State News

Report: Affordable housing is out of reach for low-wage Vermonters

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent rate in Vermont, renters need to earn $21.90 an hour, or $45,545 a year as a family. This is Vermont’s 2017 housing wage, revealed in the annual “Out of Reach” report released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. Every year, “Out of Reach” reports on the housing wage for all states, counties, and metropolitan areas in the country. Vermont has the fifth largest affordability gap for renters of any state in the nation.

The “housing wage” is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market (affordable means paying no more than 30 percent of income). At Vermont’s current minimum wage, individuals would need to work 88 hours per week, or 2.2 full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental. The average statewide fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,139. A full-time minimum wage worker in Vermont can only afford $520 a month for rent and utilities, leaving a gap of $619.

Even with an estimated mean renter wage of $12.51 an hour, average Vermont renters can afford just $650 per month for their housing costs, leaving them $9.39 an hour short of what they need to earn to afford a decent place to live.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a minimum wage worker is 35 years old, and 88 percent are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

Federal funding levels for housing, rental assistance and supportive services are also far below what they were five or six years ago. Key federal programs like HOME, Section 8, and Community Development Block Grants have been underfunded for years, and are now under serious threat in the Trump administration’s recent budget proposal.

Additional findings from the “Out of Reach” study:

The national housing wage is $21.21 for 2017.

Vermont is the seventh most expensive state for rural (non-metro) areas.

Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation for renters.

The housing wage in the greater metropolitan area of Burlington is $26.83, almost five dollars per hour higher than the state average.

Someone with a disability living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford $236 a month, leaving them $903 short for a two-bedroom, and $665 short for a one-bedroom apartment.

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