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May 07, 2003
Report: Increases in Salary Trail Rises in Costs of Housing
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.

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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 housing."

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.



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