Calif. Minimum Wage Doesn't Pay the Bills: Report

Workers earning minimum wage can't afford rent in many SoCal cities

By Heather Navarro and Angie Crouch
|  Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013  |  Updated 7:46 PM PDT
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A worker earning minimum wage in California has to clock in more than three the standard 40-hour work week to renting a two-bedroom residence. The divide between wages and rent across America is growing, and California ranks fifth worst in the country. Angie Crouch reports from Beverlywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 12, 2013. NOTE: The organization featured in this video is <a href=Abode Communities, not Adobe Communities. " />

Angie Crouch, Rodney Danson

A worker earning minimum wage in California has to clock in more than three the standard 40-hour work week to renting a two-bedroom residence. The divide between wages and rent across America is growing, and California ranks fifth worst in the country. Angie Crouch reports from Beverlywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 12, 2013. NOTE: The organization featured in this video is Abode Communities, not Adobe Communities.

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Two Southern California counties ranked among the top ten most expensive places to rent in the country, and the advocacy group that released the list on Monday called for more low-income housing units in the region.

California’s gap between minimum wage and housing affordability is the fifth worst in the country, behind New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Earning the state’s $8-per-hour minimum wage, Californians would need to clock in 129 hours per week -- three times the standard 40-hour work week -- to afford housing for $1,300 a month, according to National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report, which uses census and median income data.

Residents in Orange and Ventura counties would need to earn at least $30 per hour -- or work about 155 hours per week on minimum wage -- to afford two-bedroom housing, according to the report.

Los Angeles County did not make the top ten, but LA renters are not immune from increasing rents, low wages and a lack of affordable housing.

"I’m from LA. I moved to Nevada, now I’m going back to Nevada because it’s ridiculous on the rent out here," said Tashara McMullen.

McMullen is among tens of thousands of minimum-wage earners in California who cannot afford to rent a decent apartment.

"It’s not gonna work. You have to get another job to make it," she said. "You rent $1,200 for a one bedroom – not gonna work, even with 40 hours."

The rates make it nearly impossible for LA renters to get ahead.

"I’m under rent control for 20 years," Ron Higgins said. "I’d like a change, and I can’t. I’m stuck."

President Barack Obama has pushed to raise the minimum wage, but Republicans argue businesses cannot afford it in the still-recovering economy.

And with federal funding being slashed across the board, an expert said there’s no relief in sight.

"We've experienced about a 40 percent cut in the federal funds that come to the city," said Robin Hughes, president of Abode Communities.

"The redevelopment agency was producing about $100 million a year for housing, and we've lost those resources."

Median rents vary widely in Los Angeles County. The median rent for a Brentwood home in 2009 was $2,148 while the median rent in Watts was $671, according to citydata.com.

The Golden State ranked as the second most expensive place to rent in the United States, behind Hawaii.

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