Texas News
11:36 am
Thu March 27, 2014

In North Texas, You Need To Earn $17-$18 An Hour To Afford An Apartment

A minimum-wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment in Texas – or anywhere else in the country.

That’s the conclusion of an annual study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Out of Reach 2014 analyzed wages and rental costs across the country.

In Texas, a minimum-wage worker would have to work 93 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental. The minimum wage is $7.25 in Texas – or $15,080 a year for a 40-hour workweek.

A Texas household would need 2.3 minimum wage earners working 40 hours a week year-round to be able to live in a two-bedroom apartment, the study says.

How much do you need to make an hour to afford a rental in Dallas-Fort Worth?

In Texas, a worker needs to make $16.77 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment – or an annual salary of nearly $35,000. In North Texas, you need to earn a bit more. In Dallas, you need to earn $17.56 an hour. In Fort Worth-Arlington, you need to make $18.04.

The housing coalition calculates the hourly wage based on spending no more than 30 percent of your income on rent and utilities.

In Texas, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $872 a month.

How about the rest of the state?

In smaller cities, you don’t need as much money. Wichita Falls, you need to earn $13.69 an hour. In Sherman-Denison, you need to earn $15.50 an hour.

But in larger cities, you need to earn more: In San Antonio, you need to earn $16.48 an hour. In Houston, you need to earn $17.81. In Austin, you need to earn $20.65.

It could be worse

When it comes to how much you need to earn in order to live in an apartment across the country, Texas is in the middle of the pack.

Texas is ranked No. 22 on the list of 52 places -- the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Hawaii’s the most expensive. You need to make $31.54 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in paradise.

D.C. was ranked No. 2 – you’ll need to make $28.25 an hour to afford to live in the nation’s capital.

Texas’ neighbors are cheaper – Louisiana was ranked No. 27; New Mexico was ranked No. 30 and Arkansas was ranked No. 51. In Arkansas, you’ll only need to make $12.56 an hour to afford an apartment there.

More on affordable housing in North Texas

KERA has explored affordable housing issues in Dallas-Fort Worth. We've reported on a federal housing investigation regarding where Dallas locates low-income housing. Some federal officials and community advocates claim Dallas discourages subsidized housing in wealthier, white parts of the city. That results in almost all of the units ending up in low-income and minority neighborhoods, primarily in southern Dallas.

But critics say it doesn’t have to be that way. There's a low-income apartment complex in Frisco, an upscale Collin County suburb.

Raise the minimum wage?

President Obama has called for an increase in the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over three years, and for indexing future increases to inflation.

But you’d have to boost the minimum wage dramatically to make it possible for low-paid workers to afford an apartment.

Sheila Crowley, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a news release: “We fully support increased wages, as well as improving the tax code to be fairer. Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit millions of low income Americans; however, it unfortunately would an insufficient response to America’s housing affordability crisis. Increasing the stock of affordable housing is a critical part to addressing the extreme shortage of affordable housing in America.”

Last summer, fast-food workers in Dallas and across Texas took part in a nationwide strike to call for higher wages at restaurants. Front-line fast-food workers make a median hourly wage of $8.94, according to the National Employment Law Project.

'One Crisis Away'

One in three North Texans can’t weather a financial storm that lasts 90 days. The problem's known as asset poverty, and it doesn't discriminate. A job loss, health emergency, even legal trouble is enough to plunge a third of our friends and neighbors into financial distress. 

KERA's series One Crisis Away is following four North Texas families on the financial edge.

Tonight at 7 (March 27), a one-hour special will air on KERA-TV, Channel 13, that features these families and explores asset poverty. Meet the four families and explore their stories in our KERA News Digital Storytelling Project.

Read the National Low Income Housing Coalition report

Out Of Reach 2014

Photo Credit: Ginae McDonald /Shutterstock