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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gauges affordability as the housing that can be obtained by spending no more than 30% of gross annual household income on housing and utilities. Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. The percentage of people who are spending more than that 30% of their income has been growing. Wages are not keeping up with increases in housing costs, a trend that has particular impact on residents of the Lower Hudson Valley, where housing and the cost of living are high.
What is affordable to various households differs. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.