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Study: Seattle Worker Needs Min. Wage Of $21.60/Hour To Afford Two-Bedroom Rental

Even hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour may not be enough to allow low-wage workers to afford rent in Seattle, according to a new study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

The group says a full-time worker in the Seattle-Bellevue metro area needs to earn $21.60 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. That’s the so-called housing wage that the group calculates. In Washington state, the housing wage is $18.65 per hour.

The group estimated that the worker spends no more than 30 percent of his or her income on rent and utilities. For the price of a two-bedroom apartment in Seattle, the group used $1,123 per month, the fair-market rent estimated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Lack Of Affordable Housing

Althea Arnold, lead investigator on this year’s report, said her group supports raising the minimum wage, but that’s only part of the solution.

"It’s not just that people can’t afford it because of their wages," Arnold said. "There's a lack of affordable housing that we also need to combat."

The housing research firm Dupre + Scott says rent in the city of Seattle jumped 8.5 percent over the past year. By contrast, the state’s minimum wage went up 1.4 percent at the beginning of the year.

Arnold says even with the highest minimum wage in the country and one that is indexed to rise with inflation, Washington state’s wage floor has not kept up with housing costs. 

The most expensive cities for low-wage workers, according to the report, are San Francisco, Honolulu and the San Jose metro area. In San Francisco, a minimum wage worker would need to earn $37.62 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. 

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has established an advisory committee to examine the idea of raising the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Activists,  including City Council member Kshama Sawant, have said they plan to collect signatures for a ballot proposition if the city fails to act. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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