The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) this week released current data on rental housing affordability around the country, and the picture is disappointing. Nationally, according to an NLIHC press release, renters must earn $18.44 an hour, or nearly $38,360 a year, to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home. (“Afford,” in most cases, means the renter spends 30% or less of their income on rent.)
In Michigan, the housing wage (how much money a worker must earn to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, or FMR) is $14.34, or $29,832 annually. A Michigan renter earning the minimum wage of $7.40 needs to work 78 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom FMR apartment, and 58 hours a week to afford even a studio apartment.
The housing wage varies around the state, from $11.31 in many rural counties to $17.04 in Washtenaw County. In every county in Michigan, the housing wage is higher than minimum wage, and often more than twice as much. Those Michiganders living on Supplemental Security Income due to a disability can afford only $202 in rent, and you can imagine the impossibility of finding a decent apartment at that rate.
As we head into the Michigan Conference on Affordable Housing next week, we should keep in mind that even though Michigan has a lot of housing, there is still a large gap between what renters need and what they can afford. CEDAM members are working to address this problem from several angles, including building or preserving quality, affordable housing; helping renters earn more; matching renters with housing in their price range; and helping renters make up the difference in what they can afford and what their rent is. As a state, we need to keep trying to improve housing affordability for ourselves and our neighbors.