How much do US renters need to earn to afford a modest apartment in each state?

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(NEXSTAR) – There isn’t a single state in America where a minimum-wage worker can afford the average two-bedroom apartment, according to the latest report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The NLIHC’s 2022 Out of Reach report, released last week, aims to highlight the disparity between earnings and rent for the average low-wage worker, according to the organization. This year, the report indicates that median rental costs for two-bedroom apartments in U.S. metropolitan counties had jumped 15% between the first quarters of 2021 and 2022 — or more than four times the increases observed over the last several years.

The problem isn’t limited to metro areas, either.

“In no state, metropolitan area, or county in the U.S. can a worker earning the federal or prevailing state or local minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour work week,” the report states.

One-bedroom apartments, too, were determined to be unaffordable for low-wage workers in all but 9% of U.S. counties.

For the purposes of its report, the NLIHC defined “affordability” as costing no more than 30% of a tenant’s income (rent and utilities), based on the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of fair market rent. In dollar amounts, that means the average U.S. worker would need to earn $25.82 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, or $21.25 for a single-bedroom apartment, the NLIHC determined.

But that’s just the national average; some states have significantly higher “housing wages” — i.e., the estimated full-time wage a renter must earn to afford a modest rental property by HUD standards. In Hawaii, for instance, the “housing wage” is $40.63 per hour for two-bedroom, while the housing wages in California ($39.01 per hour), Massachusetts ($37.97), New York ($37.72) and Washington, D.C. ($34.33) weren’t far behind, according to the report.

The average housing wage in the most “affordable” states, meanwhile, were determined to be in Arkansas ($14.89 per hour), where the basic minimum wage is $11, followed by West Virginia ($15.38), Mississippi ($15.67), South Dakota ($16.11) and Kentucky ($16.18). Puerto Rico was the only territory with a lower housing wage ($9.88).

The NLIHC’s report also indicated that Black and Latino workers were most likely to be affected by the wage/rental disparities, as “they are more likely at all income levels to be renters.”

“With rents rising rapidly, homelessness worsening, and millions of families struggling to stay housed, federal investments in expanding proven solutions – like Housing Choice Vouchers, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing – are badly needed and long overdue,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in a press release issued along with the 2022 Out of Reach report. “As a country, we have the data, partnerships, expertise, solutions, and means to end homelessness and housing poverty – we lack only the political will to fund solutions at the scale necessary.”

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, founded in 1974, is a non-profit organization committed to advocating for federally assisted housing resources.

More information on the 2022 Out of Reach report, including state-specific data, can be found at NLIHC.org.



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