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Rent 'Out of Reach' in Wadena, report says

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With two thirds unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment, Wadena County has the very lowest median income of renters in the state and the highest percentage unable to afford the area's fair market rent.

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The National Low Income Housing Coalition and Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless came up with the numbers in their report "Out of Reach 2012."

According to the study, renters in Wadena County have a median income of $16,236 per year - just a little over minimum wage or about $7.81 per hour in a 40-hour workweek.

In contrast, the general area median income was reported as $49,800 - still one of the lowest in the state.

The document reported that there were 1,407 renter households in Wadena County, or 24 percent of total households, between 2006 and 2010.

Wadena renters' mean average wage is lower than the median of $7.81 and lower than the minimum wage of $7.13 per hour.

At this rate, $371 is the highest the mean average renter can afford for rent and utilities.

In contrast, $23,320 is the income it would take to afford a fair market two-bedroom apartment.

The fair market rent, or 40th percentile of gross rents for typical rental units, is $583 including utilities for a two-bedroom apartment in Wadena. To afford one, a sole earner with a 40-hour workweek would need to earn $11.21 per hour. Minimum wage workers would need to work 62 hours per week.

"Affordability" in the report is defined as the federal standard that no more than 30 percent of a household's gross income is spent on housing.

However, Wadena and other rural central and western Minnesota counties are still on the lower end of rental housing costs. While these counties take $11.21 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, a similar apartment in metro area counties would cost $17.38 per hour or 96 hours per week of minimum wage earnings.

The statewide proportion of renters unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment was estimated to be about 54 percent.

Data from "Out of Reach 2012" is sourced from HUD, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration.

The report can be found at http://nlihc.org/oor/2012/.

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