Iowa’s among the top ten best states in the nation for affordable housing, but many workers are barely keeping a roof over their heads. That’s the conclusion of this year’s survey by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The coalition’s Kim Schaffer says the “Out of Reach 2003” study updates the cost of renting a 2-bedroom home for a family living in states and cities around the U.S. The report looks at how much you have to earn per hour to pay the cost of a place to live, using HUD figures on “fair market rent” for every market in the country. One factor in each report is the “housing wage” any worker must earn to pay their rent. The “housing wage” is what you have to earn per hour, assuming you work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks, to be able to afford the going rate for a 2-bedroom rental home. For Iowa, on average, that hourly rate is ten dollars — or 20-thousand dollars a year to afford a “modest” place to live. But Schaffer points out there are many people in Iowa who work fulltime jobs that don’t pay that “housing wage.” She says people in service-sector jobs, waiting tables, nursing homes, jobs important to their community and society, earn so little they have trouble. She says the minimum wage is not adequate, as she explains earning 6-7 dollars an hour isn’t enough to pay for a modest standard of living. Solutions range from raising the minimum wage to doing something about the cost of the housing available. Housing is expensive and she says developers can’t afford to build housing that can be afforded by people with low incomes. The Coalition favors a federal investment in affordable housing for low-income workers. For the report, and a breakdown that includes several metro areas in Iowa, surf to www.nlihc.org and look for the “Out of Reach 2003” report.
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