Low-Wage Workers Lack Affordable Housing

Preserving Nation’s Supply of Affordable Housing Essential

An analysis by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, titled Many Full-Time Workers Face Housing Affordability Problems, finds the median full-time wage in low paying occupations is not high enough for a worker to find affordable housing.

The author identifies wage stagnation among low wage earners and inadequate federal housing assistance as challenges to families in need of stable, secure, and healthy housing.

“Rising housing costs, low wages among many full-time workers, and weak income growth all highlight the importance of investments in affordable, stable, and well-located housing for the millions of families serving our communities through lower-wage occupations, many with only one breadwinner. Indeed, the strength of our cities is tied to all residents having an affordable and stable place to live. Employers also stand to benefit when the workforce can afford to live within reach of employment centers.

Given the high cost of building new housing, preservation of our nation’s existing supply of affordable housing is essential. Effective preservation strategies will include not only government subsidies but also new partnerships between public, private, and nonprofit organizations to focus greater investment on these vital resources, to ensure low-wage workers are able to live in the communities they serve.”

Elizabeth La Jeunesse, Research Analyst with the Joint Center on Housing Studies concluded.

Among wage categories that could not afford housing were:

  • most full-time cashiers,
  • retail and sales persons,
  • food preparation workers
  • EMTs and paramedics,
  • childcare workers,
  • security guards,
  • several types of healthcare support occupations (nursing/medical assistants, home health aides),
  • as well as office and administrative support workers.

All of these jobs are vital to local economies, and support a variety of businesses and services required for healthy, growing communities.


The State of the Nation’s Housing, released annually by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, provides a periodic assessment of the nation’s housing outlook and summarizes important trends in the economics and demographics of housing. The report continues to earn national recognition as an authoritative source of information regularly utilized by housing researchers, industry analysts, policymakers, and the business community.

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies advances understanding of housing issues and informs policy. Through its research, education, and public outreach programs, the center helps leaders in government, business, and the civic sectors make decisions that effectively address the needs of cities and communities. Through graduate and executive courses, as well as fellowships and internship opportunities, the Joint Center also trains and inspires the next generation of housing leaders.

Many Full-Time Workers Face Housing Affordability Problems

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