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Minimum wage workers can't afford 2-bedroom rent in any state in US, report shows

In Hawaii, you'd have to work 153 hours a week to afford it, and that would leave you just 15 hours for sleep and everything else.
Credit: WWL-TV

People who work full-time minimum wage jobs cannot afford a fair market two-bedroom rental home in any state in the U.S., according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition's "Out of Reach" report. In only 5% of U.S. counties can someone even afford a one-bedroom rental.

The coalition said that to afford a housing wage, hourly full-time workers must spend no more than 30% of their income on a fair market rental as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The report takes into account that some states pay more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The report found the average minimum wage worker in the U.S. would need to work nearly 97 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental home. That's more than two full-time jobs. The coalition said that if you assume someone sleeps eight hours a day, that leaves 2.5 hours a day for everything else including commuting, cooking, cleaning, self-care and caring for a family.

It would take 79 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent, the report found.

"Doing so is an impossibility for a single parent who needs a larger-than-one-bedroom apartment," the report reads. "Even for a one-bedroom rental, it is unreasonable to expect individuals to work 79 hours per week to afford their housing. For people who can work, one full-time job should be enough."

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Arkansas is the state with the lowest hourly wage needed ($14.19 per hour) to afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental without paying more than 30% of their income. But at its current minimum wage of $10 per hour, a worker would need to put in 57 hours per week.

Hawaii has highest housing wage at $38.76. But a minimum wage employee making $10.10 per hour there would need to work 153 hours a week for a two-bedroom rental. That leaves 15 hours for the rest of the week for sleep and everything else.

The report notes that shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated the problem. It cited a Pew Research Center survey from April that showed 52% of lower-income households reported they lost work or income due to the pandemic.

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