Minimum-wage workers can’t afford modest rental homes anywhere in the country, report finds

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The 2021 Out of Reach report, compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, has found the average minimum-wage employee in the United States would need to work 97 hours per week to cover an “affordable” two-bedroom home at Fair Market Rent. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Minimum wage won’t cover the cost of rent anywhere in the country, according to a new report.

The 2021 Out of Reach report, compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, has found the average minimum-wage employee in the United States would need to work 97 hours per week to cover an “affordable” two-bedroom home at Fair Market Rent, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A one-bedroom rental, meanwhile, would take the average minimum-wage worker approximately 79 hours per week to afford.

For the purposes of the study, “affordable” was defined as “no more than 30% of a household’s gross income should be spent on rent and utilities.”

The discrepancy between minimum-wage income and affordable rent only grows in some of the country’s most expensive markets, such as California and Hawaii, where workers would need to earn way more than minimum wage — $39.03 and $37.69 per hour, respectively — to be able to afford a two-bedroom rental while working a standard 40-hour week.

On the other end of the spectrum, minimum-wage workers in West Virginia and Arkansas would need to earn $14.83 and $14.60 per hour, respectively, to be able to afford a two-bedroom while working a standard 40-hour work week. Both of these wages, however, are more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The NLIHC has also included more specific data for each zip code as part of its Out of Reach report, available via an interactive tool at the NLIHC website.

A map compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows the hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental while working a standard 40-hour work week. (NLIHC)

Thirty states and Washington D.C., meanwhile, currently offer more than the federal minimum wage for hourly employees. The Out of Reach study took these wages into account, and incorporated any prevailing wages these states — as well as prevailing wages from counties and municipalities across the country— into the results of each region’s rental affordability.  

The report further found that people of color are more likely to be affected by housing unaffordability, with the median Black worker and Latino worker earning 24% and 26% less than white workers across all income groups.

“Even under the best of circumstances, rent is unaffordable for most low-wage workers,” the report states. “When they lose a job, face unexpected expenses like an emergency medical bill, or experience a disaster, their families struggle even more. Stable, affordable housing is a prerequisite for basic well-being, and no family should live in danger of losing their home.”

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for policies that promote affordable homes for lower-income Americans.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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