MIND THE GAP

Growing divide between wages, rent an obstacle for many

2013-03-30T02:30:00Z Growing divide between wages, rent an obstacle for manyBy CALEY COOK — ccook@elkodaily.com Elko Daily Free Press

ELKO — Renters in Elko County must earn at least $15.44 per hour — nearly two times the state minimum wage — to make rent on a basic two-bedroom unit, according to numbers released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Although the cost of renting a two-bedroom unit in Elko is slightly lower than the rest of the state, the numbers show that about 35 percent of families in Elko County are unable to afford a two-bedroom rental.

Some local housing advocates say that percentage is very conservative.

The numbers released by the coalition for its annual study capture the gap between wages and rents across the country, and specifically in counties like Elko. They outline a harsh reality for America’s poor, disabled, elderly and vulnerable in their quest to land adequate housing.

The study revolves around the estimated housing wage: the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford an apartment at the estimated fair market rent while spending no more than the recommended 30 percent of its income on housing costs.

This year, Nevada was the 13th most expensive state in which to rent a two-bedroom unit. Hawaii is the nation’s most expensive state, requiring an hourly wage of $32.14 to cover monthly rent. The least expensive is North Dakota, where people who make about $12.06 per hour can afford to rent a two-bedroom place.

Because the national study is organized by county, it’s difficult to grasp the variation and scarcity of housing options in Elko County, where the city of Elko has far different renting options than an outlying area such as Jackpot, for instance.

The fair market rent calculated in Elko County is $800 for a two-bedroom unit. A place within the city limits, however, will cost you closer to $1,000 (if you can find one that’s available). A three- or four-bedroom place will run about $2,000 per month.

There were only six available rental units in Elko/Spring Creek listed in the Free Press classified ads on Friday.

“People don’t have a lot of options here, even if they can afford the rent,” said FISH Programs Manager Londa Manteufel. “People who can’t afford it — and there are a lot of them — live with friends or family or rent a room from someone ... motel rooms, RV parks might have something. I don’t know exactly unless someone discloses, but I’m sure there are some living in cars.”

Elkoans who are eligible for housing subsidies also face an uphill battle in finding housing.

“We have a three- to six-month waiting list for our family properties, but for seniors or the handicapped it’s a couple years out,” said Dawn Keyes, an occupancy specialist at Weststates Property Management, which manages one subsidized property in Elko.

Statewide, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,024. In order to afford that monthly cost without paying more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $3,414 per month.

That’s nearly $41,000 per year.

The problem is, in Nevada a minimum wage worker earns $8.25 per hour. To afford that two-bedroom apartment he or she would need to work 95 hours a week, all year.

Can’t do that? Then you’d need three people working nearly full time at minimum wage in your household to make rent on the average apartment in Nevada.

Even if you’re not considered low income and you earn an average hourly wage in the state — $14.40 in Nevada — you’d have to work about 15 hours of overtime each week to make rent if there is one household earner.

Elko has a relatively low number of rental households, at 27 percent. By comparison, more than 40 percent of people in the state as a whole rent their homes.

But the low-income renter populations who do have homes still struggle to make ends meet when spending so much on housing.

Manteufel knows one recurring client at FISH who works full time, rents a $450 per month long-term hotel room and is left with only $70 for the rest of her expenses each month.

“She comes here to get a food box each week,” Manteufel said. “About 31 percent of the people we served (in December 2012) were homeless, but 69 percent were residents. A lot of these people need help and they need services that help offset the high cost of housing.”

Elko County may have the highest average income in the state at around $80,000 annually. But even with those kind of wages, renting a place can be an overwhelming challenge.

“Not every property is subsidized, so people in that case have to make double the rent each month,” Keyes said. “That can be a challenge.”

Copyright 2015 Elko Daily Free Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. mutter
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    mutter - April 06, 2013 3:24 pm
    I agree the rents are pretty jacked up for the places. Trickyoff,, I too knew what it was to live month to month. Single mom with 4 kids, 2 jobs and went back to school. No one helped pay my rent and No foodstamps or welfare. I got my degree and got a better job. Like I have told my son, you don't like where you are living or your wage, get off your behind, get a degree and get a job that pays. He got a laptop and its working and taking classes via internet.
  2. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 02, 2013 9:19 am
    Sure there are folks scamming the system, lazy, don't really try, spending money willy nilly. But all the stats & averages in the world don't account for the FACT that everyone's life is different & until you walk in their shoes, you should not judge them. It's a whole lot easier & faster to get into financial straights than to accumulate "wealth". I want to say that if I can do it, anyone can. Keep trying, don't give up. But don't forget, in the blink of an eye, it could all be gone.
  3. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 02, 2013 9:12 am
    The bottom line DEBoyd is that you are obviously so far from the problem that you can't understand. You have an apparently lucrative business in Elko (good for you) and you have no sympathy for those beneath you. And yet you sit up on your high horse and comment on this issue as if you have something worthwhile to contribute with your averages and stats that aren't helping or encouraging anyone. Yes of course life is tough all over, but we live in Elko and that is what we are concerned with.
  4. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 02, 2013 9:00 am
    This isn't news to anyone except the folks who moved here expecting the streets to be paved in gold only to find out it's not that easy for everyone. And for many, all it takes is a job loss, a death of a family member, a medical problem, a catastrophe to put them in the dumps. And the worst part is the attitudes people have like Pkupman below. Maybe his parents should have spent some money on a tutor for him, then he could form a sentence with proper spelling. "best private tutors". Really?
  5. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 02, 2013 8:53 am
    Sure like in Elko is great for many people. Even MOST people but here you are once again showing the attitude that if you don't make mine wages, you don't matter. Life is still hard for a lot of people. You don't see it because it's not hard for you obviously. That's fine. I have been on both sides of the fence and I guess since it hasn't been that long since I was struggling, I still remember what it was like. I do feel for people. I know it's hard but you just have to keep trying.
  6. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - April 02, 2013 6:52 am
    "to buy in Elko county is a long road for most folks. I finally did but it took a long time to get there."

