Increases in wages are failing to keep pace with the rising costs of housing
for many low- income and middle-income workers, according to a report by the
National Housing Conference, an affordable housing coalition.
The group studied the incomes and housing costs for five occupations: janitors,
licensed practical nurses, retail sales persons, police officers and teachers.
The report found families dependent solely on the salary of a janitor or retail salesperson
pay in excess of what the researchers considered affordable for a two-bedroom apartment in
all of the 60 individual metropolitan areas studied. The report used a standard
of 30 percent of income to determine whether a worker could afford housing.
The report found that the median household annual income of a janitor increased 9
percent from 1999 and 2001 to $17,900, the Associated Press reports. The median
fair market rent, which the government calculates and includes the cost of housing
and most utilities, for a two-bedroom apartment increased by 25 percent over
the same period to $721.
Elementary school teachers and police officers could not afford to pay a mortgage
in almost half of the markets, according to the AP. Licensed practical nurses
could not afford to buy a home in all but three of the areas.
"While there is a growing understanding of the housing challenges we face
as a nation, this new data prompts us to take an even closer look at the affordability
concerns for working families, as well as the related social and financial implications
for our communities," says NHC Executive Director Conrad Egan. "We
need to continue to develop policies at both the local and national level that
recognize the challenges faced by police officers, firefighters, licensed practical
nurses and others who provide vital services, yet they are unable to find affordable
Lower interest rates have made it more affordable for some to secure mortgages, but
the cost of homeownership still remains out of reach for many workers, the AP
reports. A family needed a household income of $49,700 to qualify for a mortgage
for a median priced home of $156,000 in 2001, according to the AP. None of the
occupations studied had a national median income that met that level.