NLIHC Releases Out of Reach 2023: The High Cost of Housing

NLIHC released its annual report, “Out of Reach 2023: The High Cost of Housing,” on June 14. The report highlights the gulf between the wages people earn and the price of modest rental housing in every state, county, metropolitan area, and combined non-metropolitan area in the nation. Every year, Out of Reach shows that affordable rental homes are out of reach for millions of low-wage workers and other families. This year’s report demonstrates how high rents have combined with the expiration of many pandemic-era benefit programs to exacerbate the financial insecurity of low-income renters, leading to higher eviction filing rates and increased homelessness. The report’s central statistic, the Housing Wage, is an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home at HUD’s fair market rent (FMR) without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs – the accepted standard of affordability. The FMR is an estimate of what a family moving today can expect to pay for a modestly priced rental home in a given area. Nationally, the 2023 Housing Wage is $28.58 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $23.67 for a modest one-bedroom rental home.

Renters with the lowest incomes face the greatest challenge in finding affordable housing. In no state, metropolitan area, or county can a worker earning the federal or prevailing state or local minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at the FMR by working a standard 40-hour work week. In only 7% of counties (228) nationwide, not including Puerto Rico, can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford a one-bedroom rental home at the FMR. These 228 counties are all located in states with minimum wages higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Even after accounting for state and county minimum wages that are higher than the federal minimum, the average minimum wage worker must work nearly 104 hours per week (2.6 full-time jobs) to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the FMR, or 86 hours per week (just over two full-time jobs) to afford a one-bedroom rental home at the FMR.

Housing is out of reach for workers across a range of occupations and wage levels. Nearly 50% of wage earners cannot afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at the FMR while working one full-time job. More than 60% of wage earners cannot afford a modest two-bedroom rental home while working one full-time job. Of the nation’s 20 most common occupations, 10 of them pay median wages lower than the wage needed by a full-time worker to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. These 10 occupations account for more than 49 million workers, or one-third of the workforce. For example, the median hourly wages of food servers and retail workers are $14.27 and $14.88, respectively — significantly less than the full-time wage of $23.67 needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment at the national FMR.

The affordability of rental housing is not just a challenge for low-wage workers. In most areas, a family of four with poverty-level income can afford a monthly rent of no more than $750, and many cannot even afford that. An individual relying on federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford a rent of $274 per month. The national average fair market rent for a one-bedroom home is $1,231 per month and $1,486 for a two-bedroom home, far from affordable for a family in poverty or a person relying on SSI.

The gap between wages and housing costs is largest for people of color, and particularly women of color. The disparities are the result of decades of racist housing policies that have led to people of color facing disproportionate challenges accessing decent and affordable homes. Nationally, the median wage of a full-time white worker is $2.23 higher than the one-bedroom Housing Wage, but the median wage of a full-time Black and Latino worker is approximately $.73 and $1.84 less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage, respectively. The disparities grow even starker for women of color. Black and Latina female workers earn median wages that are $3.96 and $5.47 less, respectively, than the one-bedroom Housing Wage.

As low-income renters face high rents and increasing housing instability without the supports provided by pandemic-era benefit programs, safe, stable, and affordable housing remains out of reach. Congress must address the extraordinary challenges that low-income renters face in finding and maintaining decent, accessible, and affordable housing. Addressing the roots of the housing affordability problem requires: a sustained commitment to investing in new affordable housing; preserving affordable rental homes that already exist; bridging the gap between income and rent through universal rental assistance; providing emergency assistance to stabilize renters when they experience financial shocks; and establishing strong renter protections.

The Out of Reach 2023 interactive website includes data for each state, county, and metropolitan area, and an easy-to-use search function for identifying data by metropolitan-area ZIP code. The website is at: