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Housing woes

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A North Carolinian must earn at least $11.98 an hour to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment, a new study says.

That “housing wage” is what full-time workers in North Carolina must earn to find housing without paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, says the report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

That means minimum-wage workers in the state, who make $5.15 an hour, must work 93 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rates, and none of the state’s 100 counties has minimum wage that would let workers afford a one-bedroom apartment, says the study, “Out of Reach 2004.”

Nationally, on average, the housing wage is $15.37, meaning a minimum-wage worker must work almost three full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment housing at fair market rates, the study says.

In 2000, it says, almost 250,000 low-income North Carolinians were unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, meaning they must settle for substandard housing, become homeless or pay more than 30 percent of their income, and that often means sacrificing other critical needs such as health care.

To combat the problem, the N.C. Housing Coalition, the N.C. Justice Center, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal, and others are working to secure a $50 million appropriation to the N.C. Housing Trust Fund to build more quality affordable housing.

Nationally, advocates are working for full funding of housing programs and the creation of a national housing trust fund to build and rehabilitate 1.5 million units over the next decade.

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