Minimum-Wage Workers Are Priced Out of Rentals Across America, Report Says

I could be crazy, but I feel like, at the very least, we all want our jobs to cover the basic necessities of life.

Don’t get me wrong: personal fulfillment, bettering mankind, climbing the professional ladder and enjoying financial surplus are all great. But on the most basic level, I’d want the salary from my job to put a roof over my head and food on the table.

Unfortunately, Americans working full-time, minimum-wage jobs are struggling to do just that.

Minimum-wage workers throughout the entire country are priced out of renting two-bedroom apartments, according to a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

How Much Would Renters Need to Earn

The coalition found renters would have to earn $21.21 an hour — nearly three times the federal minimum wage of $7.25 — to afford a modest two-bedroom rental.

They based affordability off of fair market rental rates and not exceeding 30% of income on rent, though the report noted more than 11.2 million households spend over half their income on rent — sacrificing other necessities like medical care and food.

Workers living in Hawaii, Washington D.C. and California have to make the most to afford a two-bedroom rental — $35.20 an hour, $33.58 an hour and $30.92 an hour, respectively.

Workers have a better chance of affording two-bedroom rentals in Arkansas, Kentucky or South Dakota, but they’d still have to make at least $13.72 an hour, $13.95 an hour or $14.12 an hour, respectively — nearly double the federal minimum wage.

The report found minimum-wage workers could afford a two-bedroom rental if they worked 117 hours a week. At that rate, they’d have to work nearly 17 hours a day, every day of the week.

Renting a one-bedroom apartment doesn’t come easy on a minimum-wage salary either. There are only 12 counties in the country — in Washington, Oregon and Arizona — where a minimum wage worker could afford the cost of a one-bedroom apartment without working more than 40 hours a week.

How to Afford Housing on Minimum Wage

Though many low-income workers and families consider public assistance, help is not always readily available. The report noted three out of four families go without needed housing subsidies due to government underfunding.

To help solve this problem, Congressman Keith Ellison has proposed a bill, the Common Sense Housing Investment Act, which would reinvest more than $241 billion to make rental homes affordable to families in need.

Without government aid, finding ways to split housing costs or make extra money are logical options to affording rent.

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we are constantly writing about side gigs, like:

These additional sources of income could help boost a minimum-wage salary a bit closer to that $21.21 an hour goal.

Sharing housing costs with a roommate or significant other could also make a positive impact.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She once worked a food service job making $2.13 an hour, plus tips. While she had that job, she had at least three roommates to split housing costs.