Report: Minimum Wagers Can't Afford to Live in Philly

A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) found bad news for minimum wage workers.

The national report entitled Out of Reach found that the average minimum wage worker in Pennsylvania would need to earn at least $17 an hour--more than two-and-a-half times higher than the state's $7.25 minimum wage--in order to afford a two-bedroom dwelling.

According to the report, in the Philadelphia region, the average two-bedroom costs $1,135 dollars a month. A person would have to work three full-time jobs at minimum wage or earn at least $45,400 annually to be able to afford two-bedroom housing anywhere in the region.

NLIHC's Senior Vice President for Policy, Linda Couch, said the report findings show a gross mismatch in earnings and housing costs, and force workers to make some difficult financial decisions.

"In the Philadelphia area, someone would have to earn more than $21 an hour to afford the average two bedroom apartment; $21 an hour is leaps and bounds above what the minimum wage is in Philadelphia," Couch said.

"So their options are to move further and further away and to contribute to traffic and congestion; or to live, maybe in substandard housing, which no one wants for anyone in our communities; or to pay really high percentages of their income toward their housing costs, which leaves them less for other of life’s necessities like food, and clothing and health care."

County-by-county breakdown on hourly wage needed for a typical 2-bedroom dwelling:

NLIHC has conducted the national report to document changes in housing costs and wages in the U.S. since 1989. The report calculates the housing wage -- the amount a person would need to earn in order to afford housing--for each state, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Nationwide, this year's report found that the average hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom at fair market value is $18.92, more than two-and-a-half times the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

According to Couch, even a modest increase in the federal minimum wage would have little impact on the nation's housing affordability to wage earnings gap.

"The federal minimum wage, if it was to be raised to $10.10 or $12.10 would still be insufficient to meet people’s really basic needs like housing," she said.

"For a lot of people, the minimum wage is the ceiling; its what they earn now and what they’ll probably earn in a couple of years. Where ideally, that would be the floor, and that would be where we would start from and people would move up. But people’s wages are stagnating and in a lot of markets people’s wages are going down just as rents are going up.”

The report found an even larger gap between earning wage and housing costs in New Jersey and Delaware.

The NLIHC report found that New Jersey has the 5th highest housing wage in the nation at $24.92. Delaware came in 12th with a housing wage of $20.09.

On Friday, local activists gathered in locations throughout the Philadelphia region to demand an increased minimum wage of $15.

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