Hawaii has the highest housing wage in the US

Hawaii has the highest housing wage in the country, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

For the “Out of Reach” report, NLIHC researchers analyzed rent prices in all 50 states to determine how much was needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment at fair market value without spending more than 30% of one’s income. The Aloha State came in at No.1 with a housing wage of $38.76 an hour, according to the report.

Researchers also found that those getting paid minimum wage in Hawaii would need to work approximately 153 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, which costs about $2,015 per month to rent.

“This report comes out every year and we are consistently the state with the highest rent in the nation ,” said Nicole Woo, senior analyst with the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, in an interview with Pacific Business News. “One of the issues is that we have one of the lowest property taxes in the nation, which may contribute to the decision many make to buy a home here and leave it empty for most of the year. Making it more attractive for people to rent to longterm renters instead could make more homes available.”

Hawaii highlights

  • The average wage of a Hawaii renter is $17.17 an hour, which is less than half the hourly housing wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment ($38.76)
  • There are 190,420 renter households in the state
  • About 42% of Hawaii residents rent their homes
  • There are more than 17,000 fast food and counter workers in Hawaii, with a median hourly wage of $12.18
  • The estimated renter monthly median household income for the state is $1,463
  • In Honolulu County, where 44% of households are renters, the housing wage for a two bedroom apartment is higher than the state average at $41.50

In the report’s rankings, Hawaii was followed by California, which has a housing wage of $36.96 an hour and requires 114 hours per week at the minimum wage to afford a two bedroom apartment; and Massachusetts with a housing wage of $35.52 an hour and 111 hours per week at the minimum wage to afford a two bedroom apartment.

“[Hawaii has] the highest housing wage, but we don’t have the highest minimum wage, there are several states ahead of us on minimum wage including the entire west coast,” Woo said. “When we think about how we solve homelessness, one of the factors is making sure people make enough money to be able to afford rent. Right now, it just doesn’t match up.”

The state with the lowest housing wage was Mississippi with a housing wage of $14.89 and just 82 hours worked per week at the minimum wage to afford a two bedroom apartment, according to the study.

Woo did note however, that Hawaii’s recent sharp decrease in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic has caused some rents to drop and more housing to become available to residents.

“I have a friend who recently moved to Waikiki and the apartment that she now lives in used to be a vacation rental,” Woo told PBN. “We’ve also been hearing that since there are a lot less tourists coming, more rents are dropping due to vacation rentals not having that market.”

“I know [Gov. David Ige] has extended the state’s eviction moratorium through the end of August, but at some point people not being able to pay rent because they lost their jobs [due to low tourism numbers and business closures tied to Covid] and landlords not getting paid will eventually lead to a surge in evictions.”

Click here to view a breakdown of the report’s Hawaii data, click here. For the full report, including data on all 50 states, click here.