Kari L. Conrad, Minot
Everyone seems to agree that there is a great need for affordable housing in Minot. Our businesses and families cannot flourish without it. Unfortunately, it is hard to really make a dent in the problem when we seem to be unclear about the definition of "Affordable." Recently, I ran across a formula for a "housing wage" that might help us make some headway.
The "housing wage" formula is based upon two assumptions: a two-bedroom apartment is the standard housing unit for a typical family with children; and a family should not spend more than 30 percent of its available income on housing. If they spend more than 30 percent, spending for everything else the family needs must be cut back and the family is usually living hand-to-mouth not a stable environment in which to raise children.
To get to this 30 percent divide the typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment by 160 (the number of hours in a month worked by a fully employed worker). If a single-parent family only has one $7.25/hr minimum wage job they have a $2.18 "housing wage" and can only afford a $348/month apartment. If they have two minimum wage jobs, the family has a $4.36 "housing wage" and can afford a $700/month apartment.
Before the boom, a typical Minot family with two earners could live in a comfortable apartment, even if both incomes were minimum wage. There were plenty of $700/mo or less apartments and small houses. If a single parent only earned minimum wage, they could find a $350/mo apartment or get housing assistance offered by the Housing Authority.
But now, we have a boom exacerbated by a flood, and a two-bedroom apartment rents for between $900 and $1600/month most at the upper end. This then requires a family's overall earned wage to be $18.77 - $33.33/hour or $3,000 - $5,333/mo so that they have a sufficient "housing wage": $5.63 $10.00/hour.
It seems to me that this formula clarifies the extreme nature of our housing problem. We are kidding ourselves and each other if we think that even $10 - $15/hr jobs will buy adequate affordable housing for a family with two income earners, much less a single-parent family, in such a distorted housing market. The solutions will come when we roll up our sleeves and get to work.