National report highlights unaffordability of housing for many in Lafayette

New mixed use, student housing going up along Johnston Street Photo by Allison DeHart

The gist: A new study out this year highlights housing challenges in Lafayette for low-income families. A big concern: It would take the equivalent of more than two full-time, minimum-wage jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Lafayette Parish at fair market value. The study, called Out of Reach 2019, was produced by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

By the numbers:  

  • $842/month – Fair market rate to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Lafayette Parish.
  • $377/month – The rental price threshold considered “affordable” for a family earning one minimum-wage income, full-time.
  • $16.19/hour – Amount a renter in Lafayette would need to earn in order to afford a fair market rate two-bedroom apartment.
  • $13.20 – The average hourly wage for renters in Lafayette.
  • 30,897 – Number of renter households in Lafayette Parish, which represents 34% of all households.
  • 29,000 – Rough number of households in Lafayette Parish earning less than the equivalent of one full-time job paying $16.19/hour.

There are no easy answers for this situation. No developer can make money building and renting two-bedroom apartments for $377 per month. And that may even hold true at the fair market rate of $842 per month, as most new development in the region is priced even higher. For example, the new Vermilion Lofts coming Downtown will charge $1,760 per month for two-bedroom units. Though as this study shows, this problem isn’t unique to Lafayette as it’s endemic nationwide.

Why this matters: There remains persistent income inequality in Lafayette that’s difficult to tackle. Even as unemployment declines, many families are struggling to make ends meet. And Louisiana is failing to make even modest progress as a proposal in the state Legislature this spring to increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour — which still wouldn’t solve our affordable housing issues — failed to win support for the fourth consecutive year.