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Step 2 of the world’s shallowest analysis of life on minimum wage advises “Find a place to live that costs less than $600 per month in rent.” It continues in finer print “$600 a month is enough to cover the median monthly rent in an affordable city.” Carrying on with the fantasy it suggests “Try to get utilities iincluded (water, heat, electricity)” and on the way you can try to ride a unicorn!
A simple calculation on the left margin of the image shows that a $60 rent would result in $7,200 in housing costs for the year. Remember that step one admonished the peasantry to move to a new, cheaper city. Just as that expense was magically not calculated, the various extra expenses of rental life (like renter’s insurance, application fees, and security deposits) are apparently free in the creator’s imagination.
The low ball $7,200 housing estimate is deducted from the inflated $14,115 income estimate, which ignores all state and municipal taxes, to yield $6,915 leftover after rent. Even this rose tinted take on the minimum wage has more than half a worker’s income going to shelter. Landlords want you to make three times your rent, not double. How are you supposed to even get an apartment when you don’t yet have the minimum wage job you left your friends and family for?
Supposing you do get a magical apartment with no deposits, minimum income standards, or utility expenses in one of the ten high poverty, high crime cities recommended in step one, is $600/month really the median apartment rental cost? To answer this question I turned to the March 2017 National Apartment List Rent Report, which tracks rises and falls of median rent prices in the largest 100 cities. For the most part, the answer is yes.
$880 is the median monthly rent on a 2-bedroom apartment in Birmingham. In Detroit the median is $200 less, and you can get a private one bedroom unit for $600. Fort Wayne, Indiana is even cheaper, with $500 1-bedrooms, and $600 2-bedrooms. A Knoxville 2-bedroom averages at $800/month. All the other cities were too small to be counted on this table.