Rents pricing out minimum-wage workers across the US, report says

Ridiculous height restrictions create a monotonous skyline with buildings all the same height. 27 march 2015

Fair Market Rent is Housing and Urban Development's best estimate of what a household seeking a modest rental home in a short amount of time can expect to pay for rent and utilities, according to the report. The number of homes renting for less than $800 declined by 2 percent.

The Washington Post breaks down the report like this: There is nowhere in the country where someone working a full-time, minimum-wage job could afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition report shows that to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Charlotte, a worker would need to earn $18.60 an hour. The eight failing common means of employment like food preparation ($9.40), retail salesperson ($10.41), cashiers ($9.33), laborers and freight movers ($12.66), waiters ($9.45), office clerks ($14.42), janitors ($11.59) and stock clerks ($11.65) fall below what is necessary for someone to afford a modest two bedroom apartment. A new study released Wednesday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition will only add more urgency to those discussions.

Each year, the group's "Out of Reach" report calculates the gap between the costs of rent and how much renters make.

But that's still nearly double the Arkansas minimum wage of $8.50. To afford a two-bedroom apartment, you'd need to make more than $60 an hour.

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To get the $23.93 hourly wage figure, the report factors housing costs as 30 percent of income, thus a household must earn $4,148 monthly or $49,780 annually. A wage of $39.06 translates to more than $81,244 per year.

The problem? Even the lowest amount is higher than the local minimum wage. Only registered nurses ($30.59) and customer-service representatives ($15.34) offer a housing wage, and customer-service representatives barely make the cut. Even at those wages, it would take 57 hours a week to afford the statewide rent for a two-bedroom apartment. In the Seattle-Bellevue metro area and King County, the numbers are higher: $26 an hour for a studio, $29 for a one-bedroom, $36 for a two-bedroom, and $52 for a three-bedroom. For a 2-bedroom rental, the hours needed jumps to 123 per week, the equivalent of 3 full-time jobs. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in the report.

"In America today, almost 11 million families pay more than half of their limited incomes toward rent and utilities", Sanders writes.

The cost of housing has steadily risen along with increased demand for rentals, yet new construction has trended toward the high-end market due to lofty development expenses, the findings said. "That leaves precious little for other essentials". That's considered the "housing wage", at which renters can afford to live somewhat comfortably. What's less clear is how, and when, affordable housing will be the new normal.

The report also questions "filtering", the idea that if developers just keep building enough market-rate housing, that housing will eventually become affordable for low-income people.

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