Squashed

A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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abbyjean:

As part of its 2012 report on rent affordability, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released a chart that’s been floating around the Internet. It shows that there isn’t a single state in the country where it’s possible to work 40 hours per week at minimum wage and afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. In West Virginia and Arkansas, you’d need to work at least a 63-hour week, and that’s as good as it gets. In California, Maryland, D.C., New Jersey and New York you’d need to work 130 hours or more. Hawaii comes in last place: 175 hours. (via NYTimes)

This is important.1 There’s a common lie that if people are just willing to work hard, they should be able to get by without public assistance. There’s another lie suggesting that people making more money deserve greater compensation because they are working more hours. In reality, many people at the lowest end of the income spectrum are working to grueling jobs just to cover expenses.



I think it’s important to mention what “afford” means to prevent anybody from being misled by the chart. In this case, “afford” means that your housing expenses do not exceed 30% of your income on housing. This is a pretty reasonable number. The federal number for affordability is 31%. Private lenders are going to want housing costs to be 28% or lower. So you don’t need to work 80 hours a week just to cover rent with nothing left over—but you do need to work 80 hours a week to cover a Fair Market Rent with enough left over to cover things like food, utilities, gas, medical care and so on. Obviously, everybody’s situation is different. If your young, single, debt-free, and healthy, you can probably afford a lot more than 30% on housing. If you have to pay student loans, medical expenses, child support, and enough gas to cover an hour long commute, 30% isn’t affordable. ↩

abbyjean:

As part of its 2012 report on rent affordability, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released a chart that’s been floating around the Internet. It shows that there isn’t a single state in the country where it’s possible to work 40 hours per week at minimum wage and afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. In West Virginia and Arkansas, you’d need to work at least a 63-hour week, and that’s as good as it gets. In California, Maryland, D.C., New Jersey and New York you’d need to work 130 hours or more. Hawaii comes in last place: 175 hours. (via NYTimes)

This is important.1 There’s a common lie that if people are just willing to work hard, they should be able to get by without public assistance. There’s another lie suggesting that people making more money deserve greater compensation because they are working more hours. In reality, many people at the lowest end of the income spectrum are working to grueling jobs just to cover expenses.


  1. I think it’s important to mention what “afford” means to prevent anybody from being misled by the chart. In this case, “afford” means that your housing expenses do not exceed 30% of your income on housing. This is a pretty reasonable number. The federal number for affordability is 31%. Private lenders are going to want housing costs to be 28% or lower. So you don’t need to work 80 hours a week just to cover rent with nothing left over—but you do need to work 80 hours a week to cover a Fair Market Rent with enough left over to cover things like food, utilities, gas, medical care and so on. Obviously, everybody’s situation is different. If your young, single, debt-free, and healthy, you can probably afford a lot more than 30% on housing. If you have to pay student loans, medical expenses, child support, and enough gas to cover an hour long commute, 30% isn’t affordable. 

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    California. The rent is too Damn high!
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