Mapping the Vast Differences Between Wages and Rental Costs

Comparing rental housing costs to wages reveals just how out of reach the housing market is for low-income earners.

July 26, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


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A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition quantifies housing costs relative to wages in the states and cities around the United States.

The "Out of Reach 2021" report uses a statistic called "Housing Wage" to measure the gap between renters' wages and the cost of rental housing in the United States. Housing Wage estimates the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home at HUD’s fair market rent (FMR) without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs.

According to the report, the average full-time worker needs to earn an hourly wage of $24.90 to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental home in the United States. With the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, it's easy to see that many would have to work multiple jobs at that wage to afford rent. The hourly wage of $24.90 is also significantly higher than the average hourly wage earned by U.S. renters—$18.78.

An article by Andrew Chamings picked up the news fo the report for SFGate, noting the report's findings for San Francisco. "Data shows that if you earn minimum wage in San Francisco — that's $16.32 an hour — you need to work 4.9 full time jobs a week to afford a fair market rent two-bedroom apartment. That's 196 hours, more hours than there are in a week," writes Chamings.

"Data shows that if you earn minimum wage in San Francisco — that's $16.32 an hour — you need to work 4.9 full time jobs a week to afford a fair market rent two-bedroom apartment. That's 196 hours, more hours than there are in a week..."

Chamings also notes that California is the least affordable state for a low-income earner in the entire country, according to the report. The most affordable state for low-income earners is Arkansas.

A map of the United States comparing average and minimum wages to the cost of rental housing in each of the 50 states.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021 in National Low Income Housing Coalition

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