new report comes at a time when federal housing resources are being further cut as a result of sequestration.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based policy research organization, estimates that Vermont will lose over 300 federal rental assistance vouchers and another $500,000 in housing and community development funds.  This comes on top of $3.2 million in housing and community development cuts over the last three years.

An estimated 63% of renters in Vermont do not earn enough to afford a two-bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent.  This year, Vermont is the 15th most expensive state in the nation for renters overall and the ninth most expensive for non-metropolitan areas.

For additional information, visit http://nlihc.org/oor/2013

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Please note: In May 2013, the NLIHC revised the Out of Reach 2013 information to reflect increases in Vermont’s statewide Fair Market Rent (FMR) and Housing Wage. The updates show an increase in the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment from $964 to $1,054. This means a household working 40 hours a week would have to earn $20.27/hr in order to make their housing affordable. Link to VAHC’s updated OOR 2013 post