Affordable housing is out of reach for many Minnesotans

A report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach 2015, shows that workers need to earn about twice the minimum wage to afford a fair market two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota.

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition calculates the “Housing Wage,” or the income a household needs to rent a fair market unit while not spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Minnesota’s Housing Wage for a two-bedroom unit is $17.20 an hour.

In some parts of Minnesota, the Housing Wage is even higher. In several counties, including Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Chisago, a full-time worker needs to earn $19.15 an hour to afford a fair market two-bedroom apartment.

The Minnesota Housing Partnership provides a county-level look at how many hours a minimum-wage worker would need to work to afford housing. Even with the recent increase to $9.00 an hour for large employers, a minimum-wage worker needs to work 55 to 85 hours a week, depending on where they live, to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

When there is a wide gap between incomes and housing costs, families can’t afford other basic needs like transportation or child care, families may have to live in substandard or dangerous housing, or workers can’t move to where the jobs are.

Policy choices can play an important role in more Minnesotans having access to housing that meets their needs. This means that policymakers should enact policies that help Minnesota workers have good paying jobs and that increase access to affordable housing in the state.

In the 2014 Legislative Session, Minnesota policymakers gave minimum-wage workers in the state a long overdue raise. By August 2016, the minimum wage in Minnesota will be $9.50 an hour for large employers, and will be indexed to inflation after that so that working Minnesotans can better keep up with the cost of housing and other basic needs.

In 2015, policymakers took steps to increase access to affordable housing, including more funding for the Housing and Job Growth Initiative, which builds affordable housing in areas that are seeing high job growth but not enough housing is available for workers.

But there’s more that can be done. Policymakers should continue to make progress so that all Minnesotans can afford the basics, including stable housing.

-Clark Biegler

About Clark Biegler

Clark Biegler is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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