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Michigan Housing Report: Broad Gap Between Rent, Wages

Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Michigan is $661 per month. (Kurt Bauschardt/Flickr)
Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Michigan is $661 per month. (Kurt Bauschardt/Flickr)
June 18, 2018

LANSING, Mich. – A new report finds minimum wage earners in Michigan need to work the equivalent of nearly two full-time jobs to have enough money to pay for a two-bedroom apartment.

The annual "Out of Reach" report shows the wage needed to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30 percent of income on housing costs in Michigan is $16.85 per hour.

But the average renter earns just $14.27 per hour.

Jessica AcMoody, senior policy specialist with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, contends the gap is due to low wages and inadequate investment into affordable housing.

"We're really hoping that the Legislature takes a look at what's going on in Michigan and the problem of affordable housing,” she states. “You're seeing this across both rural and urban areas, so it's affecting everyone across the board."

According to the findings from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Michigan households must have monthly earnings of about $2,800 in order to afford Fair Market Rent, which is $844 for a two-bedroom apartment and $661 dollars for a one-bedroom apartment.

AcMoody notes there are federal programs to help struggling Americans afford housing, including the National Housing Trust Fund, which provides block grants for the creation or rehabilitation of homes, and the Housing Choice Voucher Program for very low-income families.

"The problem is these programs have been underfunded for years, and so we're not seeing the resources go to them that need to be,” AcMoody states. “And actually, only one of four households in need of rental assistance receives any due to chronic underfunding."

Michigan's Housing and Community Development Fund was developed as a general appropriation in 2008 to help low-income people and families afford housing.

But AcMoody says it was cut after one year.

"We were able to secure $3.7 million from the Homeowner Protection Fund in 2012,” she adds. “Unfortunately only nine projects out of the 65 submitted received funding due to the limited resources."

AcMoody contends Michigan needs a larger, more secure funding source for affordable housing, such as a housing trust fund.

There are 58 housing trusts funds in place in 47 states and Washington, D.C., which are typically funded by a real estate transfer tax.

Michigan is ranked 28th in the U.S. for the highest housing wage.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI