NLIHC Releases Out of Reach 2024: The High Cost of Housing

NLIHC released Out of Reach 2024: The High Cost of Housing on June 27. Published annually, Out of Reach highlights the gulf between the wages people earn and the price of modest rental housing in every state, county, and metropolitan area in the nation. This year’s report shows that despite rising wages, cooling inflation, and low unemployment, low-wage workers and other renters with low incomes continue to struggle with the cost of rent. 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. Nationally, the 2024 Housing Wage is $32.11 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $26.74 for a modest one-bedroom rental home. Read Out of Reach 2024.

Renters with the lowest incomes face the greatest challenges in finding affordable housing. According to the report, 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 6% of counties (204) nationwide, not including Puerto Rico, can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford a one-bedroom rental home at the FMR. Even after accounting for state and county minimum wages that are higher than the federal minimum wage, the average minimum-wage worker must work nearly 113 hours per week (2.8 full-time jobs) to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the FMR, or 95 hours per week (2.4 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, not just for minimum-wage workers. More than 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, 14 of them pay median wages lower than the wage needed by a full-time worker to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. These 14 occupations account for more than 64 million workers, or 42% of the entire workforce. For example, the median hourly wages of food servers and retail workers are $14.85 and $15.73, respectively – significantly less than the full-time wage of $26.74 needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment at the national FMR. While higher wages are necessary, they alone will not solve the housing affordability crisis.

The affordability of rental housing is not just a challenge for low-wage workers but also for individuals with disabilities. An individual relying on federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford a rent of $283 per month. The national average fair market rent for a one-bedroom home is $1,390 per month and $1,670 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.  Nationally, the median wage of a full-time white worker is just 26 cents lower than the one-bedroom Housing Wage, but the median wage of a full-time Black and Latino worker is approximately $6.24 and $6.42 less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage, respectively. Black women earning the median wage for their race and gender make $20.32, compared to $21.52 for Black male workers, and $29.22 white male workers. The median wage of Latina women is $18.66, while the median wage for Latino men is $21.11 and for white males is $29.22. As a result of wage disparities, Black and Latino women face larger gaps between their wages and the cost of rental housing compared to their male counterparts, white men, and white women.

This year’s report focuses especially on the issue of homelessness. The annual Point-In-Time count conducted by HUD in 2023 found that approximately 653,000 people were experiencing homelessness, the highest number that has ever been recorded and a 12% rise since the previous year. In misguided efforts to deal with growing homelessness, many states and localities have increased efforts to criminalize people experiencing homelessness by ticketing, fining, and arresting them for having no place to call home. Homelessness is a housing problem, however, and expanding housing assistance is the primary solution to rising rates of homelessness. Criminalizing homelessness is both counterproductive, as it fails to address the underlying cause of homelessness, and needlessly cruel.  

Out of Reach 2024 demonstrates that accessible, safe, and affordable housing remains out of reach for millions of renters in the U.S. despite a strong economy. Those with the lowest incomes, including people experiencing homelessness, endure the greatest challenges in the face of high housing costs and a combination of insufficient wage growth and an inadequate housing safety net. Establishing a federal housing safety net to address these challenges will require sustained investments to expand both short- and long-term rental assistance, the construction of new, deeply affordable housing, the preservation of existing affordable housing, and strengthened renter protections. 

The Out of Reach 2024 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. Visit the website at: