Salary You Need to Secure a Modest Rental in the U.S.
In a nation marked by diversity and opportunity, the United States faces an unsettling paradox: the vast majority of its full-time minimum wage workers cannot afford even a modest one-bedroom rental home without exceeding the recommended 30 percent of their income. A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) sheds light on the daunting challenges that these individuals confront daily. In this comprehensive article, we delve into the distressing figures, dissect the data, and explore the consequences of this housing crisis in the United States.
The ‘Out of Reach’ Report
The NLIHC’s annual “Out of Reach” report serves as a sobering reminder of the chasm between income and housing costs. This extensive analysis juxtaposes minimum wages with housing expenses across states, metropolitan areas, and counties throughout the country. In 2022, the results were nothing short of alarming – the hourly wage required to afford a “modest” two-bedroom rental home exceeded double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in every state.
A National Perspective
Nationally, the stark reality unveils itself: to avoid spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, a person needs to earn $25.82 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental and $21.25 for a one-bedroom rental. Even in areas with minimum wages higher than the federal standard, it’s simply not enough. The NLIHC emphatically states that “no local minimum wages are sufficient to afford a one-bedroom rental home at the fair market rent with a 40-hour workweek.”
Delving deeper into the data, we find significant variations between states. At the lowest end of the spectrum, Arkansas requires the least hourly income for a two-bedroom rental at $14.89, but this figure still surpasses the state’s minimum wage of $11. Meanwhile, Hawaii tops the charts, demanding an astonishing $40.63 per hour for a two-bedroom rental, particularly daunting when considering the impending increase in the minimum wage to $12 on October 1st.
The Reality for the Average American
The grim truth extends beyond these statistics. Even when accounting for areas with higher-than-federal minimum wages, the average American would have to endure grueling 96-hour workweeks, 52 weeks a year, just to afford a two-bedroom apartment or rental home. To put this in perspective, that’s equivalent to working two-and-a-half full-time jobs. Sadly, for most, not even sharing dual incomes with a partner earning the federal minimum wage would suffice to cover the cost of a two-bedroom rental.
Root Causes of the Crisis
This disturbing housing crisis in the U.S. can be attributed to a multitude of factors. The authors of the NLIHC report point to poor political decisions and the exacerbating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The failure of the minimum wage to keep up with inflation over the years only compounds the problem. In 1968, the federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, would have been nearly $6 higher than today’s actual federal minimum wage.
A Missed Opportunity
The minimum wage has not grown in tandem with the rate of productivity. If it had, the report notes, it would have exceeded $22 per hour in 2021, which is significantly higher than the current federal minimum wage.
The housing crisis in the United States is a grave concern that demands immediate attention. With vast disparities between income and housing costs, the nation is confronted with an issue of urgent importance. It is time for policymakers to address this crisis, make affordable housing a reality for the lowest-income individuals, and bridge the divide between wages and housing expenses. In the words of NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel, “Housing is a basic human need, but millions of people in America cannot afford a safe, stable home. The lack of affordable homes for the lowest-income people is one of our country’s most urgent and solvable challenges. It’s time for Congress to act.”