Affordable Housing is Out of Reach in Massachusetts for People with Low Incomes

CHAPA Press Release

BOSTON – June 18, 2019 – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Massachusetts, full-time workers need to earn $33.81 per hour.

This is Massachusetts’ 2019 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach, 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 Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA).

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the report that documents the significant gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States. Low wages, wage disparities, racial inequalities and a severe shortage of affordable and available rental homes continue to leave far too many people struggling to keep roofs over their heads.

“Unfortunately, in the last year, finding an affordable home in Massachusetts has become even more out of reach for people with low incomes” said Rachel Heller, CEO of CHAPA. “Despite recently raising our state minimum wage, it is less than half of what is needed to afford a modest apartment in Massachusetts. Compared with the rest of the United States, we are the 3rd least affordable state for renters. We urge policymakers to pass zoning reform policies to help create more housing opportunities across the Commonwealth and to increase investments in programs like the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and public housing to help people with low incomes have a safe, healthy, affordable place to call home.”
Working at the minimum wage of $12.00 in Massachusetts, a wage earner must have 2.3 full-time jobs or work 91 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and work 2.8 full-time jobs or work 113 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The typical renter in Massachusetts earns $20.72, which is $13.09 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest rental home.

“In the Greater Boston area, the median renter household income is $52,000 per year, which can support a rent of $1,310. Yet, rents in the Greater Boston region range between $1,600 and $3,000. The math doesn’t add up,” said Rachel Heller, CEO of CHAPA. 

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, not keeping pace with the high cost of rental housing. In no state, even those where the minimum wage is set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market rent. 

The median-wage full-time worker in eight of the nation’s ten largest occupations does not earn enough to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. People we rely on—retail salespersons, fast food workers, personal care aides, and home health aides—can’t afford to pay their rent without spending more than 30% of their income. Nationally, these jobs are projected to experience the greatest growth over the next decade, but they pay less than the hourly wage necessary to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent.

“In 99% of counties in the US, a full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Our rental housing needs have worsened considerably over the past 30 years. Housing is out of reach for millions of low-wage workers. But members of Congress are starting to take note. Key policymakers have introduced big, robust housing bills. The topic of affordable housing is becoming increasingly prevalent on the 2020 presidential campaign trails. We now have a tremendous opportunity to implement bold federal housing policy solutions that will fund affordable housing programs at the scale necessary.”

The full Out of Reach 2019 report is available at: http://www.nlihc.org/oor.

###

Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association (CHAPA) is the leading statewide affordable housing policy and research organization in Massachusetts. Established in 1967, CHAPA advocates for increased opportunity and expanded access to housing so that every person in Massachusetts can have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home. For more information, visit www.chapa.org