Can't pay the rent: Housing in Missouri, nationwide out of reach for low-income workers

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Out of Reach documents the significant gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States.

Over the past 30 years, the annual report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition has demonstrated that the cost of a modest rental home is out of reach for low-wage workers and other extremely low-income renters.

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A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour must work nearly 127 hours per week (more than 3 full-time jobs) to afford a two-bedroom rental home or 103 hours per week (more than 2.5 full-time jobs) to afford a one-bedroom rental home at the national average fair market rent.

Affordability is based on a renters’ ability to find housing without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. The report calculates a “housing wage” that is the hourly wage a renter has to earn to support affordable housing.

The 2019 national housing wage is $22.96 for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $18.65 for a modest one-bedroom rental home.

In Missouri, the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $832. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $2,774 monthly or $33,284 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of $16 per hour.

In Jackson County, the Fair Market Rent is $953, requiring $38,120 in annual income to be considered affordable, which translates to an hourly Housing Wage of $18.33.

Minimum wage in Missouri is $8.20. A renter employed at minimum wage in Jackson County would have to work 70 hours a week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment, the report calculates.

In Kansas, the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $828, requiring an annual income of $33,104 to be affordable, translating into an hourly Housing Wage of $15.92.

Minimum wage in Kansas is $7.25.

The struggle to afford rental housing is not confined to minimum-wage workers. The average renter’s hourly wage nationally is $5.39 less than the national two-bedroom Housing Wage and $1.08 less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage.

As a result, an average renter must work 52 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment of his or her own, a challenging task that is even more difficult for a single parent of a young child or a person with a disability.

In only 10% of U.S. counties can a full-time worker earning the average renter’s wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent, working a standard 40-hour work week. The same worker could afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in 41% of U.S. counties.

The full report is available at

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