$17.35 per hour. That's the average hourly wage a person now needs to earn to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Polk County, according to an annual assessment by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
This so called "housing wage" in Greater Des Moines is higher than the statewide figure of $15.97/hr and more than double Iowa's minimum wage of $7.25/hr. The study highlights once again that for low- and moderate-income earners continue to experience a significant struggle finding a quality of place to live within their budgets.
In fact, the region's workforce housing strategy, released in 2019, estimates 41,000 workers in Polk County and the surrounding metro area are not able to afford rent unless they share housing costs with another earner.
The wages needed to afford housing also vary across metro neighborhoods. A map included with the NLIHC report shows the wage needed to afford housing is approximately $15.50 near downtown but climbs to over $21/hour in communities like Waukee and portions of Ankeny.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been another major financial hurdle for low income people and families, as many lost jobs or experienced reduced hours or wages over the last year. While pandemic emergency assistance has helped avert financial disaster for many families, it is important to remember many people in our region will still face major housing challenges after the public health situation improves.