A national survey of renting rates estimates 44 percent of Utah renters are unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment.---
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s 2011 Out of Reach survey Utah ranked 26th for it’s affordable two-bedroom housing wage out of all states in the union, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Using U.S. Census, Social Security Administration and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and more, the NLIHC has created databases comparing wages and incomes against rental rates across the country, in every state, county and metropolitan area.
The survey uses the standard of a fair-market rate, or units where rent does not cost more than 30 percent of a renter’s income, as its benchmark. Using that standard the survey found the national average puts a two-bedroom rental at $960, while Utah’s average is $769.
At Utah’s minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour, it takes exactly two minimum-wage earning renters to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Utah. So why then are 44 percent of Utah renters estimated to be priced out of an affordable two-bedroom apartment?
According to NLIHC Research Director Danilo Pelletiere the answer is that there is a difference between the hours and income people could earn and what they do earn. “Rent really is picking up in states like Utah and for those who are disabled, elderly, young or unemployed, it’s very hard for those people to put income or hours together to make ends meet,” Pelletiere says. He points out the estimates for full-time earners assumes, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year for 2080 hours. Pelletiere points out, however, that those who are struggling to find a job, work seasonally or are in the service industry are not going to reach that amount of hours.
Bill Tibbitts, an advocate with the Crossroads-Urban Center, a low-income advocacy center in Salt Lake City, also points out that unemployment is what is truly hurting renters chances of finding fair-market housing--and the means to sustain housing they do find.
"The number of families in Utah that can't afford to pay over $700 per
month for rent is much higher now than before," Tibbitts writes via e-mail. "Unemployment has not hit
all industries equally and so there are people who can't find work they
have training to perform. This increases competition for low wage jobs,
meaning those families are likely to continue to struggle for awhile."
Nationwide, according to the survey, Utah fares better than states like Hawaii which ranked last, where it takes 4.3 full-time minimum-wage jobs to afford a fair-market rental rate for a two-bedroom apartment, but within Utah some counties are faring better than others.
Four counties in the state required more than two full-time minimum wage jobs to afford two-bedroom apartments at the fair-market rate. Salt Lake County and Duchesne County both required 2.2 full-time minimum wage earners to afford a two-bedroom fair market apartment that number climbs to 2.3 for Wasatch County and jumps to 2.8 for Summit County that includes Park City.
Six counties—Carbon, Daggett, Emery, Grand, Iron and San Juan--tied for most affordable rental housing in the state. Those counties require only 1.6 full-time minimum wage earners to cover the rent of a fair-market two-bedroom apartment