MEMO FROM THE NATIONAL AFFAIRS DESK
DATE: MARCH 12, 2016
FROM: DR. KURT G. DOONESBURY
SUBJECT: THE AMERICAN HOUSING CRISIS… SLAVING AWAY FOR YOUR OWN CASTLE

New York, New York— When I moved to the City, my fiancée and I had less than a week to find an apartment. How hard could that be? We were, after all, well-educated professionals with decent salaries…. Salaries that would have made us members of the Upper-class back in my hometown Crossville, Tennessee. When I first saw the salary offer presented to me, I explained, Good god, I’m rich! And I had steak dinners and bourbon dancing before my eyes…. But the reality was that even with our two salaries combined, we couldn’t afford a 1-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. We settled on a 2-bedroom in Queens that was roughly the size of my old motel room in Ohio that I lived in for roughly two years and 5 times the cost at $2,000 a month.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, Kurt, $2K a month for a 2-bedroom is outrageous, or, Kurt, you’re fucking stupid for shelling out that kind of dough for a place that has no room for a table or kitchen big enough only for an Easy-Bake oven. But, ho ho, that’s just $300 more than what some studios were and are going for. A studio in Greenwich with the lovely description of “fits a full-size bed and maybe a dresser” which was going for $1,500 a month. There was one studio going for $1,750 boasted 100-square feet in majestic Harlem. And if you blink your eyes, they’re gone. Oh well, I’m too claustrophobic for those kinds of bullshit shelters.

Rent has ended up being half of our income. And with how things stand with our 29% Fed, State, & City taxes coming out of our bi-weekly paychecks and further 10% going towards Student Loans for those 3 degrees I somehow thought I needed, I pray to the Dark Coffee Gods that no other expense comes up or I’ll find myself out on the streets. Don’t forget, I’m salaried and extremely damn lucky to be so…. There are a lot of poor bastards out there a lot worse off than I am.

The National Low-Income Coalition recently did a study that found that no one working for minimum wage working full-time can afford a 1-bedroom apartment at the fair market prices in any of the 50 US Sates without paying more than 30% of their income… the recommended percentage to pay towards rent. Especially not New York and definitely not in Hawaii. Out of all the 50 US States, South Dakota is your best option at 31%, followed by West Virginia at 33%.

We are living in a time when most advocates of a higher minimum wage are crying out for $15 per hour… but they would be shocked to find out that statistically a minimum wage worker would need to earn $15.50 an hour. In order to get an upgrade to a 2-bedroom unit, you’d need to make at least $19.35 an hour. While most wages for Americans have become stagnant, housing costs continue to grow and get fatter each year. Since 1990, the cost of living has gone up 67%. The yearly income from one full-time minimum wage job comes in at just above $15,000… while $30K is required for a worker to have actual economic security. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would pull full-time workers to right above the $30,000 a year requirement to be economically secure. And when you consider that currently 42% of all American workers make less than $15 an hour, this would be a great economic boost for everyone involved.

So, how many hours do you have to work to pay rent in your state? Take a look at the image below and let us know in the comments below how that stacks up for you.

Ciao,
Dr. K.D.

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