Development

Here’s how many hours at minimum wage it takes to afford a 2-BR apartment in Mecklenburg

Construction of the concrete parking deck at South Boulevard and Poindexter Drive in Charlotte. A new, 200-unit apartment building is under construction with a 219-space parking garage planned.
Construction of the concrete parking deck at South Boulevard and Poindexter Drive in Charlotte. A new, 200-unit apartment building is under construction with a 219-space parking garage planned. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Someone working at a minimum wage job in Mecklenburg County would need to labor 96 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Mecklenburg County, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Called “Out of Reach,” the recently released study details how much it costs to rent housing in markets throughout the U.S. As you might guess from the title, there are virtually no jurisdictions where very low-income workers can afford to rent a dwelling for 30 percent or less of their income, a commonly used standard for affordability.

“In only 12 counties can a full-time worker earning the prevailing federal or state minimum wage afford a one-bedroom rental home,” the coalition wrote. “The supply of rental housing has not kept pace with demand over the past decade. The shortage is greatest for those with the lowest incomes.”

Here are some of the key numbers for Mecklenburg, where leaders have been searching for solutions to the vexing problem of housing affordability as rents in the city keep rising:

▪ A significantly higher portion of Mecklenburg residents rent than among households statewide: 43 percent renter households vs. 35 percent in North Carolina.

▪ The number of weekly hours needed to afford an apartment at minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in Mecklenburg is stark: You’d need to work 75 hours a week to afford a studio, 83 hours a week for a one-bedroom, 96 hours for a two-bedroom and 131 hours for a three-bedroom. That’s based on the fair market rent in the county, usually set at the 40th percentile of rents (the standard used by the federal government for its housing programs).

▪ The average wage among renters in Mecklenburg County is substantially more than minimum wage, however: $20.30 an hour, according to the report. That means the average renter can afford about $1,056 a month in rent – enough to get a two-bedroom apartment without stretching the budget.

▪ But that’s just the average, and many renters fall below the average. A renter making $30 percent of area’s median income in Mecklenburg (That’s $21,210 a year, or around $10.65 an hour full-time) can only afford to pay $530 a month in rent and stay within affordability limits. Typically, renters in that situation risk frequent evictions and have to find other solutions to afford housing, such as cutting back on other necessities and spending a big proportion of their incomes on housing.

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Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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