The federal minimum wage of $7.25 has not risen in a decade. The price of most essentials like housing, clothing, and food has. As a measure of how little the minimum wage covers when gauged against a yardstick of housing costs nationally, people whose incomes are at the minimum level would have to work 127 hours week, every week, to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
New research by the National Low Income Housing Coalition measured housing costs against the minimum wage in all 50 states, and several large cities. The current survey is the 30th annual installment of the analysis.
The report is unusually comprehensive and runs 285 pages. It shows that the pool of low-income housing in the U.S. is shrinking. Its authors note that to afford a two-income apartment based on the national average rent means people would need to work three full-time jobs at the minimum wage. The stark bottom line conclusion of the report is that “In no state, metropolitan area, or county in the U.S. can a worker earning the federal or prevailing state minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour work week.”
Renters with the lowest wages in America range from 20% of Black households to 16% of Hispanic households, to 6% of Whites. The difference in racial makeup, the researcher report is “because of historical and persisting wage disparities and barriers to homeownership.”
The ability for minimum wage workers to afford two-apartment rental costs varies sharply by state and city. The states where the ratios are most disadvantageous are Hawaii, where a family would need to make $36.82 an hour to afford an apartment that size and New York were the figure is $34.69 to, at the low end, Arkansas at $14.26 and West Virginia at $14.27. Even at the low end, the affordability of rent against a $7.25 wage is stark.
In several cities, the figures are much worse for low-income renters. In San Francisco, a family would need to make $60.96 an hour. In nearly San Jose, the number is $54.60. The two cities are at the very top of most lists in terms of housing expenses. Several of the zip codes in these cities are among the most expensive zip codes in the U.S.
The conclusion of the reports is depressing. “Low wages, wage inequality, racial inequities and a severe shortage of affordable rental homes leave too many vulnerable people unable to afford their housing” And, all of the data in the report show that the trend worsens year after years.