Living in a home with more than one room shouldn't really be considered a luxury in 21st-century America. The richest nation on the planet certainly has the resources to make sure working single parents or janitors on 12-hour shifts aren't forced to live in hovels. Yet here we are: The nonprofit National Low-Income Housing Coalition released a report yesterday titled "Out of Reach," which details how minimum-wage workers in every single U.S. state cannot afford two-bedroom homes.
In Florida (which actually didn't fare all that poorly among the 50 states), this means residents need to earn about $44,000 per year to comfortably afford rent in a two-bedroom home. And in Miami-Dade County, the results are even worse than state averages: It takes a salary of $48,000 to live in an apartment with more than one bedroom. Because Miami-Dade's median income is a painfully low $43,000, that's not a good sign for housing affordability in South Florida.
"A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 needs to work approximately 122 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately three full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the national average fair market rent," the report reads. "The same worker needs to work 99 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, or approximately two and a half full-time jobs, to afford a one-bedroom home at the national average fair market rent."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
In Miami-Dade, absolutely nothing seems to change or improve for the county's middle or lower classes. The local real-estate market is structurally designed to cater to the richest people in the world. Miami has built a nearly unprecedented number of million-dollar-plus condos (a four-year backlog as of March), while its homeless population in the rapidly gentrifying downtown has increased, and the American Civil Liberties Union has accused the Miami Police Department of harassing the homeless and spraying them with hoses.
Meanwhile, Miami Beach set nearly impossible goals to build affordable housing by 2020, failed to meet them, and kicked the can down the curb another ten years without so much as a wink of outrage. Miami-Dade County in 2016 shot down a measure to force developers to build workforce-priced housing because the county commission is full of old, terrified Republicans who are basically handpicked by real-estate developers so politicians won't stand between the luxury condo industry and its profits.
For what it's worth, Miami is not unique. This is simply how big cities work in 2018. Miami didn't even make the National Low-Income Housing Coalition's list of "most expensive" areas (San Francisco topped the list), but in a service-based economy such as Miami's, where median incomes are tens of thousands of dollars lower than a city such as San Francisco's, requiring a $23-per-hour wage to live in a two-bedroom home is insane.
Part of the problem is the state Legislature. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition noted that housing affordability improves in areas with higher minimum wages, but in Florida, local municipalities are barred from raising their own minimum wages. Instead, Tallahassee has kept that number locked at just $8.25 per hour and in the meantime has grossly misspent the funds it earmarks to build affordable housing statewide. The result creates a Miami where its longtime, native residents are pushed out to the very margins of their communities. And the Magic City isn't alone.
"Absent public subsidy, the private market fails to provide sufficient housing affordable to the lowest income
households," the study notes. "At the same time, three out of four low-income households in need of housing assistance are denied federal help due to chronic underfunding. The net result is a national shortage of 7.2 million rental homes affordable and available to the lowest income renters. No state or major metropolitan area has an adequate supply."