Boxed in

Illinois workers have to make $20 an hour just to afford a decent rental home

 A new study finds the average Illinois worker would be hard-pressed to find a place to move unless making more than $20 an hour. (Shutterstock)

A new study finds the average Illinois worker would be hard-pressed to find a place to move unless making more than $20 an hour. (Shutterstock)

By Ted Cox

A new study finds that Illinois workers need to make more than $20 an hour just to afford a decent two-bedroom rental home.

"Out of Reach 2018: The High Cost of Housing" was released this month as a national study localized by Housing Action Illinois.

Working from a statewide average of $1,058 a month for rent and utilities for a two-bedroom apartment, the study projects that a resident spending the generally accepted 30 percent of income on housing would need to make a "housing wage" of $20.34 an hour to afford it.

According to Sharon Legenza, executive director of Housing Action Illinois, it casts in relief how unaffordable it is to eke out a living at the minimum wage.

"Every legislator should be talking about the fact that nowhere in Illinois can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford rent," Legenza said. "And every candidate seeking an elected office should have a plan for how to change this. Housing should be a source of stability, not insecurity. Voters deserve to know how our elected officials intend to make sure that every one of their constituents has a good, affordable place to call home."

Nowhere in Illinois can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford rent.
— Sharon Legenza, executive director of Housing Action Illinois

The study projects that a person making Illinois's minimum wage of $8.25 an hour would have to work 99 hours a week to make ends meet living in a two-bedroom apartment. The minimum-wage worker would still have to labor 83 hours a week to afford the $887 average rent for a one-bedroom apartment.

According to Housing Action Illinois, "The cost of rental housing varies across the state, but there is no place in Illinois where a minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment."

The study found that Kendall County had the highest average price for a two-bedroom rental including utilities at $1,225, closely followed by the Chicago metropolitan area at $1,180.

Of course, many workers at any income level would wonder just where are these "average" two-bedroom apartments at $1,200 a month.

The study found that 41 Illinois counties, primarily in rural areas, have an average two-bedroom rent of $670 for a housing wage of $12.88.

The Illinois study was culled from national data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. It found that, while several states on the East and West coasts have "housing wages" of more than $20, as well as both Alaska and Hawaii, only Illinois and Colorado in the central United States have housing wages above $20.