In the News: Renter Affordability Out of Reach in MN

This week the annual Out of Reach Report jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and in Minnesota MHP, hit the airwaves all over Minnesota, placing the issue of affordability for renters in the spotlight. The report’s release was well-timed, given federal and state budget negotiations for housing programs.

According to the report released on Monday, in 2011 a Minnesota family must have 2.2 minimum wage earners working full-time – or one person working 87 hours per week at minimum wage – to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota.  Of the 12 states in the Midwest, Minnesota ranks the worst for rental affordability among minimum wage workers.

In order to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest 2-bedroom apartment in the private housing market, a Minnesota worker must earn $15.79 per hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.  By contrast, the typical renter in Minnesota earns $11.61 per hour, and a minimum wage earner makes only $7.25 per hour.

Shortly after MHP’s press release was issued on Monday, the Star Tribune, MPR, WCCO, and the Public News Service (picked up by Clear Channel) produced stories featuring the report and the struggles of renters to afford housing (see MHP in the Media for links to each.)

Much to the delight of housing advocates, the story hit the television news, too. In the Metro, a KARE 11 story on kare11Wednesday looked at the rental market and the struggles of Minnesotans unable to afford their rent. Catholic Charities housing advocate Katie Tuione of Catholic Charities, and 22-year-old Luvrahsheda Robinson, who earns $600 in income monthly, but also pays $600 in rent, both helped explain the issues.fox_9

On Thursday, MHP’s executive director Chip Halbach made an appearance on Fox 9 on Thursday for the 11:00 news to discuss some of the reasons for the high rents in Minnesota. He also appealed to the Governor and the Legislature to prioritize decent affordable housing for Minnesotans when considering the state’s budget.

northlandsnewscenterMeanwhile, in Greater Minnesota, as Minnesota Housing hosted its Regional Housing Dialogue in the northeast, Northland’s NewsCenter did a television story on the need to fund affordable housing programs on the Iron Range, without relying on trust fund money set aside for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), as proposed earlier this session. In this segment, Tony Sertich, Commissioner of the IRRRB and a former legislator, reiterated the need to fund housing.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got available and affordable housing for workers and businesses that are growing on the Range,” Sertich said.

Out of Reach, which can be found at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website at includes data on rental housing affordability for every state, county, and metro area in the country.

Some additional facts about Minnesota rental affordability from Out of Reach 2011

  • The least affordable counties for renters in Minnesota, as determined by the estimated percentage of renters unable to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, given their earnings, are as follows:

Winona County (68% unable to afford)
Aitkin County (67%)
Mille Lacs County (67%)
Big Stone County (65%)
Grant County (63%)
Faribault County (62%)
Wadena County (62%)
Chisago County (62%)

    • The counties with the highest increase in rents since 2000 are outside of the Twin Cities Metro, particularly in southwest Minnesota.  Rents in Martin, Faribault, Cottonwood, Pipestone, Murray, Rock, Watonwan and Jackson Counties have increased by 56% or more since 2000, compared to 32% statewide since 2000.
  • The most expensive area to be a renter continues to be the Twin Cities metro area, where a modest two-bedroom apartment requires a full-time worker to earn $17.77 per hour year-round.