Local renters in financial bindIt’s true. Minnesota is a pretty expensive place to be if you are a renter; and it’s even more challenging if you live in Douglas County.
By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press
It’s true. Minnesota is a pretty expensive place to be if you are a renter; and it’s even more challenging if you live in Douglas County.
Out of 12 Midwest states, Minnesota ranked as the least affordable place to be a low-wage-earning renter, according to a recent study.
The fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental in Minnesota as a whole is $821, whereas in Douglas County it is only $629, according to the survey released May 2 by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
However, the report’s assessment of the estimated average wage of workers in Douglas County was considerably lower than the average Minnesota wage.
In Douglas County, the study projected a 2011 average renter’s wage of $7.38 hourly versus $11.61 for a Minnesota worker who rents.
The study assessed rental costs and wages in determining affordability.
The report found an average Minnesota worker could afford $604 a month for rent, while a Douglas County worker could only afford $384, according to the study.
“Douglas County ranks 36th out of 87 Minnesota counties for least affordable, based on the number of hours someone would have to work earning the mean wage for renters for the county to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment there,” said Leigh Rosenberg, research and outreach manager at the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
In other words, the average Douglas County renter would have to work 66 hours a week to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment, while the average Minnesota renter only needs to work 54 hours to pay rent.
Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Director Jeff Hess said he had not reviewed the report, but he said the office receives phone calls from people searching for low rent housing.
“They are often discouraged at what they find for the price of rents,” he said.
The HRA manages 24 separate family units in Alexandria. Hess said the waiting list is at least one year long.
The HRA is currently working with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to obtain funding for a two-phase project that would create a total of 48 lower-rent units.
When comparing rent affordability in Douglas County to that of North Dakota, the gap widens even farther. The estimated average renter’s wage in North Dakota is $10.25 hourly. That allows for an affordable rent of $533 monthly.
Fair market rent is much more affordable to North Dakota renters: Only $599 for a two-bedroom. Comparatively, that would mean an average worker would only need to work 45 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental in North Dakota compared to 66 hours here in Douglas County.
For purposes of the study, “affordable rent” was considered 30 percent or less of a renter’s gross income being spent on housing costs.