    Census figures show home ownership in Elko County at 73.3%, National is 67%. Nevada State is 59.1%. Life is not easy but it's easier here than most places. It takes time to accumulate wealth in this life. Till one does life can be tough. It has always been so - everywhere - always. Why does this come as news to anyone and why is Elko life portrayed as such hardship when it's not?
  7. Pkupman
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    Pkupman - April 02, 2013 12:23 am
    Quite y'all's complaining if you live right you can survive on minimum wage. Don't spend a fortune on a fancy new car, have the latest iPhone, or the best private tutors for your spoiled children.
  8. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 01, 2013 11:15 am
    Oh wait, did I mention that some places don't want to rent to people in a roomate situation? While others would rather rent to a group of young men miners than a family because they can charge more in rent. We were trying to rent a house for $1600+/month about a year and 1/2 ago and the landlady tried to start a bidding war between us and a group of guys even though we started the rental process already. In the end we couldn't compete.
  9. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 01, 2013 10:24 am
    I wasn't getting any government assistance whatsoever during that time. When I was making less money, I lived in rental assistance apartments at times but that is no place to raise children long term. Unfortunately the attitude in Elko is "if you don't make mine wages, you don't matter". Period. You go on welfare & get put down for it. So you either put on your big kid panties & work to better your situation or you find roomates. Or you learn to live in a tent because it's not gonna get better.
  10. tricky0ff
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    tricky0ff - April 01, 2013 10:15 am
    I was making almost twice minimum wage and paying less than "fair market rent" and was barely making ends meet some months. And the duplex I rented was way too small and had almost no ameneties. The thing is, when they figured the "fair market rent" for a 2br apt in Nevada, I can guarantee they factored in apartments in bigger cities that include pools, dishwashers, exercise rooms, etc. And to buy in Elko county is a long road for most folks. I finally did but it took a long time to get there.
  11. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - March 31, 2013 5:56 am
    No one makes ends meet on an after tax minimum wage paycheck of $1,300 per month in a town with $1,000 per month average rents. Therefore ... if one manages to remain here you are either mistakenly or willfully not counting other income.

    This Country already generously spends trillions a year on transfer payments - welfare. A little appreciation of this fact would go a long way towards making this state of affairs acceptable to us small minded and ignorant folks paying the bills.
  12. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - March 30, 2013 6:34 pm
    Who is claiming a person can live on minimum wage?

    I can't think of ANY place you could live on minimum wage.

    Census stats say Elko is below both State and National cost of living averages.

    What's not fair?
  13. leezr380
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    leezr380 - March 30, 2013 3:55 pm
    No way you can live on minimum wage - everyone does not work at a mine Elko needs to wake up!!! Food , gas everything costs more here it's not fair!!!
  14. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - March 30, 2013 2:33 pm
    "I DO get $100 in food stamps for my kids and that's it!"
    "how does that bring me up to $35,000 a year."

    At $22,000 a year income with children you certainly are eligible for CHIP, medicaid or at least Nevada Check Up medical services so no, that's not it. An average family private medical insurance policy will run you $16,000 a year. Even Nevada Check Up (medicaid for higher income families) has a premium of only a $100 a YEAR. That's how you get to $35,000 a year.
  15. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - March 30, 2013 1:23 pm
    Don't shoot the messenger. Your difficult individual circumstances and data points do not change the accuracy of the statistical averages I quote. That's why they are called averages. Anyone can easily look them up if they are interested.
  16. icebox1310
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    icebox1310 - March 30, 2013 11:58 am
    I would like to say that you are a small minded ignorant person. I try to live off $11.00 per hour, I'm an ast. manager at a retail store (so yes i have a decent job). I CAN NOT afford to pay my rent by myself, I DO get $100 in food stamps for my kids and thats it! SO how does that bring me up to $35,000 a year. Also my boyfriend pays part of my rent for me and my kids, since i get NO child support. Learn you facts, and then your eyes will let you see the truth!
  17. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - March 30, 2013 5:45 am
    "Some local housing advocates say that percentage is very conservative."

    If 1/3 of the folks in Elko County is a low figure is it what, 1/2? Since there are not 25,000 people wandering the streets without a home, what gives? No one here literally lives on minimum wage. What gives is that "advocates" ignore that the median wage in Elko is 1 1/2 times the minimum needed to secure housing and the actual poor get government assistance that on average brings them up to $35k per year.
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