I’ve seen this infographic a few places now, and it has been causing me some furrowed brow time:
Supposedly, this is a graphic showing how many hours you would have to work per week at a minimum wage job in order to afford a two bedroom apartment in each of the given states. This version appears to be a year or so out of date, but here’s the original report.
I had all sorts of questions about this when I saw it, so of course I went digging.
To clarify the parameters, affordable is defined to mean 30% of income, and this chart assumes only one income earner per apartment. Availability of low income housing or other programs is not taken in to account, which is probably where I find this chart most misleading. Massachusetts has a fairly extensive Section 8 housing program, and from my understanding New York and California do as well. I couldn’t find a ranking for the state distribution of aid levels, but I’d wager the less affordable the state, the more they give out in assistance.
As for the fair market value rents….I couldn’t find where they got their figure from. Rents in Massachusetts vary wildly between the 3 largest city areas. Boston rents run high….mostly because students rent most of the apartments near the colleges. Springfield and Worcester however are much cheaper. The MA website for Section 8 housing cites the difference between Boston and Worcester as almost $450 a month. It appears the number used above is an average of several areas.
If you dig further in the report however, it becomes even more interesting. Apparently New England is the only section of the country that doesn’t report whole counties when reporting fair market rates for renters, New England only reports rates for metro areas and surrounding communities. Is the northeast really that much pricier than the rest of the country, or does their reporting just make them look that way?
While I ultimately appreciate the issue at hand with this chart, I think it would be nice to see a more comprehensive chart including states efforts to address the high housing cost. On the chart above, NH appears slightly more affordable, but if you google “section 8 housing nh” you will find a lot of people telling you to save yourself the trouble and move to Massachusetts. Bigger cities tend to mean higher rents AND more social programs. Throwing them all in to one big average is not the best way of representing information in a usable fashion.