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Report: At Mass. Minimum Wage, 110 Work Hours Needed To Afford 2-Bedroom Apartment

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A minimum wage earner in Massachusetts making $9 an hour would have to work 110 hours a week to reasonably afford an average two-bedroom apartment in the state, according to an annual report.

The 2015 report, from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, bases its calculations on how much a household would need to earn to keep costs associated with renting at or below 30 percent of income.

According to the report, the so-called fair market rent of a two-bedroom apartment in Massachusetts is $1,281. That would require, per the coalition, 110 minimum-wage hours worked to reasonably afford.

There are cost variances across the state, of course.

For instance, in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro area, the fair market rent of a two-bedroom rental rises to $1,494. Also increasing is the number of work hours required to afford such a unit — to 128.

While the statewide figures are stark, in recent years the picture has actually improved somewhat for low-income renters. The 2013 report, for example, found that minimum wage earners in Massachusetts would have to work 120 hours a week to afford a fair-market two bedroom.

Since then, the state minimum wage has increased to $9 an hour, as a result of legislation signed into law last year by then-Gov. Deval Patrick. By 2017, the same law will lift the Massachusetts minimum wage to $11 per hour — currently what would be the highest in the country.

The report also identifies a so-called housing wage — that is, the hourly wage needed to reasonably afford a rental apartment working 40 hours a week. In Massachusetts, the two-bedroom housing wage is $24.64 — sixth-highest in the country. The same housing wage for Boston-Cambridge-Quincy is $28.73.

The national two-bedroom housing wage is $19.35, per the report.

The Wall Street Journal zooms out: "There is no state in the country where someone earning either the state or federal minimum wage can afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment, according to the report."

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Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.

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