How Many Minimum Wage Hours Do You Need to Pay Rent?

According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, you’d have to work 136 minimum wage hours to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at “fair market rent” in New York. According to the NLIHC’s chart, West Virginia and Arkansas have the fewest number of minimum wage hours you’d need to work each week at 63 hours. Of course, not everyone wants a 2-bedroom apartment, but there are many families with only one working adult where this is the reality.

Minimum wage in New York is $7.25. The rent on my studio apartment is $1,500 a month. I’d have to work 52 minimum wage hours each week (pre-tax!) to make my rent.

I said last month that I’d move out of New York if I was only earning minimum wage, because I’d only be able to make a living someplace where the rent was dirt cheap. Clearly, minimum wage needs to become a living wage.


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I split a 2 br in Brooklyn. I’d have to work 86 hours over two weeks (pre tax) to afford my half.

Right so I’d be working about 43 hours a week to afford my apartment. Which seems fine actually if push came to shove. I wouldn’t want to, but I’ve never been paid less than $10 an hour in NYC to begin with.

paulina@twitter (#1,077)

Unfortunately the minimum wage as a living wage argument is a very difficult one; certainly we want a single mother to be able to take care of her family without significant outside assistance, but raising the minimum wage does not automatically increase the operating budgets for a lot of organizations and especially not small or independently-owned businesses. They either lose out on earnings (which we like to demonize however more earnings typically leads to more investment, innovation, growth and therefore sustainable job and wage increases.)

That, and NY housing is a product of limited supply and high demand. The only way people can continue moving there spontaneously/joblessly is because last year’s crop ran out of money and needed to sublet.

sventurata (#27)

@paulina@twitter Agreed. I live in an area where min wage has raised drastically over the past few years, and suddenly there’s a dearth of full-time jobs. Also the wage difference between cleaning toilets in a mall (a very hard job! But not one requiring extensive college education) and teaching preschool children has virtually disappeared.

thenotestaken (#542)

I’d have to work about 40 hours a week, pre-tax, to be able to afford my apartment on the local minimum wage. Thank god for Montreal rents–especially since I’m only paid a couple dollars over minimum wage anyway.

Weirdly, many European countries have functioning economies featuring businesses, rich people, multinational corporations — the whole nine yards — and also a minimum wage that is also a living wage.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings Yes but they’re SOCIALISTS. And that’s the worst thing anyone could ever be. I’m not sure why, exactly, because I possess this rare quality called “empathy,” but still: the kid in the Ron Paul t-shirt says it’s evil, so it’s evil.

@stuffisthings I think it’s also important to note that, adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has shrunk enormously since the late 60s/early 1970s, while worker productivity has greatly increased.

For instance, although bar code scanners had only just been introduced and were rare, 70s supermarket cashiers would have made at least $9.00 an hour (in 2010 dollars), because that was the minimum wage. Average gross rent was then about $400 (also in 2010 dollars), so our cashier, as well as the guy stocking the shelves, mopping the floors, digging ditches, etc., would have to work just 37 hours a week in order to afford an average apartment for 30% of their salary. That leaves $1,000 or so per month left over for everything else.

For comparison, in 2010 the Federal minimum wage was $7.25, and the median gross rent was $1,056. If you worked 40 hours a week, you’d have just $104 left over for food and other necessities. For the whole month.

@MuffyStJohn Yeah it’s weird how Denmark can have a $17/hr average minimum wage (it’s negotiated sector by sector between labor unions and employer’s associations, the horror!) and still have less than half our unemployment rate and an Ease of Doing Business rank one spot below us. They don’t even have any oil!

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings Hahahaha, labor unions. We killed those but good. And just in time if you ask me; our middle class was getting a little too comfortable!

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings Well, they can just apply for food stamps if they need more money to eat. Assuming they’re the “right” kind of poor person and deserving of the aid. Otherwise we’ll be forced to judge them.

@MuffyStJohn Why would they need living wage at all? They should just move in with their parents, then it’s irrelevant how many hours they work! Hehehehe.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@Username You’re absolutely right. These stupid minimum wage earners are just paying the price for not majoring in engineering.

@MuffyStJohn Seriously. It’s their fault – they should just move somewhere cheaper. I hear Houston TX. is lovely.

deepomega (#22)

Not sure how good this data is, though. I can’t speak to the numbers in NYC, but in LA you can double your rent by moving two miles. (And a lot of what you pay for is amenities and neighborhood name.) I’d be interested in seeing a full distribution of rent – like, how many homes are there where you can afford rent in 40 hours of minimum wage/week. (Leaving 66% of your income for other expenses or whatever.)

@deepomega Well, friend, then this website is just for you!

(I assure that once you figure out the whack interface, you can map housing affordability down to the individual census tract.)

@deepomega This is true especially in NYC. I am lucky with my rent and apartment location, but I know that even within my own neighborhood moving a matter of blocks to be closer to the subway, or on a ‘nicer’ street, or in an apartment more well appointed would make my rent would increase substantially.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

I am so proud to live in a country where we measure how many full-time jobs someone has to work to afford fair market housing. Thank god we’ve already decided people don’t deserve affordable healthcare and that an education should lead to a lifetime of wage slavery. USA! USA! USA!

@MuffyStJohn This is why we can’t have nice things, people.

elizabeast (#629)

Taking into account tax (I lose about 25% of my paycheck to taxes here in Philadephia), I’d have to work 104 hours just to make rent. Which is apparently higher than average for Pennsylvania. That said, my rent is a paltry $600 per month. So, who even knows what this really means.

navigateher (#555)

That’s a somewhat weird statistic though – one person doesn’t need a two-bedroom apartment by default. If you’re earning minimum wage the extra bedroom should be the first thing to go. If you’re more than one in a family and thus need a bigger apartment you’ll probably have more than one person paying for it. Then again, I’m European and used to living in the tiniest spaces.

Megano! (#124)

@navigateher Not always, no.

keembuhrlee (#1,094)

@navigateher I’m with you – I keep seeing this report popping up on facebook, but seriously, why would every minimum wage worker need a two bedroom apartment? The majority of minimum wage workers are young and do not have dependents. In addition, it is very rare that minimum wage positions do not offer raises to employees.

@navigateher totes appreciate your other point but it’s not that rare (and a lot of places that do offer raises, it’s like 25 or 50 cents a year, with a cap that’s not much more than minimum wage)

HaleyM (#886)

DC is worse than NYC for rent vs. minimum wage? UGH. Moving.

Megano! (#124)

I would have to work 37.5 hours a week to make rent on minimum wage. And then I would only be able to make rent, that doesn’t even factor in utilities or food.

navigateher (#555)

I actually got curious. We live in a 860 sq. ft two-bedroom apartment, very basic, nothing fancy, and in no way the most expensive areas in the city.

We don’t have minimum wages as such, but I would have to work *drumroll* 267 hours (67 hours per week) on what is considered to be the minimum acceptable pay (to qualify for unemployment benefits etc.) to afford this apartment. And that does not include amenities, just the rent. If I was to earn median salary, I would have to work 36 hours / week just to pay the rent. I’m feeling sick.

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