Affordable Housing Still Out of Reach for Low-Wage Workers The Average Vermont Renter Faces a Huge Affordability Gap
BURLINGTON, VT – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in Vermont, renters need to earn $22.40 an hour, or $46,585 annually. This is Vermont’s 2018 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC).
Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage, the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest, safe rental home without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs. The report covers all states, counties, metropolitan areas, and ZIP codes in the country, highlighting the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.
The average renter in Vermont earns $12.85 an hour, which is $9.55 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a safe, decent place to live. They can afford just $668 a month for their housing costs, while the average statewide Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,165 a month and $928 a month for a one-bedroom. With over 75,000 renter households, Vermont has the 5th largest affordability gap for renters of any state in the nation.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “The NLIHC Out of Reach report puts data behind the stories that I hear from Vermonters around our state who tell me that, with a Housing Wage of $46,585 per year, finding affordable housing is a challenge affecting Vermonters across the income spectrum. I commend Vermont’s affordable housing leaders who work tirelessly to help ensure that all Vermonters have access to safe, decent and affordable housing. By investing in housing, we can help families, downtowns and rural communities thrive. This report informs policymakers and local community leaders and helps us all stay focused on this fundamental challenge.”
At Vermont’s current minimum wage of $10.50, a wage earner must have 1.7 full-time jobs or work 68 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment, and have 2.1 full-time jobs or work 85 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In no state, even those like Vermont, where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard of $7.25 an hour, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour week afford a modest two-bedroom rental home. The struggle to afford modest apartments is not limited to minimum wage workers; 7 out of 10 of the jobs projected for the greatest growth over the next decade have wages lower than the one-bedroom Housing Wage. Seniors and others living on fixed incomes can’t afford housing anywhere in the state without a subsidy.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, is pleased to have authored the report’s preface this year. “The affordable housing crisis demands that we think big and act boldly,” said Senator Sanders. “We must make a historic and sustained commitment to ensure that every family has an affordable place to live and thrive. This starts with significantly expanding federal investments in affordable housing through programs like the National Housing Trust Fund, the HOME program and other critically important resources. In the richest country in history, no family should have to make the awful choice between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis. We have the solutions that work. What we need is the will to do what is right.”
“This report vividly documents just how far we have to go in this country before quality and affordable housing is available for all of Americans,” said Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT). “At a time when President Trump is trying to gut federal housing programs, these statistics make it crystal clear that we must invest more, not less, in expanding safe and affordable housing in Vermont and across the country.”
When low-wage workers and people living on fixed incomes pay too much for their housing, they have too little left over to cover other basic needs and are one paycheck or one major car repair away from eviction and the downward spiral of homelessness. In addition to the federal government, we must look to the State of Vermont to increase its investments in affordable housing. Last year’s $37 million housing bond has been a great step forward, but in order to stem the rising tide of homelessness, we also need increased rental assistance as well as supportive services for those with the greatest challenges to maintaining their housing.
Additional findings from Out of Reach:
The national Housing Wage is $22.10 in 2018.
Vermont is the 6th 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 $27.73, fully $5.63 an hour higher than the state average.
Vermont’s one-bedroom Housing Wage is $17.84 an hour.
Someone with a disability living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford $241 a month, leaving them $924 short for a two-bedroom, and $687 short for a one-bedroom rental.
Senator Sanders also released a short video on the report: https://bit.ly/2Moi8RM For additional Vermont information, visit: https://bit.ly/2sSlqVg To view the full Out of Reach report, visit: http://www.nlihc.org/oor/
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, 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, visit www.nlihc.org.