New York City, NY

Nowhere in New York City can someone afford a one-bedroom apartment on a minimum wage income

Tara Blair Ball
Photo by Brandon Griggs on Unsplash

The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently released its Out of Reach 2021 report. This report calculates how many hours an individual would need to work at the state minimum wage in order to afford a one- or two-bedroom dwelling in their area.

Their findings for the state of New York, and in particular New York City, are stunning.

Working at a minimum wage of $15 an hour, one person would have to work 80 hours a week to be able to afford a "modest" one-bedroom apartment at fair market value in New York City. To make ends meet at just 40 hours a week, a worker would have to make at least $29.31 an hour, making New York state the 4th highest housing wage in the country. To afford a two-bedroom apartment, a worker would have to make at least $34.03 an hour.

The Out of Reach report defines "affordable" as 30% of an individual's monthly income, though it's likely many pay for rent well beyond their means.

At the current New York City minimum wage of $15 an hour, an individual could only reasonably afford an apartment with a rent of $720 a month.

A casual search of shows that the cheapest New York City apartment available now is $995 a month for a 200 square foot studio. That's $275 more a month than an individual should reasonably pay for an apartment. On top of that, 200 square feet is extremely small. It's definitely less than what most would consider "modest."

46% of individuals in New York City are renters, and this issue with being able to cover rent on minimum wage will prove even more concerning as over 500,000 renters owe back rent and may face evictions once the New York state wide eviction moratorium ends August 31st.

Since the start of the pandemic, many renters have applied to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Since applications opened June 1st, 2021, they've received more than 100,000 applications.

Clearly, individuals living in New York City need to make more money. But how will they? Will they raise the minimum wage or will they do more to decrease the exorbitant rent prices in New York City? Will New Yorkers decide they need to move to more affordable cities, possibly leaving behind their families and friends?

Whatever the personal or state-wide solutions that are put in place, this report showcases the ever-burgeoning gap between a minimum and a living wage.

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