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Ear to the Ground

What You Need to Earn to Rent a Decent One-Bedroom in America

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Posted on Apr 26, 2014

    Dream on wage slave, the market says. Photo by Dee Speed (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Unsurprisingly, the “housing wage” is much higher than the minimum wage in much of the country.

A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition determined what full-time workers would need to earn hourly to rent a one-bedroom residence within what the Department of Housing and Urban Development considers “fair market rent” in communities across the country. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog converted the data into the following map:

See an interactive version of the map here.

Wonkblog reports:

Mapped in finer detail than by state, several geographic patterns are clearer. No single county in America has a one-bedroom housing wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (several counties in Arkansas come in at $7.98).

Coastal and urban counties are among the most expensive. The entire Boston-New York-Washington corridor includes little respite from high housing wages. Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties in California rank as the least affordable in the country (scroll over each county in the interactive version for rankings; click to zoom). In each of those counties, a one-bedroom hourly housing wage is $29.83, or the equivalent of 3.7 full-time jobs at the actual minimum wage (or an annual salary of about $62,000). Move inland in California, and housing grows less expensive.

… As a commentary on the national minimum-wage debate, this map is limited. While it suggests that a minimum-wage worker can’t afford housing in Seattle (where the one-bedroom housing wage is $17.56 an hour), in reality that person probably finds housing by renting a room in someone else’s home, by living in the cheapest part of town, or by working considerably more than 40 hours a week. (Remember George W. Bush’s praise for the “uniquely American” story of the single mother of three who worked three jobs in Omaha?)

The three most expensive counties for the one-bedroom housing wage were Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo in California at $29.83 an hour. Honolulu County in Hawaii was calculated at $26.58 an hour. In Massachusetts’ Nantucket County, the cost is $25.83. California’s Orange and New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties followed at over $25 an hour and California’s Santa Clara and Alameda counties both came in above $24.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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