Many US Workers Still Struggling to Afford Housing in Metro Areas

August 13, 2013
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In the Center for Housing Policy's latest Paycheck to Paycheck study, researchers drew on first-quarter 2013 data to reveal the gap between wages and the costs of housing in more than 200 U.S. metro areas for workers in occupations central to the vacation industry. CHP senior research associate Maya Brennan, co-author of a report released with the new data, commented, "One of the most overlooked aspects of this recovery is that for many workers, incomes are not rebounding in step with local housing markets. Even in a strong sector like travel and tourism, wages have not kept pace with the rising costs of renting or homeownership."

Paycheck to Paycheck 2013: A Snapshot of Metropolitan Housing Affordability for Travel and Tourism Workers details trends in housing affordability for workers in five jobs: waiters and waitresses, automobile mechanics, housekeepers, flight attendants, and front desk managers. Of those five, only flight attendants earn an average wage high enough to afford the mortgage on a median-priced U.S. residence. Workers in two of those jobs -- housekeepers and wait staff -- are unable to afford the typical rent on either a one- or two-bedroom apartment in any metro area. "The continued improvement in housing markets across the country is good news for current homeowners ... however, the turnaround in housing prices -- driven by investors in many markets -- along with the still-tight mortgage market, has kept it very difficult for moderate-income families to afford to buy a home," noted CHP director Lisa Sturtevant. "There is a fundamental tension between a housing recovery and housing affordability. The solutions are higher wages or greater access to affordable housing."

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