Last month, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released their annual “Out of Reach” report. This analysis demonstrates the need for affordable housing around the country by framing it into a “housing wage” – that is, how much a person would need to make per hour to rent a modest apartment in a given state or locality.
The report found that nowhere in the country could a minimum wage full-time worker (making $7.25 an hour) can afford to rent a modest 2-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. In only 12 counties nationwide can a full-time worker afford a modest one-bedroom apartment.
What does this mean? Nationwide, renters need to earn a wage of $21.21 per hour, which is nearly $14 an hour more than the federal minimum wage. It’s also almost $5 an hour more than the median renter wage of $16.38.
In Virginia, where the minimum wage is set at the federal minimum of $7.25, a renter must make $23.29 an hour in order to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment. A Virginian making minimum wage can only afford rent at $377 per month, but the Fair Market Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Virginia is $1,027 per month, nearly three times what they can afford.
The report also looks at rental affordability another way – how many hours would a minimum wage worker need to work per week to afford the Fair Market Rent? A renter earning the federal minimum wage would need to work 117 hours per week to afford a 2-bedroom apartment and 94.5 hours to afford a one-bedroom apartment. The typical full time job is 40 hours per week, and most minimum wage earners work part-time for fewer hours. In Virginia, this translates to a 128-hour minimum wage work week for a 2-bedroom apartment and a 109-hour minimum wage work week.