The Guardian concisely describes the situation.
“Nearly half of American workers do not earn enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment, according to new data.” – The Guardian
“…a worker now needs to earn about $20.40 an hour to afford a modest one-bedroom rental. The median wage in the US is about $21 an hour.” – The Guardian
What is even worse is that the minimum wage (which has no relation to a ‘living wage’) remains $7.25/hour, too far below what’s required for rent in many places. Fewer are having to live at that level, but there remains a wide gap to a livable wage for too many. Housing expenses are relatively fixed. People have more control over food expenses, though sometimes that means too few calories or unhealthy food; utilities, which can mean living without heat at least some times; and finding alternatives to other expenses, or doing without things like insurance, which is illegal in places. Housing, however, is relatively fixed. A place has a price and finding a new place or even moving to a new area is not trivial. Rental and lease agreements must be approved. Relocation can cost more than some can afford.
Affordable housing has been an issue for decades. The pandemic made it worse, though with a moratorium on evictions. As the economy finds a new level and as moratoriums are lifted, the unaffordability of affordable housing may be heightened for many, suddenly.
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