Revisiting the Case for Affordable Housing Four Years Later: Reminder of Value of BLS Salary Data When Understanding Affordable Housing

Published for Community and Economic Development (CED) on April 21, 2021.

In 2017, a CED blog post asked if wages in different parts of the state were sufficient to sustain a person who wants to live and work there. For example, in 2016, nursing assistants in Goldsboro earned $11.83 an hour (median wage) for a mean annual salary of $24,610. Things have improved in terms of wages, even accounting for modest inflation. As of May 2020, the median wage was $14.83 with a mean annual salary of $30,850, a 25% increase in nominal terms. This would be excellent news, as long as other expenses didn’t grow faster – like housing.


The challenge of providing affordable housing is front and center

in many North Carolina communities, especially those dealing with rapid growth. Prior blog posts have discussed measuring the affordable housing crisis, the role of the Low-Income Tax Credit, and Revolving Loan Funds for affordable housing. Many of the approaches to the affordable housing crisis come from the prospective of making housing affordable by making it less expensive. However, it is important to remember the demand side of the equation – even if salaries are rising, if housing costs are rising faster, the situation could be deteriorating. CED professionals should not only keep an eye on housing costs, but also on local wages. A revisit to the easily, accessible, wonderfully-detailed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website on Occupational Employment Statistics can help with the buyer/renter side of the equation by looking at what is going on with salaries.

In Goldsboro, in 2016, the costs of a one-bedroom rental were approximately $550 according to Zumper, which tracks rental costs. In 2020, it was $775, a 41% nominal increase. This type of data emphasizes the need to avoid a siloed perspective on affordable housing. It is easy to believe increasing the stock of affordable housing means simply building or acquiring more housing inventory at lower price levels. In contrast, understanding how much individuals are able to pay for housing through their income presents the opportunity to ‘make’ housing affordable by lifting household income to the point where individuals can access existing, but higher priced, housing options.

With the housing crisis putting pressure on local government, it is important to look at your local data, but also to lessons learned nationally and internationally.  This is the topic of posting yesterday by Brookings Institution featuring how other countries have dealt with housing crises.  CED professional should remember that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains data across a wide variety of occupational classifications for larger metropolitan areas in each state. And as mentioned in the 2017 blog, areas outside of the larger metro areas are included in regional estimates. For North Carolina, data from 17 metropolitan areas are available, as well as for the Southeast and Northeast Coastal regions, and Piedmont and Mountain regions. The listing of occupations is extensive, from butchers and bakers to loan officers to bus drivers, covering a wide variety of jobs common to any community. The median, mean and average annual salary for each occupation for the chosen metro area or region is presented for the prior year.

The post Revisiting the Case for Affordable Housing Four Years Later: Reminder of Value of BLS Salary Data When Understanding Affordable Housing appeared first on Community and Economic Development in North Carolina and Beyond.

Topics - Local and State Government