housing action
Washington's housing wage climbs to $31.33 per hour


Washington housing wage graphicIn order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Washington, full-time workers need to earn $31.33 per hour. This is Washington’s 2022 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report published today, and is the 6th highest state housing wage in the U.S. The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated to achieving affordable and decent homes for people with the lowest incomes, and the Washington State Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA).

This year, we release the Out of Reach report amid record-high inflation and rising rental costs. These rent increases are affecting tenants nationwide, with median rents for two-bedroom apartments increasing nearly 18% between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. At the same time, costs for necessities like food and transportation have also skyrocketed, leaving low-income renters with increasingly tighter budgets. With inflation breaking a 40-year record in 2022, many renters have had to make difficult decisions about their budget, sacrificing childcare, medical care, and food to maintain housing.

A renter needs to earn on average $25.82 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home in the U.S. without spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs, or $21.25 per hour to afford a one-bedroom home. While the Housing Wage varies by state and metropolitan area, low-wage workers everywhere struggle to afford their housing. 

"We continue to hear heartbreaking stories from renters across Washington who are scrambling to retain their housing in the face of unprecedented rent increases," said Rachael Myers, Executive Director at WLIHA. "We’re making progress in Washington on preventing evictions and investing in homes that are affordable for the lowest income households, but people in our state continue to struggle to meet this basic human need. We need better protections from extreme rent hikes and much bolder investments from the state, local, and federal governments to solve the affordable housing crisis.”

In King County, the Housing Wage is $39.31 per hour. Chair of the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee, Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) responded to the report saying, “Stable housing is a basic human need and I believe it is a foundational right that all Washingtonians deserve. The affordable housing crisis didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight. But it IS solvable when we work together to ensure our neighbors have a safe place to call home.” 

In no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard, can a minimum-wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market rent. Working at the minimum wage of $14.49 in Washington, a wage earner must have 1.8 full-time jobs or work 72 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and earn 2.2 full-time jobs or work 86 to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

“Decades of chronic underfunding for housing assistance have resulted in a housing-lottery system, where only 25 percent of eligible households receive the housing assistance they need,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “With rents rising rapidly, homelessness worsening, and millions of families struggling to stay housed, federal investments in expanding proven solutions – like Housing Choice Vouchers, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing – are badly needed and long overdue. As a country, we have the data, partnerships, expertise, solutions, and means to end homelessness and housing poverty – we lack only the political will to fund solutions at the scale necessary.”

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