Many Mississippi tenants go without necessities to pay their rent, report finds

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A minimum-wage worker in Mississippi would need to work 82 hours a week, or two full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom apartment, a national housing report concludes.

Mississippi ranks No. 43 nationally in terms of housing costs in the report, “Out of Reach 2017: The High Cost of Housing,” by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The report concludes that no part of the country offers affordable two-bedroom apartments for minimum-wage workers and only 12 counties in the nation have one bedroom apartments that meet the definition of affordable housing for minimum-wage workers. Those counties that have affordable one-bedroom apartments are all in states where the minimum wage is higher than the federally mandated $7.25 an hour.

Even many workers in a number of fast-growth fields earn too little to comfortably afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, including food-service employees, personal care aides, nursing assistants and retail salespeople.

An interactive map on the NLIHC website shows wages and rental costs in each state. The federal standard for affordable housing is rent and utilities that consume no more than 30 percent of a tenant’s gross income.

The most expensive rents are in Hawaii, the study shows, where a person would need to earn $32.50 an hour to pay average rent of $1,830 a month.

In Mississippi, a two-bedroom apartment averages $772 per month, so a tenant would need to earn $14.94 an hour to cover average rent. The Coast is not among the most costly metro areas for housing in Mississippi.

Unsurprisingly, university counties have the highest rents in Mississippi, with Lafayette County, home of Ole Miss, topping the list. In Oxford, a renter needs an average income of $17.79 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

In Forrest County, where the University of Southern Mississippi is located, the wage needs to be $16.87 an hour, compared to $14.94 an hour for Biloxi-Gulfport.

NLIHC says the country could invest in affordable housing with money saved by lowering the mortgage eligible for a tax write-off from $1 million to $500,000 and turning the deduction into a non-refundable 15 percent tax credit. The calculated savings would be $241 billion over 10 years that could be invested in housing vouchers and/or affordable housing, NLIHC says.

“The disparity between the housing wage needed to afford a rental home and workers’ wages results in a shortage of 7.4 million rental homes nationwide that are affordable and available to extremely low income households,” NLIHC concludes.

“More than 11 million rental households in the U.S. are spending more than half of their incomes on their housing, and hundreds of thousands go homeless on any given night, underscoring the need for a greater investments in affordable housing solutions.”