Out Of Reach 2023 outlines the need for permanent federal resources to combat rising rents in Texas

The saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas, and in housing that worn cliché still rings true. Texas is home to nearly 4 million renters, the 2nd largest population of renters in a single state. But Texas also places 3rd worst nationally among work hours necessary to afford a 2 bedroom rental home while earning minimum wage with 138 hours a week, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out Of Reach report. Unlike other large states like California or New York, which host the first and third largest renter populations respectively, Texas offers the lowest minimum wage in the country, in addition to fewer renter resources. Therefore, more work hours are required to afford a home here versus those notably high-priced states. This means us Texans are forced to work harder for less.

In Texas, one must make $25.06 an hour to afford a 2 bedroom rental home at fair market rent. This calculation, or Housing Wage as NLIHC calls it, is a simple tool used to determine how much income a household must earn to afford a 1 or 2 bedroom unit at fair market rent while earning minimum wage. So, for those who are earning the minimum wage of $7.25 in our state, they must work 138 hours a week to afford such a 2 bedroom rental home or 116 hours a week for a 1 bedroom rental home, or otherwise risk becoming housing cost-burdened. This means these households are spending more than one-third, or even more than one-half, of their income on rent alone. One simple emergency could put these households at risk of eviction or homelessness.

The unfortunate truth is that there is no county in the entire United States where a minimum wage worker earns enough money to afford a 2 bedroom home at fair market rent. And in 93 percent of counties nationwide, minimum wage workers cannot afford to live in a 1 bedroom home at fair market rent. Though rents have started to stabilize following the initial few years of the pandemic, wages have not matched this in kind. Rents are simply far too high for low-income households.

And as bad as these problems appear, the inequalities are deepened across racial and gender lines. Black, Latino and Native American households are more likely than their white counterparts to work in job fields with low-wages, while inversely, white workers are more likely to be employed in management roles. And even within the same professional ranks, Black, Latino, and Native Americans earn less than their white counterparts. This inequality is also mirrored with male and female workers, as male workers are commonly paid more than their female counterparts within the same professions, and those gaps widen within the prism of race, with women of color earning less than their male counterparts.

The NLIHC has gone to great detail to provide the necessary wage and housing data to assess what is happening around the country, but also they have done a careful job of collecting stories from renters who are in the exact situations resulting from the affordable housing shortage for lower-wage workers. It is a necessary portrait of the real lives that coincide with a lack of resources and policies to help low-income households.

Thankfully, Out of Reach 2023 has also detailed the solutions that are necessary to fix these urgent problems. A few of these policy suggestions include creating a permanent national emergency rent stabilization fund for tenants facing temporary financial setbacks, installing renter protections including a $10 billion fund for legal counsel to aide tenants at risk of eviction, expansion of more Housing Choice Vouchers, and installing fair housing protections to include source of income as well as military and veteran status discrimination among many more solutions.

What we learn from Out Of Reach 2023 is we must demand far more affordable housing units and resources for low-income households. The magnitude of need for Texans is massive; we have seen this personally in tracking both evictions and rent relief in the past few years. As households everywhere continue to face high rental costs, we must support bold and sustained investments to ensure that the lowest-income renters are able to afford decent, accessible housing. 

You can learn more about Out of Reach at www.nlihc.org/oor

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