High rents, low wages; Minnesotans struggle


A Minnesota minimum wage earner would need to work 2.3 full-time jobs, or 91 hours a week, to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to a new study released Monday by the Minnesota Housing Partnership.

For the fourth year in a row, the MHP study of apartment rental prices shows minimum wage workers in Minnesota have the hardest challenge in the Midwest to make ends meet when looking for rental property. The burden for the working poor in the Twin Cities metro area and Rochester is even greater.

The wage-rental price squeeze is the joint work of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and its Minnesota ally, Minnesota Housing Partnership. The Minnesota Out of Reach 2014 report and accompanying summary news release is available at mhponline.org.

The data show Minnesota low-wage workers would need to average $16.46 per hour statewide to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Differences among local housing markets make that income need vary from a low of $12.25 per hour in some places to as much as $18.19 per hour in most areas of the Twin Cities.

Most Minnesota employers use the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as compensation for the lowest paid jobs that are mostly in retail, food service, hospitality and personal health care fields. The report found the typical renter household in Minnesota earned the equivalent of $14.49 per hour – still less than needed to secure modest housing.

The Minnesota Legislature is considering raising the statewide minimum wage to $9.50 per hour. The Minnesota Out of Reach report notes that would cut the number of hours of work needed to pay for modest housing from the current 91 hours a week down to 69 hours per week, or nearly one-and-a-half full-time jobs.