Calvary UMC participates in our local community and understands the challenge to find affordable housing. We support and have participated in the Affordable Housing Council, the Frederick County Coalition for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations working to help all of our neighbors find an affordable place to live. But many of us are not aware of just how large the challenge is.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition released Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing 2018 on June 13. The report compares rents and wages nationally and in every state, country, and city in the U.S. Out of Reach 2018 shows that both average renter wages and prevailing minimum wages are insufficient to afford modest rental apartments throughout the country, and the disparity is severe for those with the lowest incomes.
The report’s “Housing Wage” is the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home while spending no more than 30% of his or her income on rent and utilities. In 2018, the national two-bedroom Housing Wage is $22.10 per hour. A household must have an annual income of at least $45,960 to afford a two-bedroom rental home at HUD’s average fair-market rent of $1,149 per month. The average hourly wage of renters in the U.S. is $16.88, $5.22 less than the two-bedroom Housing Wage.
The federal minimum wage is $14.85 less than the two-bedroom Housing Wage. A full-time minimum wage earner would have to work approximately 122 hours per week for 52 weeks a year to afford a two-bedroom apartment, or 99 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent. In no state, metropolitan area, or county can a worker earning the federal minimum wage or prevailing state minimum wage afford a decent two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour week. There are just 22 counties out of more than 3,000 counties nationally where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent.
So by now, I am sure that you are curious, how does our area stack up against this national data? I encourage you to use their online tool for your exact zip code. I entered 21701 because that is where Calvary is located. For that area of Frederick, the Housing Wage for a two-bedroom home is $47.88, and $41.73 for a one bedroom! Fair market rent for a two-bedroom home in our neighborhood is $2490, and it is $2170 each month to rent a single bedroom.
The numbers are overwhelming to look at, and even worse if you are one of the families trying to make ends meet. Frederick County public schools saw 843 children and youth who were homeless throughout the 2017-2018 school year. For some, this meant living in a temporary shelter such as a motel or with the Emergency Family Shelter. For others, it meant doubling up with another family, “couch surfing”, or whatever they needed to do to stay safe when they did not have a home of their own.
This trend is not projected to go away any time soon. We can continue to love our neighbors as ourselves and continue to support the non-profit agencies, social justice groups, and community organizations who are all working together to help solve the challenges of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in Frederick County and surrounding areas. If this is an area you are passionate about and want to know more, speak with Deacon Julie.