Washington has more counties than any other state where low-income workers can afford rent. None of that affordable housing, however, is anywhere near Seattle.
“Out of Reach” is an annual report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) that gauges the distance between rent and wages. The latest report reaffirms what many around Washington already know — housing is expensive. But there are a few surprising data points.
According to the latest numbers, there are 12 counties in the United States where a person can afford rent for a one-bedroom home (at the fair market rent) on local minimum wage — paying no more than 30 percent of their income while working 40 hours a week. Six of those counties are in Washington state.
• Pend Oreille
Oregon has four counties with affordable housing. Arizona has two.
Fair market rent in Washington (paying about 30 percent of income) for a two-bedroom apartment is about $1,229, according to the coalition. That means a household would have to pull in $4,098 a month, or about $49,177 annually, to afford it. This equates to about $23.64 an hour.
At the state’s minimum wage, a household would have to work 86 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom house, and 69 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom. That breaks down to 2.1 full-time minimum wage jobs to a two-bedroom, and 1.7 jobs for a one bedroom.
It’s important to note that the coalition doesn’t break Washington fair market rent down to the county level. So affluent King County averages out with the state’s poorer counties.
What the report does state is that a person would have to work more than 80 hours a week to afford living in King County on minimum wage.
Least affordable housing
At the opposite end of the rental spectrum are areas around Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.
The top five most expensive Washington areas to live (renting a two-bedroom apartment):
• Seattle / Bellevue: $29.69 an hour or 2.7 full-time minimum wage jobs
• Vancouver (Portland/Hillsboro): $23.88 an hour
• Tacoma: $21.96 an hour or two full-time minimum wage jobs
• San Juan County: $20.73 an hour
• Olympia / Tumwater: $20.60 an hour
Looking closer at the Seattle area, a person will have to work quite a bit harder to afford an apartment. While the state’s fair rent is $1,200, Seattle’s housing is another story. Curbed reports that a renter can get into a 550-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment for $1,900 in First Hill or Fremont.