If you live in a major city and don’t make six-figures, you probably live with one or more roommates. And, of course, you probably wish every day that you could move to the middle of nowhere—where rents are cheap—and live alone. Well, surprise! Those dreams will probably never come true, because apartments throughout the country just aren’t as affordable as you think they are. According to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), one would have to earn an hourly wage of $22.10 to afford a two-bedroom rental (at the national fair market price of $1,149) and $17.90 an hour to afford a one-bedroom rental at $931 (if we’re adhering to the budget advice of keeping your rent 30% of your take-home pay or less).
This is quite alarming once you compare this to a renter’s average wage, which the NLIHC estimates to be $16.88 an hour. Each month, with approximately $877.80 for housing costs, that boils down to being $53 short of comfortably affording the national average price of a one-bedroom apartment, and $271 short for a two-bedroom. That’s pretty wild—especially when you think about the stories our Baby Boomer parents and relatives tell about being able to afford a two-bedroom house at the age of 25.
That rule of spending less than 30% of your income on rent is looking pretty outdated now, isn’t it? Sure, if you really, really wanted to live alone you could get a studio and pull $53 from your savings, but it’s more likely you’ll live with a partner, or get a roommate and split that two-bedroom cost.
But before you throw a pity party for your city-escape plan, just remember that there are people out there who are living this reality: For instance, a worker earning the national minimum wage ($7.25 an hour)—far below the wage needed to comfortably afford a one-bedroom—is automatically priced out of a majority of rental markets. In fact, the report found that the minimum wage won’t afford you a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.
You know who does need a two-bedroom apartment? Single parents (particularly single mothers). And unfortunately, they’re priced out of the two-bedroom rental market, too. In 2016, the median income for a single mother was only $30,235 in a year—or $14.53 per hour, which is not even enough for a one-bedroom rental. Other recent figures show that single parents struggle with earning a wage that would afford them a much-needed two-bedroom apartment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly wage for workers in the first quarter of 2018 was $965 for men (or $24.12 an hour) but only $783 for women (or $19.50). This means that many women in the United States would find it difficult to afford a two-bedroom apartment in a single-income household—especially after one factors in taxes, necessary costs of living like food and utilities, and unexpected situations like health emergencies, funerals and more.