TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida remains on the path of economic recovery from the initial COVID-19 pandemic, even as the Delta variant rages across the state and country. As businesses reopen and the state works toward a return to normalcy, problems with affordability and recovery persist, especially concerning housing availability and wage levels.

Low housing inventory and high rent costs persist, even as wages remain stagnant and rent prices are rising. Some relief was made available to help Americans recover from the pandemic through unemployment and rent assistance. Now in recovery, demand is high, availability is low, and prices are inflating past what the average Floridian can afford.

Still, with boosted unemployment assistance cut down, jobs opening faster than wages are growing, and the Delta variant sweeping the state despite vaccinations, sustainability remains a concern.

Rent costs are high, and they’re still going up. Data published by ApartmentList from June shows that in 2021, rental prices grew 9.2% across the country.

According to the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse, for Tampa Bay counties, the HUD Fair Market Rent for 2021 is:

County0 Bedroom FMR1 Bedroom FMR2 Bedroom FMR3 Bedroom FMR4 Bedroom FMR
Citrus County$659$679$895$1279$1550
Hardee County$565$569$750$972$1168
Hernando County$989$1040$1271$1651$2028
Highlands County$575$661$871$1100$1183
Hillsborough County$989$1040$1271$1651$2028
Manatee County$841$992$1275$1686$2030
Pasco County$989$1040$1271$1651$2028
Pinellas County$989$1040$1271$1651$2028
Polk County$794$799$1023$1375$1764
Sarasota County$841$992$1275$1686$2030
(Source: Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse)

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report shows that Florida is one of 17 states where the average renter earns at least $5 less than the state’s average two-bedroom housing wage.

The two-bedroom housing wage (2BHW) is basically a litmus test for housing affordability, showing the gap between income and rental pricing at fair market values. The report defines “affordable” as rent costing 30% or less of your monthly income.

This is in line with how HUD defines a cost-burdened family, being a family that pays more than 30% of their income for housing, and therefore may have difficulty affording other necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.

Nationally, the 2BHW is $24.90, according to the Out of Reach report. The one-bedroom housing wage is $20.40. Based on the NLIHC data, CNBC reports that minimum wage workers cannot afford rent in any state in the U.S.

NLIHC reports that Florida’s 2BHW is $24.82, and the average renter wage is $17.69. The report states that there are 2,677,470 renter households in Florida. About 35% of the state rents.

If you’re only earning the state’s minimum wage of $8.65, you’d have to work 93 hours a week to earn enough to rent a 1-bedroom rental home at Fair Market Value, or 2.3 full-time jobs.

For the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, the zone for economic measurement, in order to afford a two-bed rental at FMR, you’d need to make $24.44 per hour or work 2.8 jobs at minimum wage.

In Lakeland-Winterhaven’s MSA, you’d need to make $19.67 per hour or work 2.3 jobs at minimum wage while in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton MSA, you’d need to make $24.52 per hour or work 2.8 minimum wage jobs.

The lowest cost area in the report from Tampa Bay is the Sebring MSA, where you only need to make $16.75 per hour, or work 1.9 full time jobs at minimum wage to afford an apartment.

Breaking it down by county, here’s how much you need to earn by county to afford a two-bedroom rental at the Fair Market Rate:

CountyHourly Wage Needed# of Full-Time Jobs at Minimum WageAnnual Income
Florida on Average$24.822.9$51,619
(Source: Out of Reach 2021 – National Low Income Housing Coalition)

Still, even if workers can afford rent, costs are going up due to demand and lack of availability.

Realtor.com’s research data for June 2021 shows that the national inventory of active listings was down 43.1% compared to 2020. The inventory of unsold homes was also in decline, down by 20.3%. This means that the number of homes for sale and the number of homes that hadn’t been sold were both down.

According to the same report, the inventory of homes that are for sale right now in the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas had decreased by 40.5% from June 2020 to June 2021. The inventory decrease is largest in the south.

“Regionally, the inventory of homes in southern metros is still showing the largest year-over-year decline. Large southern metros are also seeing the lowest growth in newly listed homes (+4.6%), on average, compared to last year,” the report says.

A 2020 study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies had similar findings.

“The metros with the largest year-over-year increases were in the South and West, with Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Wilmington (NC) posting rent gains that exceeded 7 percent,” according to the study.

The research also found that rental costs are rising beyond what can be accounted for by inflation.

“With vacancy rates so low, rent gains continue to outrun general inflation,” according to the study. “The Consumer Price Index for rent of a primary residence was up 3.7 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2019, far outpacing the 1.1 percent increase in prices for all non-housing items.”

The study says real rent costs rose 27% over seven years, from 2012 to 2019, or four times more than the price of all other goods on the market.

While there was a reported decrease in cost-burdened renter households as the number of high-income renters increased, the study shows that renter cost-burden rates for most income groups are still rising.

The Out of Reach Report provides an interactive map showing each ZIP code and their two-bedroom housing wages. You can see if your area is affordable by typing in the ZIP code for where you live.

A Tampa-focused report by ApartmentList that compiled rent costs over the past 12 months shows that Tampa’s rental rate increased 20.2% compared to the state of Florida’s 15.2% increase.

Over the past month, Tampa’s rental costs have increased 4.6%, the report says. Median rents for a one-bedroom apartment are $1,261, and the city’s rents have increased every month for 13 months.

In St. Petersburg, median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,160 and rent price growth over the past month was 3.2% and up 17.1% over the past year. Clearwater was $1,180 for a one-bedroom, with month over month increases at 4.9% and yearly at 22.9%, according to ApartmentList’s data.