High Westchester Rental Prices And Minimum Wage Employees—A New Study

There is a gap between the need for rental housing and people’s ability to pay, a problem that affects Westchester communities in unique ways.

A recent study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition highlights a national imbalance between home renters’ wages and high rental costs. New York State comes in 4th in the country’s most expensive states to rent in. 

The study, entitled Out of Reach 2015, surfaces in the midst of heated debates regarding a proposal to increase New York State’s minimum wage to $15 per hour for employees of fast-food chains, a demographic that rallied for wage increases on the streets of New York City in June.

The problem stems from home ownership rates, which hit record lows in 2014, according to the Commerce Department. This has been attributed to harsher mortgage standards, rising home prices, and student loan debt among other things.

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Demand for rental property is now on the rise, a trend that has caused a major disconnect between renters’ income level and what they’re able to afford. Higher income renters are moving in on housing that is affordable to lower income groups, pricing them out of the rental market and causing a shortage in affordable homes.

Extremely low income (ELI) households are those with incomes of no more than 30 percent of the area’s median income. In 2013, for every 100 ELI renter household, there were 31 affordable and available homes.

For many, this means struggling to afford a pricier option.

A New Yorker working a full time job at minimum wage can afford a rent of $455 per month, yet the fair market rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment in New York currently rests at $1,335 per month. (FMR is defined as the 40th percentile of gross rents for typical, non-substandard rental units)

Westchester prices are even steeper than the state average. A renter making minimum wage has to work 139 hours per week to afford a 2-bedroom apartment. The FMR in Westchester is $1,591 per month, requiring a person to make a full-time hourly wage of $30.60 to afford a decent rental unit while spending no more than 30% of their income on housing. These numbers make Westchester New York’s 3rd most expensive county to rent in, below Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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According to the 2013 American Community Survey, about 23% of households in Westchester incur less than $35,000 per year, a number that qualifies an individual to enter into a New York State Housing Finance Agency affordable housing program.

Karen D’Attore, executive director of the IFCA Housing Network in Ossining, says high rental prices are an issue that affect Westchester deeply, in that communities need socioeconomic diversity to thrive.

“A long term solution requires an effort by government and private sector stake holders to develop creative solutions to address the need that all people have for affordable housing,” says D’Attore

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