In 49 states, along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, the average renter working full time doesn't earn enough to afford HUD's definition of a moderately priced rental apartment. North Dakota, which has enjoyed an oil and gas related boom for the last several years, is the only state that breaks this mold, according to the 2021 NLIHC report. In almost every state in the U.S., median household incomes haven't kept up with the rate at which the median rent has risen, from the turn of the century through 2018. That's according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities cited by the NLIHC.
A total of 20 states still lack a state-level minimum wage law exceeding the federal level, allowing businesses to legally pay as little as $7.25 per hour for labor, which is the federal minimum wage. A person earning the federal minimum wage would need to work more than two full-time jobs each week to afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit. The federal minimum wage does not increase with inflation, and the last time it was raised was over 13 years ago. But it's far from just the lowest-paid Americans who find the cost of living too high.
The average renter makes an hourly wage of $21.99, according to the 2022 NLIHC analysis of BLS data. About 5.8% of adults in the U.S. were considered housing insecure in May 2022, the most recent month for which the U.S. Census Bureau has published data on the portion of Americans behind on their rent or mortgage payments and who have little to no confidence they can pay next month's bill. Housing insecurity was highest in New York, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Meanwhile, rent prices are being driven to record levels across the country. Contributing to the increases are a shortage of available housing, including both single-family homes and multifamily apartment complexes. Landlords have also cited the increasing costs of maintaining properties as a reason for rising rents. Since early 2021, the median rent in the U.S. has ballooned from around $1,500 to $1,879 in July 2022, according to Realtor.com data. It was the 17th month straight for which median rents set a record.