Renters must earn more than $20 per hour to afford rent, federal relief needed to prevent wave of evictions and homelessness


CONTACT: Kristin Ginger, Manager of Communications & Development, Housing Action Illinois, or 312-854-3333

CHICAGOIn order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in Illinois, renters need to earn $21.30 per hour. This is Illinois’ 2020 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released in Illinois by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and Housing Action Illinois, a statewide coalition dedicated to creating an Illinois where everyone has a good, stable place to call home.

This year, Out of Reach is being released during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly illustrated that housing is healthcare. The mandate to “stay at home” has been echoed by top officials across the country and leaders of Illinois. However, a stable place to stay at home and care for themselves and their families was already out of reach for far too many Illinoisans. These households are even closer to the brink after months of an ongoing pandemic and economic downturn. With Illinois courts reopening and time running out on most restrictions on eviction, additional federal rental assistance must be passed immediately.

“Even before the pandemic, far too many families in Illinois were making impossible decisions between paying rent and basic necessities like food and medicine,” stated Sharon Legenza, Executive Director of Housing Action Illinois. “Now, with decreased work hours, furloughs, and job losses from an ongoing public health crisis, they’re in an even tougher situation. We’re going to see a wave of evictions and a spike in homelessness unless more rental assistance dollars are made available.”

Out of Reach finds that nowhere in Illinois can a minimum-wage renter afford a home at Fair Market Rate without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. A household must earn $44,310 annually in order to afford the average Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in our state, which is $1,108. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this translates into the state Housing Wage of $21.30 per hour.

The Illinois state minimum wage increased to $10 on July 1, 2020, which is less than half the Housing Wage. Working at the state minimum wage, an Illinois resident must work 72 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment or work 85 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. While the minimum wage is $13.50 in Chicago and $13 in suburban Cook County, the Housing Wage for the metro Chicago area is $24.

Federal relief for low-income renters is necessary to stabilize Illinois communities as the pandemic continues. “Congress needs to act during July to keep people from losing their homes,” stated Bob Palmer, Policy Director of Housing Action Illinois. “We expect existing resources for emergency rental assistance to be quickly exhausted based on current needs. We need a large-scale federal investment and renter protections such as those proposed in the HEROES Act.”

The HEROES Act, which was passed in June by the U.S. House of Representatives, but has not been acted on by the Senate, includes provisions such as:

  • $100 billion in emergency rental assistance
  • $75 billion in homeowner assistance
  • A national, uniform moratorium on evictions and foreclosures
  • $11.5 billion to prevent and respond to outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness
  • 100,000 new emergency housing vouchers targeted to people with the greatest needs
  • $100 million for housing counseling
  • Additional funding resources and policies to ensure housing stability

Resources and protections of this scale are critical to keep Illinoisans in their homes and prevent a wave of evictions that will destabilize our communities for years to come.

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About Housing Action Illinois

Housing Action Illinois is a statewide coalition that has been leading the movement to protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing in Illinois for more than 30 years. Our 160+ member organizations include homeless service providers, housing counseling agencies, developers of affordable housing and policymakers. We bring everyone together to work toward our vision of an Illinois where everyone has a stable, good home.

Cover of 2020 Out of Reach report
Map of 2020 Out of Reach Housing Wages
Out of Reach - Illinois Housing Wage is $21.30