If you live in San Carlos or Redwood City, California–near San Francisco, but not the most expensive part of the Bay Area–and have a minimum-wage job in retail or at a coffee shop, you won’t make enough to afford a typical studio apartment.
The county’s “housing wage,” or the amount you’d need to make per hour to spend no more than 30% of your income on rent, is $38.73 an hour. The minimum wage in Redwood City, though it will soon increase, is $11. To afford a two-bedroom apartment, you’d need to make more than $60 an hour.
But if you’re one of the many Bay Area residents fleeing because of the local housing crisis, you may still have difficulty elsewhere. Even in much less expensive parts of the country, a full-time minimum-wage job doesn’t pay well enough to afford rent. In Kansas, where the state minimum wage is $7.25, you’d need to make $10.53 an hour to afford a studio. To rent a one-bedroom at minimum wage, you’d need to work 67 hours a week. In Arkansas, the state with the cheapest housing, the $8.50-an-hour minimum wage isn’t enough to afford a two-bedroom.
The annual Out of Reach report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition analyzed every county in the U.S. and found that there isn’t anywhere that someone working a minimum-wage job, 40 hours a week, can afford a two-bedroom. The national “housing wage” for a two-bedroom is $22.50. A one-bedroom is affordable only with a minimum-wage job in a small number of counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, all states that have set the minimum wage above the federal level.
Out of the top 10 jobs with the highest projected growth–including medical assistants and home health aides–the median wages for seven of the jobs fall below the threshold needed to afford a one- or two-bedroom. Nearly 11 million extremely low-income families pay more than half their incomes on rent. Half a million Americans are homeless.
The Trump administration has proposed spending cuts for fiscal year 2019 that could lead to more than 200,000 families losing federal rental assistance, the National Low Income Housing Coalition has calculated. Even now, only one in four households eligible for federal rent assistance gets it. Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has proposed raising rent for those getting housing subsidies. But different political decisions could begin to solve the problem of affordable housing.
“The good news about the housing crisis is that we have the data, the solutions, and the resources needed to solve it,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We lack only the political will to fund the solutions at the scale necessary. Building that political will take a combination of increased civic engagement–to ensure that low-income renters vote at similar rates as higher income homeowners–and expanded coalitions that include the health, education, civil rights, and faith-based communities, all of which have a stake in ensuring more people are affordably housed.”