Community

A resident must work full-time and earn at least $14.17 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Louisville, according to a recent study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

That’s below the national average. In the U.S., a worker needs to earn more than $19 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment and nearly $15 an hour for a one-bedroom unit.

Here’s how Louisville compares to surrounding communities:

When compared to other states, Kentucky ranked near the cheapest in the U.S.for how much a worker would need to earn ($13.14) for a modest two-bedroom unit.

The study considers “modest” apartments to be those available at the Fair Market Rent level set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; it’s based on the principal that at least 40 percent of units in an area are available at or below the set rate.

In Louisville, a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent costs $737. That means a person needs to earn at least $14.17 an hour or work two jobs at minimum wage to afford one, the study said.

Louisville’s minimum wage is currently $7.25, the federal level. But it’s set to increase to $9 an hour by July 2017.

In late 2014, affordable housing advocates and others pushed to boost Louisville’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he would approve nothing more than a wage hike to $8.75 an hour, but later settled on approving a minimum wage bump to $9 an hour after it was approved by the city’s Metro Council.

Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said further increasing workers’ wages would be a good step to address the affordable housing issue.

“The wages have been kept very low, but yet the price of bread goes up, utilities go up and housing, itself, goes up,” she said.

A goal of Fischer’s proposed 2015-2016 budget, released Thursday, is to make investments that aim to increase wage growth.

But the focus of this push is to attract higher paying jobs—Fischer’s proposal made no mention of boosting wages for current workers.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition study found the Louisville Metro area annual median income to be about $64,000. To afford a two-bedroom apartment, a person needs to make at least $29,000 annually.

About 41 percent of Louisville workers earn less than $35,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census.

But, if the wages aren’t increased, steps will need to be taken to alleviate the costs of building affordable housing for developers, Hinko said.

Efforts to that end are underway. Earlier this month, Fischer proposed a $12 million initiative that will create about 1,500 affordable housing units in the coming years through bonds, grants and general fund appropriations.

Other city officials have shown support for the proposal, but it still needs Metro Council approval.

“That is a statement, saying ‘the time has come that we have to take care of ourselves, we can’t just rely on the federal government,'” she said.

Hinko said it seems the once trusted vision of “if you work, you can live in housing you can afford,” is vanishing.

“We have gone away from that ideal,” she said.

“You can do your best and participate in the economy the best if you are in a place where you can lay your head every night.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.