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The share of Idaho workers earning minimum wage has grown from 5 percent in 2011 to 7.7 percent in 2012. The growth has put Idaho in the top spot for the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country. How did that happen? And what’s being done to reverse the trend?

Report Finds Idaho Wages And Rents Don't Match Up

Derek K. Miller

Despite Idaho’s rural character, the state isn’t exempt from issues of housing affordability associated with more developed regions. A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition finds a disparity between Idaho wages and the cost of rent.

The report is called Out of Reach 2018. It evaluates the hourly wage needed  for a full-time employee to comfortably rent a property.

Statewide, someone needs to earn around $15 an hour to afford the rent for a two-bedroom house. It costs even more in Boise, Coeur d'Alene and Blaine County.

At $7.25 an hour, it would take a pair of full time jobs to afford the fair market rent of about $800. 

“Families across Idaho are finding that costs for modestly priced homes are simply eating up more and more of their paycheck,” Alejandra Cerna Rios says. “High housing costs leave families with less to spend on essentials, and more importantly, it prices them out of communities that have more well-paying jobs.”

Credit National Low Income Housing Coalition
A map included in the report shows the rent necessary in each state to afford a two-bedroom home.

Cerna Rios is a policy analyst with the advocacy group Idaho Asset Building Network. She says it's important to keep in mind Idaho still subscribes to the federal minimum wage when considering how affordable it is to live in the Gem State.

“You know, I think some folks perceive that the federal minimum wage is something that, say, high schoolers over the summer earn,” says Cerna Rios. “But the federal minimum wage is actually what some household heads earn.”

Cerna Rios says the average renter wage in the Gem State is about $12 an hour – just barely enough for an affordable one bedroom.

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