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The average Hawaii renter earns half what's needed to afford a modest 2-bedroom

When it comes to rents, there's no state that's pricier than Hawaii. (Image: Hawaii News Now/File) When it comes to rents, there's no state that's pricier than Hawaii. (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In Hawaii, the average renter earns about $16 an hour.

But a new report says renters actually need to earn $20 more an hour — $36.13 to be exact — to afford a two-bedroom, modest rental in the state.

That so-called "housing wage" is higher than any other state in the nation, and it's based on renters spending no more than 30 percent of their gross pay on housing. (In fact, most Hawaii renters pay more than 30 percent.) 

And Hawaii also had the largest gap in the nation between what renters earn and what they need to earn to afford a two-bedroom.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition included the wage figures in its newest "Out of Reach" report, released Wednesday.

Alewa Heights resident Courtney Preiss chose to live with four roommates after weighing her options.

"It's really just compromise. You really have to just be on Craiglist every day looking and seeing if there's something new and jump on it right away," she said.

Washington, D.C. had the nation's second-highest "housing wage," at $34.48. California rounded out the top three, with a housing wage of $32.68.

Nationwide, the average housing wage needed for a two-bedroom in 2018 is $22.10. 

Meanwhile, the report notes that someone earning the minimum wage in Hawaii of $10.10 an hour would have to work 143 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental. The fair market rent for a two-bedroom in the islands is $1,879.

About 43 percent of Hawaii households rent. That's one of the highest rates in the nation.


READ MORE: The full report can be viewed here.


The low income housing coalition also reports that Honolulu has the fourth highest "housing wage" among U.S. metropolitan areas.

In Honolulu, residents need to earn $39.06 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental. That compares to $60 in San Francisco, $48.50 in San Jose and $44.79 and nearly $45 in Oakland. 

"It's not surprising and it is a little discouraging," said Preiss. "It just means that I need to hustle harder and just work more, I guess. Get a raise for sure."

Governor David Ige recently signed legislation named after Bob Nakata, a longtime affordable housing advocate. The new law sets aside $570 million to create more than 25,000 affordable units by 2030. The measure also expands affordable rentals beyond low income, and raises general excise tax exemptions for the construction of affordable units.

"It's a plus, but not a big enough plus," said Nakata. "(I'm still) really concerned about those who are at the lower end."

Looking for more affordable spots?

Arkansas had the lowest housing wage. There, residents need to earn $13.84 an hour to afford a two-bedroom.

West Virginia wasn't that much pricier, at $14.10, while residents of South Dakota need to earn $14.33 an hour for a two-bedroom rental. 

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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