More than half of the region’s workforce cannot afford to pay the average rental price for apartments or homes in metropolitan Washington, according to a new report by the Washington Area Housing Partnership (WAHP).
The six-page report found that between 2001 and 2002, average rents in the National Capital Region increased 16.6% from $992 per month to $1,157. Arlington County had the highest average monthly rent in the region during this period, $1,236.
As rental costs rise, so does the need for affordable housing in the region. The report said a family had to earn $22.25 per hour--or $44,280 in 2002--in order to afford the average priced apartment in the region. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 54.4% of the region’s workforce earned less than this amount. The average salaries of licensed practical nurses, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and childcare workers shut them out of the rental housing market, the report said.
In addition, the report, “Can You Afford to Live Here? A Look at Housing Costs & Wages in the Metropolitan Washington Region,” stresses the increasing strain on minimum wage employees seeking an affordable rental unit.
In December 2001, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) published a separate study that outlined goals and strategies for improving the availability of affordable housing. The 23-page report, “Finding a Way Home: Building Communities with Affordable Housing,” provided best practices both from within the region and nationally. As a result of the study, WAHP initiated the Washington Area Housing Trust Fund to help increase the supply of affordable housing through loans to home buyers and real estate developers. Last year, the fund’s 501 (c)(3) non-profit status was approved and it closed its first loan, which was a $150,000, 2% pre-development loan to a developer, who refurbished an affordable rental property in Reston. The fund has raised $900,000 to date.
WAHP is a regional public-private partnership affiliated with COG. Its mission is to expand affordable housing opportunities within the region.