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Study says New Mexico's "housing wage" is nearly $20 per hour

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

New Mexicans need to earn about $20 per hour to afford a modest apartment in much of the state, according to an annual report on housing affordability released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

For each state and many zip codes, the report gives a “housing wage” or hourly amount that a person would need to afford what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says is the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in that locale. For the country overall, the number is about $29 per hour.

NLIHC Vice President of Research Andrew Aurand said those numbers have stayed stubbornly high.

“We've seen, in the last year or two, significant increases in wages among low wage workers,” he said. “But those increases, even though they've been significant, have not kept pace with the increases we’ve seen in housing costs.”

In Santa Fe, the number ranges from $23 to $28 per hour. In Albuquerque, it goes from the high teens to over $30 per hour in places.

The report also gives average wages in dozens of sectors, highlighting that many in the home health care, restaurant and retail industries, among others, make well below these wages. The minimum wage in New Mexico is $12 per hour.

New Mexico ranked #34 on the list, but Aurand said that doesn’t mean the problem is necessarily less severe here.

“While nationally speaking, New Mexico may look more affordable, it's not necessarily more affordable to the low wage workers who are living in New Mexico,” he said.

Aurand said that as pandemic rental assistance programs are winding down, he’d like to see the federal government put more money into the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8, to keep eviction numbers from spiking past pre-pandemic levels.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Megan Myscofski was a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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