Plenty of evidence shows how widespread and devastating America’s housing crisis is, but perhaps none quite as starkly as this: There’s not a single state, metropolitan area or county in the U.S. where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can afford the rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment.
Affordable housing is fundamental to a safe, healthy, stable life. It brings a host of advantages, including better physical and mental health outcomes, better access to education for children, and a better chance at upward economic mobility. Yet, for a huge swath of the population, it remains completely out of reach.
A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would need to work nearly 127 hours a week – equivalent to more than three full-time jobs – to afford a modest two-bedroom rental without spending more than 30% of their salary on housing costs. To afford a modest one-bed rental, they would need to work 103 hours a week.
These figures come from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report, published on Tuesday, which for 30 years has documented the gap between renters’ earnings and rental costs across the country.
The report takes the “fair market rent” of modest one- and two-bedroom rentals (defined as the Department for Housing and Urban Development’s best estimate of what a family moving today can expect to pay) and then calculates the hourly wage a renter would need for it to be affordable (meaning he or she spends no more than 30% of their income on housing costs).
A full-time worker needs to earn $22.96 an hour, on average, for a two-bedroom rental to be affordable, according to the report. That’s $15.71 an hour more than the federal minimum wage, and $5.39 more than the national average renter’s wage of $17.57.
For a one-bed rental, a full-time worker needs to earn $18.65 an hour, an amount above both the federal minimum wage and the average renter’s wage.
“The housing crisis is very bad,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It’s worse that it’s been in a long time and it continues to get worse.”
While rent in every state is unaffordable to minimum-wage workers, there are huge differences in the unaffordability. The most expensive state is Hawaii, where the fair market rent on a modest two-bedroom is $1,914 a month. To afford that, a worker in the state must make $36.82 an hour – equivalent to working 3.6 full-time minimum-wage jobs.
Arkansas, where the fair market rent for a two-bedroom is $742 – is the most affordable state. Full-time workers there need to make $14.26 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental, significantly above the state’s minimum wage of $9.25.
Drilling down to the metro area level, the report’s figures are even starker. The most expensive is San Francisco, where full-time workers need to make a staggering $60.96 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental. The city’s minimum wage is $15.