housing action
Washington Housing Wage = $29.31 per hour


Washington Low Income Housing Alliance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 14, 2021


WASHINGTON - In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Washington, full-time workers need to earn $29.31 per hour. This is Washington’s 2021 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for people with the lowest incomes.

This year, we release the Out of Reach report 16 months into a devastating pandemic, which has created enormous suffering. In addition to the lives lost, COVID-19 also created an economic crisis that pushed millions of low-wage workers out of work. The public health crisis is not over, but as the country begins to imagine life after COVID, it is imperative that we also address the profound economic fallout for the lowest-income and most marginalized members of our communities. Prior to the pandemic, more than 7.6 million extremely low-income renters were already spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing costs, sacrificing other necessities to do so. After a year of job losses, furloughs, and limited hours, many of these households will be even worse off.

Across the country, a renter needs to earn $24.90 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs, or $20.40 per hour to afford a one-bedroom home. While the Housing Wage varies by state and metropolitan area, low-wage workers everywhere struggle to afford their housing.

“Even before the global pandemic, we knew that there was a severe gap between average wages and the cost of renting or owning a home in Washington,” said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of WLIHA. “Now, after a year of lost jobs and major health emergencies for so many people, it’s clear that without bold intervention, the problems will only get worse. The Out of Reach report underlines just how important it is for governments to make significant investments in building homes that are affordable for low-income households across our state.”

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 $13.69 per hour in Washington, a wage earner must have 1.8 full-time jobs or work 70 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and earn 2.1 full-time jobs or work 86 hours per week top afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The typical renter in Washington state earns $22.94, which is $6.37 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home.

“Housing is a basic human need and should be regarded as an unconditional human right,” said Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEO. “With the highest levels of job losses since the Great Depression and a pandemic that continues to spread, low-income workers and communities of color are disproportionately harmed. The enduring problem of housing unaffordability ultimately calls for bold investments in housing programs that will ensure stability in the future. Without significant federal intervention, housing will continue to be out of reach. This leaves millions susceptible to the overwhelming consequences of Congressional inaction.”


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