To comfortably rent an apartment, that is
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Most financial experts will tell you not to spend more than 30 percent of your income on rent. And while that’s the ideal ratio to live comfortably and still save for retirement, that goal is nearly impossible for many Americans. According to data released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, depending on where you live in the United States, you’d need to make anywhere from $13.72 to $35.00 an hour at a full-time job to afford a two-bedroom apartment. As the report’s title “Out of Reach 2017” suggests, most Americans don’t make nearly that much.
Which, honestly, isn’t all that surprising considering the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour—or roughly a third of the 2017 National Housing Wage for a two-bedroom rental. And before you assume these outrageous national averages are the fault of major coastal cities, consider the fact there are only 12 counties in the entire United States where a minimum-wage, full-time job will get you an average one-bedroom rental.
Surprisingly, Hawaii beat out New York to have the highest hourly wage needed to rent a two-bedroom ($35.20 versus $28.08), while California came in a close second ($30.92). According to the report, Arkansas is the cheapest place to rent in the continental United States, while Puerto Rico requires a $9.68 hourly wage to comfortably afford two bedrooms.
Image via the National Low Income Housing Coalition
Despite efforts to raise minimum wages state by state and the $15/hour goal made popular by Bernie Sanders, the pace of legislation is too slow to keep up with the rapidly escalating cost of living. Still, this isn’t to suggest we should throw up our hands and give up. In the report’s preface, Representative Keith Ellison wrote that Americans “spend about $11 billion each year to subsidize the houses of the top 1 percent—at the very same time that millions of families are being turned away from getting the help they need because Congress claims we cannot afford it,” adding, “This is wrong, but Congress has the opportunity to fix it through comprehensive tax reform legislation, which remains a top priority for Congress and the White House.”
Let’s just hope affordable housing moves to the top of Congress’s priority list, lest we dip into a housing crisis beyond imagination. As a friendly reminder that Americans are paying attention to this, try calling your representatives directly or send them a fax via ResistBot. And unlike those obscene rental application fees, giving your reps an earful won’t cost you anything.