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What happens when a full-time paycheck is not enough for housing?

Despite full-time work, people across the nation face problems affording a place to live. And by “people” I don’t mean your hypothetical median-income-earner, I mean auto mechanics, hotel front desk managers, flight attendants, housekeepers, and wait staff. Also, firefighters, social workers, nurses, truck drivers and many other of the people we all need serving our communities.

Low-income workers clearly fare the worst in metro housing markets. Just try to afford an apartment, even one bedroom, on a housekeeper’s salary. Across every single one of the 207 metro areas included in Paycheck to Paycheck, a housekeeper can’t afford the two-bedroom fair market rent. Even shifting down to just a one-bedroom usually doesn’t help. Just 17 out of 207 metros had one-bedroom fair market rents that were affordable on typical housekeeper wages.

But even jobs with seemingly good earnings, like flight attendants, face housing affordability problems in high-cost destinations. The San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles metro areas are among 25 across the country in which a flight attendant cannot affordably buy a median-priced home.

Wages, home prices, and rents are not aligned. How do we solve this?

The answer is not just a single fix-it. Education and training programs can help workers access better paying jobs, but job advancement can only help so much in high-cost areas. And let’s not forget that lower-wage jobs, like wait staff and housekeepers, are an essential part of keeping the nation running. Higher pay would be great, but ensuring continued access to affordable housing programs is crucial as well.

Until wages catch up with housing expenses, let’s keep pushing for smart and holistic solutions.

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