Metro Phoenix’s rapidly rising rents are putting the squeeze on many, even with the state’s higher minimum wage.
Just ask any Millennial trying to find a place they can afford to lease in central Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tempe.
Phoenix-area rents have jumped almost 15 percent during the past few years.
Glendale led the nation for the biggest rent increase in April — a staggering 11.5 percent.
Even with a higher minimum wage, it takes a lot of work, literally, to afford a Valley rental.
A Phoenix-area renter making $10 an hour — the new minimum — has to work 58 hours a week to afford a decent place to live, according to a new study.
Arizona’s almost $2 bump in its minimum wage helps but isn’t enough to ease the crunch for many of the Valley's 600,000 renters.
To afford a studio in metro Phoenix, a renter needs to earn $12 an hour. For a one-bedroom, the wage goes up to $14.50 an hour, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s latest research.
“People earning the higher minimum wage can still only afford rent of $520, including utilities,” Val Iverson, executive director of the Arizona Housing Alliance, told me. “Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a safe, decent (metro Phoenix) apartment in that price range.”
The 10,000 new apartments going up or recently completed in the Phoenix area won’t immediately help a lot of renters. Most of the new complexes are high-end with rents well above $520 a month.
But if too many new apartments open up in the Valley and don’t fill up quickly, it could put pressure on rents at older complexes. That could help some renters.
Iverson said Arizona needs at least 210,000 more affordable rentals.
There’s a two-year waiting list to rent at the affordable apartment complex Devine Legacy on Central, in midtown Phoenix, The 65-apartment complex, across from light rail, is one of only a few new apartments in the area where people can rent for $600 or less.
“There’s not enough affordable housing in Arizona, no matter how far out you drive,” Diana Yazzie Devine, CEO of Native American Connections, told me. “People not only need housing that’s affordable, they need it close to jobs and schools for their children.”
Her group developed Legacy on Central and more than 400 other affordable rentals in the central Valley.
In California, it takes 92 hours of work at the state’s minimum wage of $10.50 an hour to afford an apartment, according to the Low-Income Housing Coalition.
In Colorado, it's 75 hours at the minimum wage of $9.30 an hour. To afford rent in Florida, it’s 82 hours for $8.10 per hour.
The national figure says a renter has to work 117 hours at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to afford a decent apartment.
Even though the numbers look better for Arizona renters, there still aren’t enough places that workers making $10 an hour in metro Phoenix can afford to call home.
The $6.8 billion in cuts proposed for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development aren't going to make it any better for renters. Many of the HUD programs on the chopping block due to the cuts helped fund projects like Legacy on Central.
That's the apartment complex so many Phoenix renters want to move into that it has a two-year waiting list. Most of the Valley's new upscale apartments don't have one of those.