To afford a two-bedroom, market-rate apartment, workers in Louisiana need to earn just under $18 an hour, well above the wages that most employees make.
The figures are even higher for people who live in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group that works to get affordable residences. In New Orleans and Metairie, workers need to make $20.40 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Baton Rouge, the wage is just under $19.50 an hour.
In comparison, the median hourly wage in Baton Rouge is $19.24 an hour, $18.40 in New Orleans and $17.53, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Housing is a basic human need and should be regarded as an unconditional human right,” said Diane Yentel, the coalition's president and CEO. “With the highest levels of job losses since the Great Depression and a pandemic that continues to spread, low-income workers and communities of color are disproportionately harmed.”
The housing coalition came up with the numbers by determining how much money a person has to make in order to spend no more than 30% of their income on housing. The fair market rent in Louisiana is $927 for a two-bedroom apartment, so that translates to a monthly salary of $3,089.
For people earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, they need to work 98 hours a week to afford an apartment.
Thirty-four percent of the people who live in Louisiana are renters, with an average hourly wage of just over $14.50, the report said.
Andreanecia Morris, the executive direct of HousingNOLA, said the numbers in the coalition's report are pre-COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the full-time employees in the tourism and restaurant industry lost jobs or wages during the pandemic.
In many cases, essential workers, such as health care employees, pharmacy technicians and grocery store employees have wages that fall below the level needed to afford apartments, Morris said.
“Those are people who worked the entire time so society could function,” she said. “They kept us fed, watered and safe.”