A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition confirms something that anyone who lives in a city and is not a millionaire should know intuitively—there is no affordable housing.
The map above shows the “housing wage” for a two-bedroom apartment by state. The study’s authors created the metric by calculating “the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a rental home at HUD’s fair market rent (FMR) without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs.”
From the report (emphasis added):
A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 needs to work approximately 122 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately three full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the national average fair market rent. The same worker needs to work 99 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately two and a half full-time jobs, to afford a one-bedroom home at the national average fair market rent.
In no state, metropolitan area, or county can a worker earning the federal minimum wage or prevailing state minimum wage afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour week. In only 22 counties out of more than 3,000 counties nationwide can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. These 22 counties are all located in states with a minimum wage higher than $7.25. Higher minimum wages are important, but they are not the silver-bullet solution for housing affordability.
The San Francisco metro area topped the list of most expensive metropolitan areas, with a $60 per hour housing wage for a fair-market rent two-bedroom apartment, followed by San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($48.50), Oakland-Fremont, CA ($44.79), Honolulu, HI ($39.06), and Stamford-Norwalk, CT ($38.19).
Here are the top 10 most expensive states (plus the District of Columbia) going by the same two-bedroom housing wage:
- Hawaii ($36.13)
- District of Columbia ($34.48)
- California ($32.68)
- New York ($30.03)
- Maryland ($29.04)
- Massachusetts ($28.64)
- New Jersey ($28.17)
- Washington ($26.87)
- Connecticut ($24.90)
- Alaska ($24.80)
You may be prematurely justifying the above chart in your head. “Why would a single minimum wage worker need a two-bedroom apartment? Just get a roommate!” There are plenty of reasons why a single-income household would need a two-bedroom apartment in order to have a decent quality of life.
Maybe you’re a single parent with kids. Maybe your spouse has a disability that makes it hard for them to find work. Maybe you live with your elderly parents, and are tasked with supporting them. To crib a line from Senator Bernie Sanders—who wrote a preface to the report—it is unconscionable that in the richest country in the world, workers cannot find an affordable place for their families to live.
In my zip code in Washington, D.C., you need to make at least $30 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment—more than twice the minimum wage. If you live in a metropolitan area, you can look up your own zip code here.