Shocking data shows a widening gap between people’s pay and the cost of living.
What does it take to pay your rent? For millions of Americans, it’s more than what they make. The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently calculated how much someone would have to earn to afford a one-bedroom apartment in each county in America, and The Washington Post put together an interactive map that displays the wide variations in what is called the ‘housing wage’ across the country: what hourly wage is needed to rent middle-quality housing, neither luxurious nor squalid, in their area.
The hover-over format emphasizes how striking the expense differences are between certain adjacent counties. San Francisco County, for example, is considered the least affordable in the whole country, with tensions rising over the tech community’s role in this. The housing wage there stands at $29.83 an hour, while Colusa County, 2 hours away, is down to $11.54 an hour. Of course, when you consider the lack of jobs and rate of unemployment in Colusa, the very value of a dollar starts to change and things even out.
People swarm to major urban areas with well-paying jobs, creating supply and demand problems that both cause and account for the very uneven population density in the U.S. All these complex social issues are captured in the varying colors of the map.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the way political proposals to raise the minimum wage have recently gained traction, there are only a few counties where the housing wage is anywhere close to the minimum wage, and they are all in Arkansas. The rest of the map shows that the country has considerable work to do both in terms of making better-waged jobs available and making affordable housing more available.
Things are a little less bleak when you consider that, as the Washington Post points out, the map does not account for people who rent out individual rooms instead of entire apartments, as is common among young adults. PSFK has covered many innovative ideas for rapidly making living space available, many of them involving 3D printing; maybe we’ll see these come into wide use in the future.