Advocate staff file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK 

To rent a two-bedroom home in the New Orleans area and still have enough money left over to live comfortably, the average renter needs to earn more than $18 an hour, according to a study published Thursday that opens another window on the region's affordable housing woes. 

Renters in many U.S. cities have it even worse. The study, published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, puts the national "housing wage" at $21.21. 

But at $18.54, the housing wage in the New Orleans metro area is well above the statewide figure of $16.16. And the average hourly wage that renters in the metro area actually earn is only $15.52, according to the report — $3 less than needed to pay for shelter, food, clothing and other basic expenses. 

"It is becoming harder and harder for musicians, restaurant workers and other tourist industry professionals to live in our city," said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

Local housing advocates say the report lends support to an effort endorsed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu that in most cases would require developers in the city to reserve a portion of new or renovated housing units for low-income residents.

Critics say that proposal would dissuade developers from doing business in the city and that there’s no guarantee it will work. The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans tried this year to convince the Legislature to quash the plan but was unsuccessful.

However, the City Council has yet to sign off on the idea, so it is not yet law. It is only the latest in a series of proposals Landrieu and council members have made on ways to try to keep residents from being priced out of neighborhoods were rents have climbed. 

The report comes a month ahead of qualifying for this fall’s mayoral and council elections, when affordable housing could emerge as a key issue. 

The study assigns a “housing wage” — the amount per hour that someone would have to make in order to spend less than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities — to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. It also sets a wage for cities and metropolitan areas in Louisiana and elsewhere.

The 30 percent figure is in line with a federal standard that considers renters to be “cost burdened” if more than 30 percent of their income goes to housing. Renters are considered "severely cost burdened" if more than half of their income goes to housing.

The rent and utilities costs are based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development fair-market rent calculations.

The report, which is conducted annually, also examines the income required for one-bedroom homes, but in a different way: It lists the number of hours an employee earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would have to work in order to afford one.  

At the minimum wage, workers in the New Orleans area would need to work 84 hours a week — or two full-time jobs — to rent a one-bedroom apartment and still have enough cash for other needs.

In no state in the country can a minimum-wage employee work a standard 40-hour week and make enough to rent a one-bedroom home, the report says.

See facts about Louisiana: 

Read the full report: 

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.