Workers forced into multiple jobs to pay their rising rent
by Amber Randall

It’s growing harder for hourly workers to afford a decent place to live in South Florida, forcing many to work multiple jobs.

The average hourly worker needs to earn $20 more per hour or work more than 80 hours a week to afford the typical two-bedroom apartment, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for affordable housing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis has made this already dire situation worse for many low-income workers,” the report said.

A full-time worker needs to make about $29 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at $1,500 a month, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines as “fair market rent” — or the price of a modestly priced rental in decent condition.

A person generally should spend no more than 30% of their income on housing, but rising rents mean South Floridians need higher income to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment.

  • Palm Beach County — $28.23 per hour, or $58,720 a year.
  • Broward County — $29.04 per hour, or $60,400 a year.
  • Miami Dade County-— $29.83 per hour, or $62,040 a year.

Those amounts are far more than the average renter earns in Florida’s tourism-dominant economy — and more than triple the state’s minimum wage of $8.65 per hour.

The average renter in South Florida makes about $19 an hour, meaning they would have to work more than one full-time job to afford the rent on an $1,500 apartment. With a minimum wage job, workers would need close to three jobs to make rent, the report found.

Renters make up about 31% of households in Palm Beach County, 38% in Broward County and 49% in Miami Dade, according to the report.

“There’s not enough hours in the week,” said Matthew Rieger, president and CEO of Housing Trust Group, a developer of multifamily residential communities that also works on affordable housing. “The demand for affordable housing far outstrips the available supply we have right now.”

Areas on Florida’s Gulf Coast and northern parts of the state are slightly more affordable — places like Charlotte County, Sarasota County and Martin County.

Florida ranks as the 12th most expensive market in the country, behind states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Colorado, the report said.

Although the government pegs the market rent in South Florida at $1,500 per month, real estate services list the median rent higher: $1,800 for a two-bedroom apartment in West Palm Beach, $2,250 in Fort Lauderdale and $2,360 in Miami, according to Zumper, a national apartment search firm.

“Even on the high end, when those prices increase, the people who can’t afford to move into those units have to bid up the units just below them. It’s a domino effect caused by such high demand,” Rieger said.

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