L.A. Apartments Cost Way More Than Most Angelenos Make

L.A. Apartments Cost Way More Than Most Angelenos Make
File photo by William Garrett/Flickr

Sorry to keep battering you with bad news.

But the numbers are so out of whack that it's simply fascinating. At least you can entertain yourself with this stuff as you enjoy the struggle. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition just unveiled its Out of Reach 2016 housing report. The figure that caught our eye? The income needed in California just for an average two-bedroom apartment was pegged at $59,464. We're not talking home ownership. We're talking renting an apartment. With decidedly middle-class wages.

Do you know how much the median household income is in Los Angeles County? $55,870

The hourly wage needed to afford that average two-bedroom ($1,487 — which feels kind of low to us) rent in California is $28.59, second only to Hawaii's $34.22 (and third to $31.21 in Washington, D.C.), according to the report.

And businesses and conservatives are complaining about California's $15 minimum wage, which won't even reach us for years?

The report says it would take an income of $59,600 to afford an average two-bed place (at $1,490 — again, that feels low) in the Greater Los Angeles market. (Recent rental-listings reports have pegged our two-bed median at more than $2,000.)

*Andrew Aurand, vice president for research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, tells us the report's fair market value rent figures are based on rents at the 40th percentile of a market's lease rates. So $1,490 would be below the median two-bedroom rent in L.A. It's a figure meant to represent a relatively affordable place, he said.

It's clear that L.A. and California are national leaders in this game of impossible math, but much of the nation isn't much better off.

Researchers analyzed data from HUD, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration to come up with these figures.

The coalition's income figures are based on spending 30 percent of your cash on rent and utilities. Of course, most of us pay more.

"A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 2.8 full-time jobs, or approximately 112 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at HUD’s Fair Market Rent (FMR)," the report states.

Why is this happening?

In Los Angeles we keep adding new people (about 50,000 in the last year) without adding new units (about 12,000 in the last year).

But there's more to it.

"Wage stagnation and income inequality contribute to the gap" nationally, the coalition states. The United States has "a shortage of 7.2 million affordable housing units for the nation’s more than 10 million extremely low-income families."

"Three-quarters of extremely low-income families pay more than half of their income just to keep a roof over their heads, leaving less money for food, child care, transportation and so many other basic necessities," Out of Reach 2016 says.

Researchers say higher minimum wages and an expansion of the national Housing Trust Fund could help.

*"More housing is needed," Aurand of the coalition said. "In a place like Los Angeles, the housing wages are high for even median incomes. If people are paying most of their income toward rent, you have to think if they're doing that, they have limited options in terms of their other necessities — food, child care, transportation."

And if you just can't afford the rent, there's a nice sidewalk waiting for you somewhere.

*Added at 4:35 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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