The National Low Income Housing Coalition's (NLIHC) annual report recently took a look at the Housing Wage, an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker needs to earn to afford a rental home at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's fair-market rent. That means spending no more than 30% of their income on housing costs — the typical rule of thumb when budgeting for housing.
NLIHC found that a worker needs to earn $17.90 an hour at a full-time job — 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year — to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. That's over $10 more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
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Let's look at the math: If a worker holds two full-time minimum wage jobs, they'd be earning $14.50 an hour total — still under the $17.90 needed to afford rent and have 70% of your income left over for non-housing related expenses. The worker would have to take on another, part-time, minimum-wage job to make up the difference. All things considered, that's a 99-hour work week, 52 weeks a year.
The map below shows the hourly wage needed to afford a fair-market rent, one-bedroom apartment by state, assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks a year, as calculated by the NLIHC. This is also known as the "housing wage."
Only five states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have one-bedrooms affordable for minimum-wage workers across 22 counties.
All of these states have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum wage, but if you're looking for housing outside of the 22 counties, even these higher minimum wages aren't enough.
The housing wage for a one-bedroom apartment in Washington is $21.65. A worker would need income from two jobs at Washington's minimum wage of $11.50 (the highest of all five states) to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
Workers fare a little better in Arizona, where the minimum wage of $10.50 is actually the lowest of the five states. The housing wage for a one-bedroom apartment there is $14.64.
Even Arkansas, which has the most affordable housing in the country, according to NLIHC data, has a higher one-bedroom housing wage ($10.98) than minimum wage ($8.50).
Lastly, Hawaii, the state with the most expensive housing: The minimum wage there is $10.10, and the housing wage for a one-bedroom apartment is $27.44. If a worker held 2.5 full-time jobs, they would make $25.70 an hour — that's more than the national housing wage, yet still not enough for Hawaii's steep real estate market. A worker in Hawaii would have to work almost three full-time jobs just to afford a one-bedroom rental.