Study: Seattleites on minimum wage need 80 hour weeks to afford rent

Jun 15, 2023, 9:15 AM | Updated: 9:41 am

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An apartment building in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo)

(MyNorthwest photo)

It’s no surprise that rent can be expensive in Washington, but a new study shows that to afford rent, the average minimum wage worker needs to work nearly 80 hours a week.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition 2023 renters report, workers in Washington need to earn twice the state’s minimum wage to afford rent.

US rent growth easing, but remains a burden for many tenants

“In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $3,143 monthly or $37,715 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of $36.33 an hour,” the NLIHC said in their report.

The minimum wage in the state right now is $15.74, but to afford a typical one-bedroom apartment, a worker needs to earn $30.33.

That’s if workers spend 30% of their income on housing, which is the popular rule of thumb recommended by more business analysts. Households that pay 30% or more of their income on rent are considered “cost-burdened” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The minimum wage in Seattle is $18.69 an hour and in the Seattle and Bellevue area, the average renter needs to make $40.38 an hour to afford rent.

The average Seattle rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,964, according to Zumper. Median rent in Seattle, when you take out the extreme luxury rental prices, is closer to $1,651 a month.

Comparatively, the American worker making the average wage needs to work 63 hours to earn enough to pay the median U.S. rent, which is $2,040. This is three more hours than last year’s average and six more hours than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seattlites making minimum wage would have to work 88 hours before they reach the median monthly rent price. Those living on a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in the rest of the country need to work a whopping 281 hours to reach the U.S. median rent. That would be seven 40-hour weeks a month.

“The rental market has cooled this year, but so far, that has meant prices are growing more slowly, not any real relief for renters,” said Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow. “Rents were growing at a record pace for much of 2021, squeezing budgets for renters moving or renewing leases.”

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Study: Seattleites on minimum wage need 80 hour weeks to afford rent