Imagine if you had to work 107-hour weeks just to afford your apartment.

That’s what the National Low Income Housing Coalition calculates a minimum-wage worker in Massachusetts would need to afford a market-rate two-bedroom according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s estimate of the prevailing market rent – $1,975 per month for a two-bedroom statewide.

That puts Massachusetts as the third-most unaffordable state in the nation, a new report from the NLIHC says.

“That’s a very high hourly wage that people need to be making. How are people making that work?” said Rachel Heller, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Alliance, or CHAPA. “Many people also have to pay for childcare. Food costs are going up. What is giving? Are people not buying medicine that hey need? What are they cutting to make it?”

The situation doesn’t get much better as a worker moves up the income ladder. The median hourly wage for the 37 percent of Massachusetts residents who rent is only $27.52, the NLIHC found. At that wage, the median renter could only afford at most a two-bedroom renting for $1,431 a month before they began to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Massachusetts also has some of the most expensive metro areas in the country. In Greater Boston, the “housing wage” – the hourly wage needed to meet fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment – is $46.13, putting the region ahead of New York City’s $45 and just behind four California metros, including San Francisco (the nation’s most expensive, at $61.50) and Silicon Valley ($55.15). Fair market rent in Boston and its suburbs is $2,399.

Other Massachusetts communities have similarly high costs, the NLIHC report found. On Nantucket, the housing wage is $45.92 and the highest for any single county in America; on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s $42.56. On Cape Cod, the figure is $36.13.

Outside those areas, however, rent rapidly becomes more affordable. In Worcester, the housing wage for a two-bedroom unit is $28.67, and fair-market rent for a two-bedroom is $1,491. In the Springfield area, it’s $21.04, while fair market rent is only $1,094.

“Despite everyone’s best efforts, if feels like we’re stuck” as one of the most unaffordable places in the country, CHAPA’s Heller said.

Heller applauded the legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker for including a range of new housing funding as part of the state’s fiscal year 2023 budget, saying it should help make progress on the issue. Items include $150 million for the RAFT emergency rental assistance program and $154 million for the state’s own rental voucher program. But the NLIHC report shows the legislature and the next governor will need to dedicate more resources to boost affordable housing production and rental assistance, she said.

“We need to not shy away from the big numbers are needed in order to meet people’s needs,” she said. “If we can’t make it in one year, let’s set a path for doing so.”

Report: Mass. Renter Must Make $38 per Hour to Afford Apartment

by James Sanna time to read: 2 min