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High rents make housing unaffordable for many in Michigan

• Jun 9, 2017 at 3:30 PM

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at “fair market rent” in Michigan, renters need to earn $16.24 per hour. This is Michigan’s 2017 housing wage, revealed in a national report released this week.

The report, “Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing,” was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people, and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM).

Every year, “Out of Reach” reports on the housing wage (the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income on housing costs) for all states, counties and metropolitan areas in the country. The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.

“As Michigan’s rental market grows, so does our need for more affordable housing,” said Jamie Schriner, executive director of CEDAM. “With a lack of safe and affordable housing, many low- to moderate-income families who rely on rental housing are struggling to find homes near their jobs, schools and other supportive services.”

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, which is not keeping pace with the high cost of rental housing. In no state — even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard — can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market rent.

Working at the minimum wage of $8.90 in Michigan, a wage earner must have 1.8 full-time jobs or work 73 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. The typical renter in Michigan earns $13.70, which is $2.54 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest unit.

“The ‘Out of Reach 2017’ data shows why millions of low-income renters are struggling to afford their homes,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009 but the national housing wage has increased to $21.21 for a two-bedroom rental home, more than 2.9 times higher than the federal minimum wage and $4.83 higher than the average renter’s wage.

“We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis by realigning federal tax expenditures and reinvesting the savings in rental housing programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable,” Yentel continued. “We lack only the political will to do so.”

For additional information, visit www.nlihc.org/oor.

This opinion comes from the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM), a nonprofit membership organization that represents hundreds of individuals and organizations committed to revitalizing and rebuilding Michigan through community economic development. For more information about CEDAM, visit cedam.info.

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