USA: To afford a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, a minimum wage worker Has to work 87 hours per week

A new report shows just how much it takes to afford to live in Seattle, one of the hottest housing markets in the county: $24 an hour or about 87 hours of work per week at the current minimum wage.

Every year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s “Out of Reach” report highlights the gap between wages and housing costs. And every year the results are dismal. According to to this year’s report, released today, it remains difficult for many minimum wage workers across the country to afford a “modest and safe rental home” without spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

In the world of housing policy, spending no more than 30 percent of income on housing is a standard definition of “affordable.” But households are increasingly spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing, making them “severely cost-burdened.” For rental costs, the NLIHC uses the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of fair market rent.

The minimum wage a Washington State resident would have to make to afford a one bedroom apartment is $18.88 an hour. At the current rate, they would have to work 69 hours a week. For a two-bedroom: $23.64 an hour or 86 hours a week at the current minimum wage. In the Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area, those numbers jump to $24.02 an hour or 87 hours a week for a one-bedroom. To afford a two-bedroom apartment in Seattle, workers need to make $29.69 an hour or work at the minimum wage for 108 hours a week, according to the report.

It’s worth remembering here just who makes the minimum wage. Minimum wage workers are older than they used to be. Half are older than 30. About a quarter have kids. Minimum wage workers are disproportionately women and people of color.

Seattle and Washington State have some of the highest minimum wages in the country, but the wages still aren’t enough. Seattle’s minimum wage is currently between $11 and $15, depending on the size of the business. Last fall, voters raised the statewide minimum wage to $11 this year and $13.50 by 2020. The gap in other cities and states is even worse. San Francisco is the most out-of-reach city in the country, according to the report. There, workers need to make $46.37 an hour to afford a one-bedroom. The minimum wage is $14.

Published by: The Stranger (8 June 2017)
Written by: Heidi Groover

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