top of page

Affordable Housing Still Out of Reach for Low-Wage Workers

Vermont Housing Wage is $23.36, According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition

A new report co-released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition found that Vermont’s “housing wage” – the hourly wage people must earn to afford a two-bedroom home at fair market rent (FMR) – is $23.36. The report, Out Of Reach, provides rich context and data that show a mismatch between the cost of living and wages not only in Vermont but across the rest of the country.

To put $23.36 into context, the average renter in Vermont earns $13.81 an hour, which is $9.55 less than the housing wage. That renter can afford just $718 a month for their housing costs without spending more than 30% of their income, while the statewide fair market rent for a two-bedroom home is $1,215 a month and $969 for a one-bedroom. Taken together, Vermont has the 5th largest affordability gap for renters in the country.

In no state in the country can a minimum wage earner working a 40-hour week afford a two-bedroom home. Considering that the minimum wage in Vermont is $10.96, someone earning minimum wage in Vermont must work 85 hours a week – the equivalent of 2.1 full-time jobs – to afford a two-bedroom apartment, or 68 hours a week – 1.7 full-time jobs – for a one-bedroom apartment.

The chart below shows the median hourly wage according to an NLIHC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics for Vermont’s ten most common professions, in comparison to the one-bedroom housing wage, two-bedroom housing wage, and the Burlington Metropolitan Area two-bedroom housing wage. According to the data, only Registered Nurses can afford the two-bedroom housing wage with the median occupational wage.

Taken all together, these data demonstrate fundamental problems both locally and across the country. Even before this year’s COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis, people were struggling to pay bills. Now, in the midst of a public health crisis, unemployment is rising rapidly and many families are finding it impossible to afford basic needs. The economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus further increased the risk of housing instability for millions of low-wage renters at a time when stable housing is vital. Many people are just one financial shock away from spiraling into housing instability, and for many the pandemic and economic fallout is that shock.

People on fixed incomes, like seniors on Social Security, can’t live anywhere in Vermont without some form of housing assistance. Our leaders at the local, state, and federal level need to redouble their efforts to solve the collective problem of high housing costs in order to retain the social and economic vitality of where we live.

In Burlington, where the two-bedroom housing wage just passed $30 this year for the first time ever, more and more of our neighbors find themselves moving farther away – sometimes out of Chittenden County – to be able to live on their wage. However, the housing wage in every county in Vermont is higher than that county’s average renter income.

Jim Lovinsky, Lamoille Housing Partnership Executive Director said: “Every time this comes out, I am surprised by the numbers and wonder how we are ever going to close an ever-widening gap. This time I am surprised to see Lamoille county as the fourth most expensive county in Vermont. My biggest concern now is what will be the impacts of Covid-19 as people lose their jobs and their benefits? I think we will see this gap grow even wider. We need to get this information out to our communities and community decision-makers.”

There is simply no escape from unaffordable housing costs in Vermont. For the first time this year, the state now has three more counties (Washington, Addison, and Lamoille) with housing wages of about $20 – four total, the most ever. The effects of the mismatch between housing costs and wages are not limited to those who can no longer live in the central towns’ employment centers, as the ripple effect of increased commuters and other mismatches affect us all. If our communities take steps to sync local incomes with local housing costs, people will live closer to where they work and our communities will be stronger for it. We’ll also reduce our carbon footprint, since transportation is our rural state’s single largest contributor to global warming.

We have all the information we need to ensure that everyone can afford a decent and safe place to live. All we need to do is act on it.

Further Reading:

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Addressing Housing as a Community

While the winter season has brought forth colder days and darker evenings, some glimmers of excitement have emerged as the start of a new year and a changing Vermont draw near. Besides the rapid appro


Please visit our new Housing & Homelessness Alliance of Vermont website at!

bottom of page