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WASHINGTON, DC-The average minimum wage, as per an annual report that has just been issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, renders full-time minimum wage earners even less capable of affording rent and utilities on an average rental unit than in 2004. Out of Reach 2005 concludes that the national Housing Wage–determined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as the estimated funds required for payment of rent and utilities for a moderate rental unit in the private market–is $15.78, a figure that is triple the federal minimum wage, and then some, and nearly a half-dollar more than 2004′s Housing Wage.

This year’s NLIHC report breaks a record; it marks the very first time that the organization has surmised that an individual cannot fully fund the renting of a one-bedroom apartment with a full-time minimum wage salary in any part of the US. “The disparity between what people earn and what even modest rental housing costs grows larger each year,” NLIHC president Sheila Crowley says. The average Housing Wage in 2004 was $15.37. “This is the housing market in which millions of low wage workers and elderly or disabled people must try to find safe and decent homes.”

Dual minimum wage households seeking two-bedroom rental housing fare no better than their single-income, single-bedroom counterparts. A two-income household earning the federal minimum wage at full-time jobs yields an annual income or renter wage of $21,424 , which is approximately 33% less than the annual $32,822 a two-income household would need to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment and utilities.

And the massive loss of low-income rental properties in Louisiana, Mississippi and surrounding areas as a result of Hurricane Katrina further exacerbates the situation, Crowley explains. “Now tens of thousands of displaced people from the Gulf Coast have joined in this competition for scarce housing that they can afford.”

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