Pattern or Progress today released Out of Reach Hudson Valley 2022, an annual report that examines the gap between wages and the cost of rental housing for those living in the nine-county region. The report found that a single person making average wages cannot afford rent and modest living expenses in any of the nine counties. A renter making average wages falls short of their bills by $336 to $2,908, depending on the county in which they live. The outlook is equally difficult for families in rental housing, and worse for single parents.
“The conclusions in Out of Reach should trouble anyone who cares about the wellbeing of our neighbors who depend on rental housing,” Pattern CEO Adam Bosch said. “Too many people cannot afford their rent and living expenses without considerable help. The people who are struggling most work in grocery stores, schools, medical facilities, restaurants, and other necessary jobs that make our region viable and attractive. The Hudson Valley will struggle to sustain a workforce unless we understand the systems that created the imbalance between wages and rent, and actively seek solutions that will help people to live in our communities without emptying their pockets every month.”
The full Out of Reach report can be found on the Pattern for Progress website by clicking here.
Out of Reach utilizes county-by-county data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which examines hourly wages and fair-market rents to measure the affordability of rental housing. Affordability is calculated on the standard that no individual or family should spend more than 30 percent of its total monthly income on housing. Pattern examined data for the nine-county region, including Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.
Some key conclusions from the report include the following:
· Single adults working 40 hours per week can only afford fair-market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Sullivan County. Renters in the other eight counties needed to earn anywhere from $3 to $20 more per hour to afford rent in their respective counties. Renters in those counties are considered “cost burdened.”
· Wages earned by a typical renter ranged from 36-60 percent of the area median income, a key metric for housing policies and programs.
· The rental affordability gap closed slightly compared to 2021, as the average wage for renters increased by approximately $2 to $5 per hour across the region.
· Families are also stretched thin. Two working adults in a two-bedroom apartment can afford rent in seven of the nine counties. Fair-market rents remain unaffordable in Putnam and Rockland. However, two working renters meet the affordability standard by less than $100 per month in Greene, Orange and Ulster counties, which leaves little money leftover for other expenditures or emergencies.
· A single person making average wages cannot afford rent and modest living expenses in any of the nine Hudson Valley counties. Pattern researchers examined affordability more broadly in 2022 by combining fair-market rents with modest living expenses for necessities such as food, transportation, health care, payroll taxes and more. This painted a more complete picture of affordability for renters across the region. Our analysis of rent and modest yet adequate living expenses found the following:
o The average wage of renters falls short of meeting rent and modest living expenses by $336 to $2,908 across the region. We refer to this as the “wage gap.”
o The variability of this wage gap is driven largely by housing, as housing costs vary more than non-housing costs by about 17 percent regionwide.
o Renters throughout the region can only afford their bills if they live with a roommate or spouse, maintain a severely restrained standard of living, work long hours, or seek government assistance.
o Families in rental housing are also stretched thin, as the cost of supporting children adds anywhere from $1,600-$2,600 per month.
All the data indicate that renters in the Hudson Valley are living month-to-month, with little money leftover for savings or emergencies. This has broader implications for the region. Many renters cannot save to purchase a home, which relegates them to paying rents that are sometimes higher than the monthly cost of a mortgage. The rent gap and wage gap also compel young families to forgo having children or have fewer children. These trends have been well documented across the region in recent decades as live birth rates declined, school enrollments dropped, and the population of some counties declined or stagnated.