Affordable Housing Out of Reach for Many New Orleanians, Report Shows

According to a report released today, full-time wage earners in New Orleans need to earn $20.73 an hour in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent rates. For the rest of the state, that figure is a little lower— but not much less at $17.48 per hour.

The “Housing Wage” was revealed in the new Out of Reach report released jointly by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC); HousingLOUISIANA, a state-wide network of nine regional housing coalitions, and it’s local regional partner, HousingNOLA.

This year’s release of the Out of Reach report coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact has further exposed deep issues of inequity and insecurity related to housing for the most vulnerable.

As the report shows, having a stable place to live was out of reach for millions of people before the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, more than 7.7 million extremely low-income renters across the U.S. were Severely housing-cost burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on housing costs, which typically leads to sacrificing other necessities. High job losses and the lack of access to proper healthcare—all exacerbated by the pandemic—further depleted already limited resources.

“The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, not keeping pace with the high cost of rental housing,” said Andreancia Morris, HousingNOLA Executive Director. “ In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair-market rent. Working at the minimum wage of $7.25 in Louisiana, a wage earner must have 2 full-time jobs or work 80 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and for a two-bedroom apartment it would take 2.4 full-time job(s) or work 96 hours per week.”

According to the Out of Reach report, the economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus further increased the risk of housing instability for millions of low-wage renters at a time when stable housing is vital.

New Orleans’ Housing Wage means that in the middle of a pandemic –and the worst decline of tourism the city has experienced since Hurricane Katrina– New Orleanians must find a job paying an hourly rate of $20.73  to afford a two-bedroom apartment, despite the fact that businesses aren’t hiring and those that are, do not pay that much due to COVID-related restrictions.

The typical renter in Louisiana earns $14.64 an hour, which is $2.84 less than the hourly housing wage needed to afford a modest unit.

A recent analysis found that Louisiana ranks 3rd in the nation for having a high risk for evictions due to job losses, with 130,000 households across Louisiana at risk for eviction. The parishes most in need of rental assistance beyond July 31when federal protections and assistance expire are (in order of need): Orleans, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, Lafayette, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Calcasieu, Ouachita, and Bossier.

Almost half of all renters in Louisiana spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs pre-COVID 19—including rent and utilities.

Housing advocates are asking Governor John Bel Edwards to identify funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, Community Development Block Grants, and Emergency Solutions Grants to provide rental assistance for those unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 through the end of 2020. It is estimated that a range of $250-$500 million will be needed to keep Louisiana renters in their homes through the end of this year. Housing advocates also say it is imperative that state leaders demand our Congressional delegation vote for bills that will provide the rest of the money to support housing stability for Louisiana’s families, such as The HEROES Act, The Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act 2020, and the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020.

The full Out of Reach report is available at: http://www.nlihc.org/oor

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