Looking to rent an apartment in Massachusetts? You might need more than one job
To afford rent on a typical two-bedroom apartment in Massachusetts, you need to earn almost three times the state’s $12-an-hour minimum wage, according to a study released Tuesday.
The report, from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, estimates that a household needs $33.81 an hour to comfortably afford an average two-bedroom here, giving the state the third highest so-called housing wage in the country. In Greater Boston, that wage is even higher — $42.19 per hour — and far outpaces not just the minimum wage but the earnings of a typical renter, at just over $20 an hour.
That gap between income and rent is large and growing, and puts enormous pressure on working families across the state, say housing advocates, who are using the annual report to urge lawmakers on Beacon Hill to pass laws they hope will boost housing construction and expand rental vouchers.
“Despite recently raising our state minimum wage, it is less than half of what is needed to afford a modest apartment in Massachusetts,” said Rachel Heller, CEO of Citizens Housing and Planning Association, an advocacy group for affordable housing. “Compared with the rest of the United States, we are the third least affordable state for renters.”
It’s not just a Massachusetts problem. Nationwide, the average two-bedroom apartment now requires an income of $22.96 an hour, more than triple the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25. Only in about 10 percent of US counties can a renter with even average earnings afford a two-bedroom apartment on a 40-hour-per-week job, the report says.
Federal funding for public and affordable housing has declined in recent years, and NLIHC and Representative Ayanna Pressley — who wrote a preface to Tuesday’s report — called for that to change. Pressley has signed on to a bill by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts that would boost federal housing spending, and she said the effects of out-of-reach rents — on such areas as schooling, health, and homelessness — are too great to keep ignoring.
“This isn’t just a devastating trend, but rather a national public health crisis,” wrote Pressley, a Democrat who represents Massachusetts’s Seventh District in Congress. “For too long, too many people have been left out and left behind when it comes to federal housing policy and it’s time for those practices to end.”