Affordable Housing Is Out Of Reach In Missouri For Low-Wage Workers

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Missouri, full-time workers need to earn
$16.66 per hour. This is Missouri’s 2021 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today.
The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research
and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for people with the lowest
incomes, and Empower Missouri.

This year, we released the Out of Reach report 16 months into a devastating pandemic, which has created enormous
suffering. In addition to the lives lost, COVID-19 also created an economic crisis that pushed millions of low-wage
workers out of work. The public health crisis is not over, but as the country begins to imagine life after COVID, it
is imperative that we also address the profound economic fallout for the lowest-income and most marginalized
members of our communities. Prior to the pandemic, more than 7.6 million extremely low-income renters were
already spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing costs, sacrificing other necessities to do so.
After a year of job losses, furloughs, and limited hours, many of these households will be even worse off.

Across the country, a renter needs to earn $24.90 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home without
spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs, or $20.40 per hour to afford a one-bedroom home.
While the Housing Wage varies by state and metropolitan area, low-wage workers everywhere struggle to afford
their housing.

“Missourians are hard working and dedicated. During the global pandemic, our lowest wage workers have taken the brunt of the economic toll. This report demonstrates that these same families already were at a disadvantage by being unable to secure affordable housing after working a full time job. Our neighbors deserve better,” Empower Missouri’s Policy and Advocacy Director Sarah Owsley said.

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. 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 work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at
the average fair market rent. Working at the minimum wage of $10.30 in Missouri, a wage earner must have 1.3 full-time job(s) or work 52 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and earn 1.6 full-time job(s) or work 65 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The typical renter in Missouri earns $15.62, which is $1.04 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest unit.
“Housing is a basic human need and should be regarded as an unconditional human right,” said Diane Yentel
NLIHC president and CEO. “With the highest levels of job losses since the Great Depression and a pandemic that
continues to spread, low-income workers and communities of color are disproportionately harmed. The enduring
problem of housing unaffordability ultimately calls for bold investments in housing programs that will ensure
stability in the future. Without a significant federal intervention, housing will continue to be out of reach. This leaves
millions susceptible to the overwhelming consequences of Congressional inaction.”

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Empower Missouri ( is a statewide not-for-profit organization working to secure basic human needs and equal justice for every person in our state through coalition-building and advocacy. Founded as the Missouri Conference on Charities and Corrections in 1901, Empower Missouri has operated under four names in its 120-year history, but always with a focus on access to basic human needs and basic fairness.

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