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Wages in the F-M area are increasing, but so are monthly rents

Construction on three affordable housing units on the corner of 9th Street North and 2nd Avenue North will help some low-income families find affordable housing in Moorhead but the three town homes are not enough to solve problems finding affordable housing.

MOORHEAD - In order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Fargo-Moorhead, a tenant making minimum wage would have to work 53 hours each week to pay the rent.

In Minnesota, there isn't a county in which a renter could work 40 hours a week earning the $8 minimum wage and afford a typical one-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent, according to a report by nonprofit Minnesota Housing Partnership.

The report puts the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Fargo metro area at $553. At an average of $715 per month, a two-bedroom apartment here would require working 73 hours a month at $8 an hour, according to the report.

Both those figures are somewhat higher than the averages for Minnesota counties outside of the Twin Cities area. In greater Minnesota, typical rents for one- and two-bedroom units are $526 and $686, respectively.  

The MHP report, called "Out of Reach 2015," contains county-level data aggregated by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a housing policy organization in Washington, D.C.

In order to be considered affordable by federal standards, housing costs generally should not surpass 30 percent of a person's income.

For example, a renter living in Fargo-Moorhead working full time would need to make at least $10.63 an hour -- $22,120 per year -- to afford a one-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent, the report said.

According to U.S. Census data, Clay County’s per capita income of $24,550 is barely over that mark. In Cass County, per capita income is $30,529.

Wages aren’t the only problem for renters looking for housing. Housing costs in the Fargo-Moorhead area have risen in recent years.

Moorhead Public Housing Director Sally Roe said it’s hard for people to find apartments at fair market rates, even if they are able to afford those apartments.

“I think that families who are looking for housing are finding it hard to find housing at those levels because the landlords have increased their rents,” Roe said.

If there’s any good news for low-income workers in the Fargo-Moorhead area, it’s that a worker shortage is driving wages up.

“Wages are still going up because we still have a shortage of workers,” said Jolene Kline, executive director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. “Until that job market’s needs are met, people are going to have to continue to pay higher and higher wages to keep their employees.”

Rents are typically higher than fair market averages, officials said, which still makes it hard for workers making $10 to $12 per hour to afford rent while working a 40-hour week.

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