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Report: MN Rental Affordability Worst in the Midwest

May 3, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Finding a decent, affordable place to live in Minnesota isn't getting any easier, according to a new national study, showing that Minnesota falls dead last out of a dozen Midwestern states in rental affordability. The report says Minnesota rents have increased 32 percent in the last decade, and as much as 56 percent in some rural counties.

Leigh Rosenberg, research and outreach manager with the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP), says the gap between what a wage earner should be making in order to afford rental housing, and the reality of what such a person actually earns, is growing.

"A family would either have to have 2.2 minimum-wage earners working full-time, or one person at the minimum wage would have to work 87 hours per week, to be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment here in our state."

According to MHP, to be able to afford rent and utilities for a safe, modest two-bedroom apartment in the private housing market, a Minnesota worker must earn almost $16 per hour, 40 hours a week, year-round. That rate jumps to almost 18 dollars an hour in the Twin Cities. However, the typical Minnesota renter earns $11.61 per hour, and a minimum wage earner makes an hourly wage of only $7.25.

Of the 13 least-affordable counties in the state, only one is in the metro area. While rents in the Twin Cities are the most expensive, Rosenberg says there's more inventory to pick from.

"Not only do workers in more rural areas make less money to begin with, there can be a shortage of rental housing, which can really push prices up. So, there is a serious affordability gap there, in greater Minnesota."

Rosenberg points out that almost everyone is a renter at some point in life, whether they're students or retirees, people saving for a house, or newly foreclosed on. So, she believes the rental option needs to be taken seriously, both by Congress and the Minnesota Legislature.

"When we have communities that everyone can afford to live in - where workers of all different backgrounds and all different incomes have a place that's safe and affordable for them to live - this actually increases the vitality of our communities and makes our state a better place to live."

Aitkin, Big Stone, Mille Lacs and Winona top the list of least affordable counties, where at least 65 percent of renters are unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

State-specific data from the study can be found at: www.mhponline.org

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN