Affordable housing at a premium -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Affordable housing at a premium

September 23, 2002

It is getting harder for minimum wage earners to find affordable housing. Albany has some of the lowest rental costs in the nation, but a minimum wage earner falls short of the money needed to rent a two bedroom home.

And the problem is expected to get worse. Some two-bedroom duplexes rent for $450 a month. At the Pinnacle West Apartments, a two bedroom home starts at $525 a month. The Gardens starts at $575 a month.

Even with some of the lowest rent costs in America, the Albany Housing Authority reports a waiting list of nearly 600 families wanting to move into their subsidized housing.

Albany Housing Authority Executive Director Dan McCarthy said "It's situations where people have been doubling up. A large percentage of our waiting list now is young mothers, who are needing to leave the house and they have no place to go."

Minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. Based on a 40 hour work week, spending 30 percent of their salary, a minimum wage earner should pay no more than $268  a month for rent.

According to the report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is no where in the country that will pay for a two bedroom home. The fair market rental rate for Albany is $464, far below the state average of $719.

But in order to afford that rent, an hourly worker needs to make 8 dollars and 92 cents. The state average would be $13.83. A minimum wage worker would need to work 69 hours a week in Albany to afford a two bedroom home at the recommended 30 percent of their salary.

Albany Housing leaders say the problem is expected to get worse. McCarthy said "The way the economy is going, there are going to be more people struggling to find jobs. There is less pressure to raise wages because of the surplus of workers out there. But housing costs are not going down."

With a long waiting list and federal money for housing being cut back, housing choices for low income wage earners in Albany will be slim. According to census figures, there are almost 2.25 million Americans earning the federal minimum wage.

Sixty-percent of those minimum wage workers are heads of households or their spouses.

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