(The Center Square) – The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Louisiana is $927, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
The group’s newly released “Out of Reach” report analyzed rents throughout all 50 states and emphasizes the need for affordable housing.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related stay-at-home public health orders made housing problems even more dire for many low-income families and individuals, study authors said.
“During the peak of the crisis, when it was imperative for everyone to stay home and maintain social distancing, over 580,000 Americans were experiencing homelessness in shelters or on the streets,” the report reads. “Millions more were at severe risk of eviction because interruptions in incomes broke their already-strained budgets.”
Despite the Pelican State ranking in the bottom half of the nation’s most expensive rental states, Louisianans still have to make $17.82 an hour – 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – to keep up with the oft recommended one-third income limit for living expenses, the report said.
Rents were estimated according to fair market value, defined as what a person can expect to pay for a modestly priced rental home in a given area.
“In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $3,089 monthly or $37,062 annually,” said the report.
When compared with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, working Louisianans would need two and half jobs to afford a decent roof over their heads.
New Orleans requires the highest average hourly housing wage in the state at $20.40. Vernon Parish, Baton Rouge and Lafayette follow behind, requiring $17.33-$19.77 an hour.
Instead of working two and a half full-time jobs at the federal minimum wage, Louisianans would need to work two full-time jobs to afford a one-bedroom rent.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the 2021 national housing wage for a modest two-bedroom rental is $20.40 an hour. Residents of California must make $39.03 an hour, the highest in the nation.
“Because the federal minimum wage does not rise automatically with inflation, it is worth considerably less today than it was worth in recent decades. If the minimum wage had increased at the rate of productivity growth, it would be over $21 per hour in 2021,” the report said.
A COVID-19-related federal eviction moratorium is scheduled to end July 31, which could further complicate matters. Louisiana renters and landlords are encouraged to contact HUD for support programs aimed at easing financial housing challenges.