The West Coast is defined by progressive politics, booming tech economies and — increasingly — affordable housing crises.
A new study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition looks at the number of affordable units in the U.S. compared to the number of “extremely low-income” households, defined as families living at or below the poverty line. The study found that no state in the country has an adequate supply of rental homes for that group. The most extreme shortages are in a handful of states, including Washington, California, and Oregon, where tech hubs are driving income inequality.
On the West Coast, there are 30 or fewer affordable homes for every 100 extremely low-income families, according to the report. No state in the nation has more than 60 affordable rental units for every 100 families living at or below the poverty line. What’s more, 71 percent of extremely low-income households spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities.
The study, first spotted by CityLab, assumes that housing costs should be no higher than 30 percent of a household’s income to be “affordable,” a commonly used standard.
Of the 7.5 million existing rental homes that extremely low-income families can afford, 3.5 million are occupied by higher-income households. In other words, families who need affordable housing the most don’t necessarily get it.
The Low Income Housing Coalition estimates it would take an additional 3.7 million affordable rental homes to meet the needs of the 11.2 million American families living at or below the poverty line.
The affordable housing shortage is acutely felt in metropolises like Seattle and San Francisco, where job growth in the tech industry draws an influx of newcomers with generous salaries in need of housing.
Outside of tech, wages haven’t kept pace with rising housing costs. On average, a full-time employee working 40 hours per week would need to earn between $17 and $21 per hour to afford a “modest one-bedroom or two-bedroom” apartment, according to the report. That is more than double the national minimum wage of $7.25.