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Minimum Wage Watch: What Can You Afford on $9.32 an Hour?

Written by Sarah Anne Lloyd

Every time the minimum wage goes up, we'll round up what units and neighborhoods in the city are actually "affordable" to minimum wage workers, using the standard of 30% of one's monthly income from one full-time job with 40 hours a week.

It's not news to those of us living here: Seattle is an expensive city. Our cost of living is high — just one of the many reasons the City Council voted to raise our minimum wage to $15 over the next seven years. Our biggest culprit for the high price tag? Housing costs that soar at 38% above the national average. A Washington Post report found that in order to afford a decent, non-luxury 1-bedroom apartment in King County at fair market rent, a potential tenant would have to be making $17.56 an hour. It's no wonder 40% of people making minimum wage in Seattle live outside the city. (Yes, that means people commute a really long time to show up for low-paying, low-thanking jobs.)

As of right now, though, and until the first scheduled wage increase on April 1, 2015, Seattle's minimum wage remains $9.32 an hour. At 40 hours a week and four weeks a month — we'll call the change on that four weeks "taxes" — that puts affordable monthly rent at about $450.

We sorted out the options that mixed up the "rent" and "square footage" fields — and those charging weekly rents. There wasn't a whole lot left over. Hint: It's changed a whole lot since the last time CS looked into this back in January 2013.

$465/mo: Shared house in the Central District
This shared house in the "heart of Capital Hill" [sic] is actually in the heart of the Central District, and is the most centrally-located option we could find. Still, it's just one — for single-occupancy — and requires sharing a two-bathroom house with five other people. No photos of the bedroom are present with the listing.

$1400/mo: 3-bedroom in Boulevard Park
This apartment would require getting roommates, but it has a fireplace and a balcony — so actually a pretty good deal, although it doesn't look like the best-maintained building in the world.

$1495/mo: 4-bedroom in Arbor Heights
It's a good deal with a few roommates, and it comes with a sweet painting of polar bears, but you can only stay there until May 25 — which probably explains the discount. (That and the car-dependent neighborhood.)

$965/mo: 2-bedroom in Lynnwood
Like the Boulevard Park place, this Lynnwood two-bedroom seems like a pretty decent deal, too — it's even within a couple of blocks of transit and a Trader Joe's. But, again, these are just two places.

$860/mo: 2-bedroom in Tukwila
Light rail station is "a short 3 minute drive" away.

Making $9.32 an hour, there's pretty much no way to afford a place with just your own income and no assistance — so good luck if you have dependents. While there are exceptions in the cases of large, shared houses, most people living on minimum wage now are restricted to the very outskirts of the city or the surrounding area, which is a real low blow to the minimum wage workers that help our city function. Currently, your best bet if you make minimum wage is probably to get on a waiting list for subsidized housing.
· Seattle is how expensive? Very expensive. [SPI]
· What you'd need to make in every county in America to afford a decent one-bedroom [WaPo]
· What Kind of Home Does Minimum Wage Get You? [CS]
· What Minimum Wage Can Rent You In Seattle [CS]