WASHINGTON-A minimum-wage earner in Maryland would have to work 104 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair-market rate in Maryland, said a study released Wednesday.
The report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition said that in order to make rent on a two-bedroom apartment affordable for 40-hour-a-week workers in the state, the minimum wage for a worker would have to more than double, from the current $5.15 per hour to $13.42.
“Out of Reach, 2000” claimed that workers could not afford the fair-market rate for housing in any jurisdiction in the country on a minimum-wage salary. Nationally, it said, the minimum wage would have to be $12.47 an hour, or a worker would have to put in 97 hours a week at the current rate to make housing affordable.
The study was based on Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates of fair-market rents, and the guideline that housing should account for no more than 30 percent of a family budget.
In Maryland, there was a wide range in the estimated number of hours a minimum-wage worker would have to work in order to afford housing without busting the family budget. The lowest estimate was 75 hours a week in some Eastern Shore and far Western Maryland counties, to 129 hours a week in central and Southern Maryland.
Maryland housing officials said there is little that the state can do to increase the wages of the workers in the state. In the meantime, the state is doing everything it can to help those people find and afford housing on their current salaries, said Edward McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
“As a state we have been very aggressive in our approach and have provided a lot of housing for low and middle-income people,” McDonough said.
“We don’t have any control of this issue,” he said of wages. “It deals with private sectors. We will continue to provide our share of housing for the people of low and middle income in the state.”
U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo called the latest figures a “crisis” that is at least partly attributable to the good national economy. But the strong economy could also help provide a solution for the problem, he said.
“This is the worst housing scenario in the history of the country,” Cuomo said. “The good economy is driving up the rents dramatically. While it’s good for high-income people, it has become more of a drain for people with low incomes. States will have to build more new housing units to confront this problem.”
Advocates suggested a three-step method for the federal and state governments to tackle the problem.
“First of all we have to increase the income level of these people,” said Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who earlier this year introduced legislation for to create a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. He said the second step is to subsidize the cost of housing and the third is to increase the number of housing units generally.
McDonough said the state feels its hands are tied in relation to some of the proposed steps by the advocates of the poor and repeated the position that state officials have been “aggressive” in their approach to the problem.