Affordable Housing - Or Not So Much

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Some appalling statistics out a couple of days ago, comparing the average cost of a 2 bedroom apartment in each state with the average wage earned there. The numbers are awful, particularly in Maryland. Nationally, a 2 bedroom apartment requires an hourly wage of $19.35, while the national average wage is $15.16. The cost of that 2 bedroom apartment is 2.5 times the federal minimum wage.

In Maryland, it’s worse. Other than the island state of Hawaii, Maryland has the largest gap between the $15.71 average wage and the $24.64 per hour cost of a 2 bedroom apartment, an enormous $8.93 per hour. Rents are going up while wages stagnate. Our stock of affordable housing is nowhere near sufficient to meet the need, and we have no meaningful affordable housing policy at the state level.

The next politician who pats him or herself on the back for voting to increase the MD minimum wage to $10.10/hour - in 2018, no less! - should be pummeled with a copy of the full report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

In not-unrelated news, the Montgomery County Council recently zeroed out all funding for the Renter’s Alliance, a non-profit group which only just began getting funding last year. The total amount that the Renter’s Alliance was getting? $70,000/year. From my conversations, even this pittance of funding sent landlord groups over the cliff with outrage. They prefer tenants to be at their mercy, whether it’s an eviction or a condo conversion or retaliatory action for tenant advocacy. More than 30% of Montgomery County residents are renters, many elderly and/or low income.

Again, keep all this in mind the next time someone running for office tells you about his or her “strong commitment to affordable housing.” Actions, not words.

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