Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Average rent out of reach for minimum wage earners

"In only four of the nation's 3,066 counties can someone working full time and earning federal minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment, an advocacy group on low-income housing reported Monday.

A two-bedroom rental is even more of a burden - the typical worker must earn at least $15.37 an hour to pay rent and utilities, the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in its annual 'Out of Reach' report. That's nearly three times the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.

'You get pushed into a situation where some necessities don't get paid for' because more salary must be devoted to housing, said Sheila Crowley, the coalition's executive director. 'For people on low-wage fixed incomes, that's a chronic way of life.'

About 36 million homes in th U.S. are rented. About 80 percent of renter homes are located in nearly 1,000 counties in which a family must work more than 80 hours a week - or more than two full-time jobs - at minimum wage to afford the typical two-bedroom apartment, the coalition said.

The coalition's ``housing wage'' assumes that a family spends no more than 30 percent of its gross income on rent and utilities, since anything more is generally considered unaffordable by the government.


The national report quoted federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data that showed hourly wages rising about 2.6 percent over the past year, slower than the 2.9 percent rise in rents recorded in the Consumer Price Index.


States with more residents in rural areas were generally the most affordable, although no state's housing wage was lower than the federal hourly minimum wage of $5.15, which has not changed since 1997."

And that doesn't even take into account the folks working in jobs like sales floor positions at Walmart, who take down something in the neighborhood of $8.00/hr.


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