A new study released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that the minimum hourly wage someone must earn to be able to afford rent and utilities nationally for a two-bedroom home has increased by 41 cents over last year.

The new report, “Out of Reach 2005,” finds that the national housing wage this year is $15.78 an hour, or $32,822 annually, up from $15.37 an hour in 2004, which is more than three times the federal minimum wage. The housing wage represents the amount a full-time worker must earn to afford housing while paying no more than 30 percent of income for housing.

“The disparity between what people earn and what even modest rental housing costs grows larger each year,” said Sheila Crowley, president of NLIHC. “This is the housing market in which millions of low-wage workers and elderly or disabled people must try to find safe and decent homes. Now tens of thousands of displaced people from the Gulf Coast have joined them in this competition for scarce housing that they can afford.”

For the first time, NLIHC said its data show that a full-time worker at minimum wage cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country, further illustrating the dire situation that denies many access to adequate housing.

“Out of Reach 2005” calculates the number of full-time wage earners a household needs in order to afford the Fair Market Rent in any area of the country. Nationally, a family with two full-time workers earning federal minimum wage would make just $21,424, significantly less than the $32,822 annually they would need to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

According to “Out of Reach 2005,” the 10 most expensive states for renters and their housing wages are:

1. Hawaii, $22.30

2. California, $22.09

3. Massachusetts, $21.88

4. New Jersey, $20.87

5. New York, $19.73

6. Maryland, $19.62

7. Connecticut, $19.30

8. Rhode Island, $18.42

9. New Hampshire, $17.58

10. Alaska, $17.40

***

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