Report: For Many in Louisiana, Affordable Housing Is Out of Reach

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In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Louisiana, full-time workers need to earn $17.69 per hour. In New Orleans, where 37% of the households are renters, the number is even higher, at $20.94. Those numbers represent what’s called the “housing wage,” or the amount someone needs to earn per hour in order to afford a modest rental.  

The data can be found in the new Out of Reach 2022 report released jointly by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, HousingLOUISIANA and HousingNOLA.

The Out of Reach report comes out amid record-high inflation and rising rental costs. These rent increases are affecting tenants nationwide, with median rents for two-bedroom apartments increasing nearly 18% between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. At the same time, costs for necessities like food and transportation have also skyrocketed, leaving low-income renters with increasingly tighter budgets. With inflation breaking a 40-year record in 2022, many renters have had to make difficult decisions about their budget, sacrificing childcare, medical care, and food to maintain housing. 

“Our failure to put housing first in this state makes all of our other problems even worse,” said Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA and president of HousingLOUISIANA. “Housing insecurity is the driver, and these numbers confirm that the consequences of COVID, combined with the failure to act by our leaders, has put us on a course that the state may not recover from. We are urging policy officials to act now, and stop ignoring a crisis that the rest of us don’t have the luxury to ignore. The lack of affordable housing is the number one problem in most Louisiana communities, and the second biggest problem is that our leaders choose not to address it.”  

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 has been 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. Working at the minimum wage of $7.25 in Louisiana, a wage earner must have 2 full-time jobs or work 81 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and have 2.4 full-time jobs or work 98 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. This year’s report highlights the 25 highest paid occupations – of which 11 are paid less than the housing wage including administrative assistants, home healthcare and nursing aides, financial clerks, cooks and food service workers among others.  

 “Decades of chronic underfunding for housing assistance have resulted in a housing-lottery system, where only 25 percent of eligible households receive the housing assistance they need,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “With rents rising rapidly, homelessness worsening, and millions of families struggling to stay housed, federal investments in expanding proven solutions – like Housing Choice Vouchers, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing – are badly needed and long overdue. As a country, we have the data, partnerships, expertise, solutions, and means to end homelessness and housing poverty – we lack only the political will to fund solutions at the scale necessary.”  

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