Georgia renters must earn nearly three times the minimum wage in order to afford a typical two-bedroom home without spending more than 30 percent of their income. In metro Atlanta and the city itself, it could take almost five times the state’s $7.25-an-hour wage to do the same.
In order to rent a standard two-bedroom in Georgia, workers must earn $19.42 an hour, far more than the state’s minimum wage — the lowest in the country — according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Unsurprisingly, the metro region — including Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Roswell — requires much higher incomes. For instance, it would take $20 an hour to afford a one-bedroom, $22.79 an hour for a two-bedroom and $28.67 for a three-bedroom.
In parts of affluent Buckhead, a typical two-bedroom rental might demand an income of upwards of $34 hourly. Even the city’s lower-income communities, such as the Westside’s English Avenue or Southwest Atlanta’s Cascade Heights, require workers to make about $19 an hour to rent without being cost-burdened.
Statewide, renters earning the minimum wage can afford residency at places costing just $377 a month. That hardly exists in metro Atlanta.
So, with rises in housing costs far outpacing wage increases, how can Atlanta leaders strive to fight the city’s mounting housing affordability crisis? Some say, raise the minimum wage. Atlanta Civic Circle asked the leading candidates for mayor how they’d address the issue.
In 2017, then-Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council elected to raise the minimum wage for municipal employees to $15 an hour. A spokeswoman for Reed, who’s running for mayor again after leaving office in 2018, said that the late-term move “is a strong signal that he supports” raising the minimum wage for other Atlantans, too.
City Councilman Andre Dickens, who authored the legislation that prompted the wage increase for city workers, said in a text message, “In 2016, I was stunned to learn that 10 percent of our city government’s workforce wasn’t making enough to survive without depending on government benefits.”
Now, thanks to that action, Dickens said, “the city became a model employer, and, since then, other private businesses have followed suit and increased wages for thousands of other Atlantans.”
Dentons attorney Sharon Gay said in an email, “I agree that part of the affordable housing challenge is increasing household income. I support increasing the minimum wage to $15 [an hour] in phases spread over several years.”
City Councilman Antonio Brown said in an interview that raising the minimum wage — for non-city employees — couldn’t be done at the municipal level; such an effort would have to go through the Georgia Legislature.
Brown also noted he’s been pushing for the creation of a $250 million workforce development bond that could help provide Atlantans with jobs in which they could earn upwards of $20 an hour. It would utilize a payroll deduction “to sustain the bond and continue to create jobs year over year,” he said.
“That’s a better solution,” Brown continued. “Leveraging that bond that would have no implication on the city’s budget, and you’re paying folks a livable wage.”
City Council President Felicia Moore did not immediately provide responses to Atlanta Civic Circle’s inquiries, and this story will be updated as comments come in.
Do you think minimum wage workers should be able to afford housing in the city? What would you do to fix the problem? Is the solution housing-based, or should the minimum wage be raised? Let us know in the comments.