Most people realize that 9 to 5 jobs are not the norm for DC’s working class, many of whom have irregular hours in the service industry. But no one expects those irregular days to add up to 91 hours per week.
Unfortunately, if you’re only making the minimum wage, that’s exactly what it takes to afford an average 1-bedroom apartment in DC. A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition looks at what it would take for a minimum wage worker to spend only the recommended 30% of their income on an average 1-bedroom apartment.
The results are discouraging. If a minimum wage worker is “only” working 40 hours a week in DC, they’re likely spending about 70% of their income on rent. And although the situation in DC is particularly dire, there are only 22 counties across the entire country where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford an average 1-bedroom apartment.
The numbers are even worse for DC families who need bigger apartments. A 3-bedroom apartment, if you can find it, would take a full-time minimum wage worker’s entire paycheck, with nothing left over for other bills and groceries.
All of these calculations are actually based on a minimum wage of $13.25, which won’t go into effect until July 1st. That means things have been even worse for minimum wage workers who have been earning the current rate of $12.50.
But solutions exist. DC’s Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) provides rent vouchers to some low-income families, ensuring that they pay no more than 30% of their income on rent. Close to 4,000 households either already receive assistance through that program or will soon with recent investments.
The Council needs to keep expanding LRSP to cover more households, alongside continual increases to the minimum wage. DC depends on people who do working class jobs to keep the city running, and if the District forces out its working class, it might just stop working.