Living on minimum wage – is it possible in Central Florida?

minimum-wage1Central Florida is known to have a service economy, with quite a few jobs at or just above a minimum wage income level.

But can you actually earn a living wage on that income? The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) seems to think that’s debatable.

On January 1, 2009 Florida minimum wage increased from $6.79/hour to $7.21/hour. NLIHC hasn’t yet released their refigured housing costs under this new amount, but its “Out of Reach 2007-2008” report contains a breakdown that we still believe is a valuable tool in proving that minimum wage is rarely enough to make adequate housing affordable.

Here are some tidbits from the report concerning Florida’s Fair Market Rent and minimum wage:

“In Florida, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $941. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $3,138 monthly or $37,653 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $18.10.”

Money in hand

An individual must make $18.10/hour in order to afford an average two bedroom apartment in Florida, according to NLIHC.

That statistic means an individual must make $18.10/hour in order to afford an average two bedroom apartment in Florida. In fact, Florida is ranked the 40th most expensive state (out of 52) for its two bedroom housing costs.

$18.10 per hour – how many minimum wage jobs does that translate into? Again, NLIHC’s stats are slightly outdated, but still provide a valid estimate:

“In Florida, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $6.79. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 107 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, a household must include 2.7 minimum wage earner(s) working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two bedroom FMR affordable.”

For a child, this statistic means that mom and dad must work nearly 3 minimum wage, full-time jobs between them to afford an average two bedroom apartment. And even then, there is no wiggle-room. Parents must be paid all 52 weeks out of the year – being laid off or having their hours cut is not an option. With the astronomical number of layoffs  occurring each and every day, it’s easy to see that, as the old saying goes, many families are “just one paycheck away from homelessness.”

During the $15 a Day Challenge, we hope our participants and readers are considering the hardships that those living on severely limited budgets experience every day. Though our nation is making strides in raising the minimum wage, we still have a long way to go until housing is affordable for everyone.