In almost every state in the country, the average worker earns less than they need to afford the rent on a two-bedroom home.

But in one part of the country, the required salary a family needs to keep a roof over their heads is virtually astronomical.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual “Out of Reach” report documenting the wide gap between renters’ wages and the cost of housing across the U.S. To capture just how expensive rental housing is, the report uses a metric called the housing wage. This is the hourly pay a worker must make to afford a home at the fair market rent without spending more than a third of their income on housing costs.

For renters in San Francisco, the housing wage for a two-bedroom home or apartment at the fair market rent is a staggering $68.33 per hour, nearly $10 more per hour than the next city. That figure is nearly three times higher than the national average housing wage for a two-bedroom, which is $24.90.

Indeed, eight of the 10 most expensive metropolitan areas for rental housing are located in California:

Metro Area

Housing wage for 2-bedroom home (hourly)

San Francisco, Calif.


San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.


Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.


Oakland-Fremont, Calif.


Santa Maria-Santa Barbara


Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.


Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.


San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.


Honolulu, Hawaii


Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.


As a state, California is also the most expensive based on the “housing wage” needed to afford a rental home. The average wage for the state is $39.03. A worker who earned minimum wage would need to work 112 hours a week, equivalent to nearly three full-time jobs, to make enough to afford a fair-market two-bedroom home.

Believe it or not, though, Californians may not have it the worst, because wages in the state tend to be higher than in other parts of the country. Hawaii has the largest gap between the actual average wage for renters and the two-bedroom housing wage. In the island state, renters earn $20.13 less per hour on average than they would need to make to avoid spending over a third of their income on housing alone.

“Eleven of the twenty largest occupations in the United States pay a lower median hourly wage than what a full-time worker needs to earn to afford a modest apartment at the national average fair market rent,” the report noted. This includes retail workers, secretaries, financial clerks and home health aides.

Disproportionately, people of color find themselves earning salaries that make housing unaffordable, and they’re more likely to work in sectors with lower wages.

Even if a renter lives in one of the most affordable parts of the country based on the cost of housing, there’s a decent chance it may be out of reach for them.

“Many jurisdictions with lower-than-average Housing Wages still suffer from a shortage of affordable rental homes,” the report noted. “Jurisdictions with a low Housing Wage tend to have less vibrant economies and lower-than-average household incomes, meaning a low Housing Wage is still out of reach for too many households.”

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