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Key health workers cannot afford housing in many U.S. metros

Demand for health services will surge in coming years, but many health workers unable to find affordable housing in communities they serve

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASETuesday, September 23, 2014

Contact: 
Radiah Shabazz
202.466.2121 (ext. 240) 
rshabazz@nhc.org    

WASHINGTON― The number of health worker jobs is growing as the health sector expands to meet rising demand. But despite the strength of this sector, many health workers cannot afford housing in metro areas across the country. In the 2014 edition of Paycheck to Paycheck, Janet Viveiros and Lisa Sturtevant draw on data from the first quarter of 2014 to reveal the gap between wages in health sector jobs and the costs to rent or buy a home in 210 metro areas across the nation.

In contrast to many other industries facing slower growth during the nation’s economic recovery, jobs in the health sector in non-hospital settings are expected to grow by 30 percent between 2012 and 2022.  Home health care jobs alone are projected to increase by 60 percent between 2012 and 2022. Yet, even with high projected demand for health services, many health workers struggle to find affordable housing in the regions they serve.

“The number of health sector jobs is expected to grow at exceptional rates over the next ten years, but this does not guarantee that workers will be able to afford rising housing costs,” said National Housing Conference Research Associate and report coauthor, Janet Viveiros. “Wages are not rising as fast as rents or home prices in many metro areas, and this is creating a severe housing cost burden for health industry workers. Housing affordability challenges in some parts of the country may exacerbate the existing shortages of health workers.”

Paycheck to Paycheck, produced by the Center for Housing Policy, the research division of the National Housing Conference, explores housing affordability challenges for workers in five health sector jobs: medical records transcriptionists, medical billing clerks, home health aides, case managers and geriatric nurses. Lower-income home health aides cannot afford rent for a typical two-bedroom home in all but one moderately-priced metro area, Mansfield, Ohio. Homebuying is somewhat more affordable for these workers, though opportunities are limited to a small number of low-cost housing markets, like Buffalo, New York.

Renting and homebuying is affordable for medical records transcriptionists and medical billing clerks in many moderate-cost housing markets, but rents and home prices in expensive housing markets are often unaffordable for them. Geriatric nurses and case managers fair best, with typical wages from both jobs sufficient to be able to rent or own in 80 percent of the 210 metro areas studied. Still, even with their higher income range, geriatric nurses and case managers cannot afford to buy the median-priced homes in some expensive housing markets on the coasts.

The lack of affordable housing can be a factor that further intensifies regional and nationwide shortages of health workers. If there is an insufficient supply of affordable housing, especially in metro areas with high and growing concentrations of older adults who often require some level of home health care, communities may find that they are not able to attract workers to meet the health needs of their residents. Health workers who are unable or do not want to move to lower cost regions often struggle to find housing they can afford without having to cut back on other essentials such as food or childcare. 

The gap between what health workers can afford to spend on housing and actual housing costs in many metro areas is significant. Home health aides would need to devote 120 percent of their income to monthly housing costs in order to purchase a median-priced home in Honolulu. In Long Island, New York, medical billing clerks would have to spend more than half their income on rent for a two-bedroom home at fair market rent. Even a typical geriatric nurse in San Francisco would have to spend nearly 85 percent of her monthly income to buy a median-priced home.

The full report, a database of wages and housing costs for 80 occupations in 210 metro areas, homeownership and rental market affordability rankings, and methodology are available at http://www.nhc.org/chp/p2p/.

 

Acknowledgements

The Center for Housing Policy gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Dwelling Association in funding Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in America.  Any opinions or conclusions expressed, however, are those of the authors alone.

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About the National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy

The National Housing Conference (NHC) represents a diverse membership of housing stakeholders including tenant advocates, mortgage bankers, nonprofit and for-profit home builders, property managers, policy practitioners, realtors, equity investors, and more, all of whom share a commitment to a balanced national housing policy. As the research division of NHC, the Center for Housing Policy specializes in solutions through research, working to broaden understanding of America’s affordable housing challenges and examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs. Since 1931, NHC has been dedicated to ensuring safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America. We are a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings together our broad-based membership to advocate on housing issues. 

 

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