To afford a two-bedroom apartment plus utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a Pennsylvania household must earn $20.90 an hour, or $43,463 a year, according to a new national study.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) report  Out of Reach 2022 ,   released July 28, puts the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment in Pennsylvania at is $1,087.  At that monthly rate, a worker earning Pennsylvania’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would have to work 115 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, or 94 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

The report calls attention to the widening gap between actual wages and what people need to earn to afford the cost of housing, such as rent.

From the NLIHC:

The NLIHC releases their Out of Reach 2022 report amid record-high inflation and rising rental costs. In no state, metropolitan area, or county can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford a modest two-bedroom rental home. At the same time, costs for necessities like food and transportation have also skyrocketed, leaving low-income renters with increasingly tighter budgets. Many renters have had to make difficult decisions about their budget, sacrificing childcare, medical care, and food to maintain housing.

Every year, the report shows that affordable rental homes are out of reach for millions of low-wage workers and other low-income families. The report incorporates the first-hand experiences of tenants who have faced rent increases. The report notes that the national housing wages of $25.82 per hour needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home and $21.25 for a modest one-bedroom rental home are much higher than the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25 and what many low-wage occupations pay.

The report includes housing cost and wage data specific for Pennsylvania. In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Pennsylvania, full-time workers need to earn $20.90 per hour. Explore the full Out of Reach 2022: The High Cost of Housing report and its interactive website with its easy-to-use search function for Out of Reach data by metropolitan-area ZIP codes. Use this data to make the case for an economic recovery that ensures low-wage workers in Pennsylvania have a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.

A Lutheran Response

We are sent forth into the world to bear witness to God’s promised reign. The world is the whole household of God that economic life is intended to serve. The Spirit of God expands our vision and transforms our priorities. – ELCA social statement, “Economic Life”

Our ELCA social statement “Economic Life: Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All,” acknowledges the disparities that exist in the United States.  This is especially true of wages.  The ELCA calls for “corporate policies that lessen the disparities between compensations of top corporate executives and that of the workers throughout an organization,” and “corporate governance that is accountable for the effects of a company’s practices on workers, communities, and the environment here and throughout the world.”  Communities in which people cannot afford basic necessities such as housing cannot thrive.  Corporations and the government must act to raise wages for workers.

One way in which Lutheran Christians can work to support those who struggle with housing costs is to partner with LAMPa in advocating for living wages and state funding for housing projects and support.  LAMPa continues to advocate raising the cap on Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) Fund.  Learn more about PHARE and take action here to urge your lawmakers to expand this program that is working across Pennsylvania to address blight, create affordable housing, and keep seniors and people with disabilities in their homes.

The new state budget allocates $375 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for affordable housing construction, rehabilitation, and repairs.  That includes $125 million for a new Whole Home Repairs Program within the Department of Community and Economic Development.  Read more on the state budget here.

“We applaud the strides made in housing investment as part of the new budget,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale, “but more must be done to close these gaps so that everyone has a safe place to call home. We know there are long-term effects of the stress of housing instability on individuals and families, but especially, on children. We see the immediate effects in the lives and faces of those with whom our ministries serve.”


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