$24.00 per hour.
That’s how much you would need to earn from a full-time job to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Lake County in 2020. This comes from the latest edition of “Out of Reach” (OOR), the annual report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). According to NLIHC, the OOR “documents the significant gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States” and its findings illustrate the breadth of the affordable housing crisis nationwide, including here in Lake and Sumter Counties.
The OOR’s primary measure of this gap is the Housing Wage, defined as “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 his or her income on housing costs, the accepted standard of affordability”. In other words, the Housing Wage is what a full-time worker (40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year) should earn per hour to afford rent plus utilities in their area at a fair share (30%) of their income. Most workers’ wages don’t come anywhere near this number, which means affordable housing is out of their reach. The Housing Wage for Sumter County is $16.69 per hour and while that is significantly lower than Lake County’s $24.00, renters in Sumter still face substantial challenges in finding affordable housing.
Lake and Sumter County residents and workers make difficult choices when it comes to how they pay for housing. At the current minimum wage in Florida of $8.56 per hour, renters in Lake County need to work 112 hours per week to afford the FMR. In Sumter, the figure is 80 hours per week, but that is still two full-time jobs. Assuming a 40-hour work week at minimum wage, the maximum rent affordable is only $445, barely over a third of FMR for Lake and half of FMR for Sumter. Even for those renters earning the estimated mean hourly wage of $13.65 for Lake and $11.86 for Sumter, the monthly rent they can afford falls far short of FMR, at $710 for Lake and $617 for Sumter. Limiting their housing costs to 30% of income is simply not an option for many families in the area. Some service sector workers choose to live outside of the area where rents are more affordable and make long commutes to work. Others settle for housing arrangements that are insufficient for their families’ needs.
Policy solutions are badly needed, along with the political will to support them. At the local level, impact fees on new developments are often at odds with efforts to build more affordable housing. Federally, housing assistance is grossly underfunded. The OOR and NLIHC’s website provide examples of federal housing programs that can help solve the housing crisis, including the national Housing Trust Fund and Housing Choice Vouchers. For more information and to read the full report, click here to visit https://reports.nlihc.org/oor.
By Brian Salmons