The recent study, “Out of Reach 2016” by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) compared the states for rental affordability. It showed that renters in Oregon, as well as in the U.S. in general, are in trouble.
Rental “affordability” is measured by the number of hours one must work at the minimum wage and the average renter’s wage to afford a no-frills apartment.
We used the study’s data to compare Oregon’s three biggest cities; Portland, Eugene and Salem. The results show that a tremendous amount of work hours must be expended for people to afford basic rental housing:
For two-bedroom apartments Eugene is the least affordable city. In Eugene a 62-hour workweek is required to afford a basic two-bedroom. Salem is the most affordable with a 56-hour workweek required, compared to Portland’s 58.
Portland takes the cake as the most expensive city, requiring an income of $48,320 for a basic two-bedroom apartment – but Portland also has higher incomes than either Salem or Eugene. Even with Salem being the most “affordable,” an average renter must work full-time seven days a week for a two-bedroom apartment.
These statistics have a real impact on millennials who live in the Salem area. Although a December 2014 Pew Research Center study finds the number of Millennials living at home nationally has decreased to 32% from a high of 36% in 2012, the truth for younger renters is that if you don’t live with your parents – roommates are required. That’s true in Salem where even the most basic apartment is unaffordable for one person.
Two parent families don’t have it easy either; these studies show that a livable three-bedroom apartment for a family of four requires that one parent work at least a few extra hours each week. This assumes that both parents have average wage jobs at $10.86 per hour and not minimum wage jobs at $9.25 per hour.
In Salem, people have to work at least a half-day extra each week to afford even the most basic small apartment. For two full-time minimum wage workers, a basic two-bedroom apartment is affordable in Salem at 33 hours a week each. In Portland, that apartment would require each person to work a minimum of 60 hours per week.
With rent for even the most basic one-bedroom Salem apartment requiring the average worker to work six hours of overtime per week is it possible to be an independent working class millennial single mom in Salem?