Here's How Many Hours You Need to Work to Pay Rent in Every State

There isn’t any state in the country where a minimum wage worker can afford rent for a one-bedroom apartment working 40 hours a week.

The “Out of Reach” study by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) compared the minimum wage across the United States with the average Fair Market Rent (40th percentile of gross rents for standard rental units) for a one-bedroom apartment. The NLIHC found that just to afford a basic apartment, a minimum wage worker would have to put in anywhere from 44 hours (Puerto Rico) to 124 hours (Hawaii) to pay rent for the most basic housing arrangements.

To put that in perspective, there are 168 hours in a week, meaning a minimum wage worker working 7 days a week in Hawaii would have roughly 6 hours each day for eating, sleeping, caring for family, and leisurely activities — essentially having no time for anything other than working and sleeping. And the money made to pay rent doesn’t include money needed to pay for heat, air conditioning, internet, electricity, transportation, grocery, or phone bills.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) calculations, Fair Market Rent in 2016 ranges anywhere from $637/month in Kanawha County, West Virginia at the low end to $1,814/month in San Francisco County, California at the high end.

The NLIHC concluded that minimum wage should be $16.35/hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment at average Fair Market Rent, and $20.30/hour for a two-bedroom apartment. This is a significant increase from the 2015 numbers of $15.50/hour and $19.35/hour, respectively. However, in cities with higher-than-average rent prices, like San Francisco, the number jumps dramatically. To afford a basic one-bedroom apartment in the city of San Francisco at Fair Market Rent, a tenant would have to make at least $29.40/hour, and $36.03/hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

HUD defines a fair rental price as a tenant not paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent, and classifies those who are doing so as “rent-burdened.” However, in all 50 states, and including Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, minimum wage workers are rent-burdened. Even in Washington, DC, which has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $11.50/hour, a minimum wage earner would have to put in 103 hours of work each week to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

Even though Washington, DC recently passed a law raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour, Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in DC is $1,402/month, and $1,623/month for a two-bedroom apartment. The $15/hour minimum wage won’t kick in until 2020. In the meantime, the MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates that a single parent living in Washington, DC would need to be making at least $30.90/hour to meet basic expenses.

In 14 states, minimum wage workers have to clock at least 79 hours or more to afford a one-bedroom apartment. In 30 others, at least 61 to 78 hours of work per week is necessary to pay rent on a basic apartment. See where your state ranks via the map below: