For most Americans, access to decent, affordable rental housing remains cruelly beyond reach. Only in 22 counties in the United States is a one-bedroom home affordable to someone working 40 hours per week at federal minimum wage.
That’s from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) report, which outlines the mismatch between wages and rent every year.
For people earning minimum wage, the situation is untenable. At $7.25 an hour, they would need to put in roughly 122 hours per week, every week of the year—or magically, work 3 full-time jobs—to afford a two-bedroom home at the national average fair market rent; for a one-bedroom, they would need to put in 99-hour weeks, or the equivalent of two and a half full-time jobs. (Fair Market Rent is an annually updated government estimate, typically the 40th percentile of the gross rent in an area.)
But this isn’t just a problem for the poor. NLIHC estimates that the average renter’s hourly wage in the United States is $16.88. The average renter in each county makes enough to afford a two-bedroom in only 11 percent of U.S. counties, and a one-bedroom, in only 43 percent.
The national “housing wage” in 2018 is $22.10 for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $17.90 for a one-bedroom, the report estimates. (That’s how much an average renter in the U.S. would need to make to afford a modest apartment at fair market rent, without paying more than 30 percent of their income towards housing.)* Of course, there’s widespread geographical discrepancy in rents and wages across the country. You’d need to earn $60.02 to reasonably afford a two-bedroom in San Francisco, California, but in Little Rock, Arkansas, it’s about $15.60. Still, in not a single state, city, or county can someone earning federal or state minimum wage for a 40-hour work week afford to rent a two-bedroom…