While serving summer vacationers across the country, many workers find housing unaffordable
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—AUGUST 15, 2013
WASHINGTON—In the midst of a housing and economic recovery, many workers key to Americans’ summer vacation plans struggle to afford housing in metro areas across the country. In the latest edition of Paycheck to Paycheck, Center for Housing Policy (CHP) researchers draw on the latest data from the first quarter of 2013 to reveal the gap between wages and the costs of housing, both rental and owned, in 207 U.S. metro areas for workers in occupations central to the summer vacations Americans hope to squeeze in before school starts.
“One of the most overlooked aspects of this recovery is that for many workers, incomes are not rebounding in step with local housing markets,” explained CHP Senior Research Associate Maya Brennan, a co-author of a report released with the new data. “Even in a strong sector like travel and tourism, wages have not kept pace with the rising costs of renting or homeownership.”
The accompanying report, Paycheck to Paycheck 2013: A Snapshot of Metropolitan Housing Affordability for Travel and Tourism Workers, explores trends in housing affordability for mid-career workers in five common jobs related to travel and tourism: housekeepers, wait staff, auto mechanics, front desk managers and flight attendants. Of these professions, only one—flight attendants—has an average wage high enough to afford the mortgage on a median-priced home in the U.S., and workers in two of the jobs—housekeepers and wait staff—cannot afford the typical rent on either a one- or two-bedroom apartment in any metro area.
“The data show that working hard is not enough to make ends meet,” said report co-author Janet Viveiros, a research associate at CHP. “Americans are spending more on vacations, but many of the workers fixing their cars before a long road trip, cleaning their hotel rooms or serving their meals are struggling to afford basic expenses like housing.”
Incomes for housekeepers and wait staff were not enough to afford the fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in any of the 207 metro areas studied. The slow housing recovery in some markets made homeownership more affordable than renting – as long as workers had enough savings for a downpayment and could obtain a mortgage. In only eight of the metro areas could a housekeeper afford the mortgage on a median-priced home, and wait staff could afford to buy a typical home in just ten metro areas. Lagging home prices, however, were not universal across the study. In the 25 most expensive markets covered, which includes many popular vacation destinations, even relatively high-earning flight attendants could not afford to own a median-priced home.
CHP Director and National Housing Conference Vice President for Research Lisa Sturtevant, who joins NHC and CHP this week, notes that while a housing recovery is a relief to those who already own property, rising prices and rents have meant that many working individuals and families struggle to find affordable housing in their communities.
“The continued improvement in housing markets across the country is good news for current homeowners who saw the values of their homes plummet during the downturn. 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 a buy a home. The demand for rental housing has increased substantially in some markets, putting upward pressure on rents. And as prices and rents are rising, wages have been steady at best, and many working families remain priced out of many markets.”
“There is a fundamental tension between a housing recovery and housing affordability,” Sturtevant continued. “The solutions are higher wages or greater access to affordable housing.”
U.S. Metropolitan Area Rankings
Fact Sheet – Most to Least Expensive Homeownership Markets
Fact Sheet – Most to Least Expensive Rental Markets
Fact Sheet – Change in the Qualifying Income Needed to Purchase a Home
The Center for Housing Policy gratefully acknowledges the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 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.
About the Center for Housing Policy
The Center for Housing Policy (CHP) is the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference (NHC) and specializes in developing solutions through research. In partnership with NHC and its members, the Center works to broaden understanding of the nation’s housing challenges and to examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs.
About the National Housing Conference
The National Housing Conference (NHC) represents a diverse membership of housing stakeholders including tenant advocates, mortgage bankers, non-profit 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. 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 advocate on housing issues.