Report: Rents Everywhere Too High For The Low Wage

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The glut of abandoned buildings littering neighborhoods across the city aren’t having much downward pressure on rent, according to Out of Reach 2010, an annual survey of wages and housing costs put together by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).

The report, released Wednesday, shows there is not a single county in the United States where someone earning minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom apartment. Affordability is measured as devoting no more than 30 percent of earnings toward rent. But looking at US Census data, Danilo Pelletiere, NLIHC’s research director, found 71 percent of very low income people are spending at least half their income on rent.

Even with condos and foreclosed houses sitting empty, rents aren’t coming down to levels people can afford, said Sheila Crowley, NLIHC president. “There is a mismatch between where that housing is and what it costs and what people who need it can afford. It’s really water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink,” she said Wednesday.

The numbers are grim in New York.

Someone earning the state minimum wage of $7.25 would need to put in 120 hours a week to pay the rent on a studio in the Bronx. Even at $17.46 an hour – the mean wage of what renters in the borough earn- he’d have to work 50 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to make the rent on a $1,129 studio.

For a family to afford a two-bedroom near Yankee Stadium, they’d need 3.6 full-time minimum wage jobs. That’s a lot of hot dogs at the new Yankee Stadium, or a long time stocking shelves at Related Company’s Gateway Center Mall down the street.

It’s no better in the other boroughs. According to Out of Reach, to afford a two-bedroom in Brooklyn, a family would need to take in $54,000 a year. That’s a far cry from the median income of Brooklyn renters: $34,000.

The report’s authors say their research underscores the need for more affordable housing. “For every 37 affordable units, there are 100 people who need it,” said Megan DeCrappeo, research analyst. “The shortage increased over 2007-2008, as people lost their homes and doubled up with relatives.”

And the median wage renters earn went down last year – expanding the gap between what apartments cost and what people can afford.

The recession may be on the wain, but Dean Baker, co-director of The Center for Economic and Policy Research, who joined a press conference on the report’s release, said it will take years before the county regains the 8 million jobs lost since before the crash. “If we know people are having difficulty affording rent now, what is it going to look like in 2011, 2012, 2013?” he asked. “It’s not likely to look better. We’ll see more trouble. We are not going in the right direction.”