The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

LA residents need to make $33 an hour to afford the average apartment

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You need to earn at least $33 an hour — $68,640 a year — to be able to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County, according to Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive of the California Housing Partnership, which advocates for affordable housing. 

That's more than double the level of the highest minimum wage being proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, which he argued would make it easier for workers to afford to live here. “If we pass this, this will allow more people to live their American Dream here in L.A.," Garcetti proclaimed when he announced his plan to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. 

The $33 an hour figure is based on the average L.A. County apartment rental price of $1,716 a month, from USC's 2014 Casden Multifamily Forecast. An apartment is considered affordable when you spend no more than 30 percent of your paycheck on rent.

To earn $33 an hour or more, you'd need to have a Los Angeles job like one of the following occupations: 

But many occupations typically earn far below that $33 an hour threshold in L.A. County, according to the California Housing Partnership:

  • Secretaries: $36,000 ($17 an hour)
  • EMT Paramedics: $25,00 ($12 an hour)
  • Preschool teachers: $29,000 ($14 an hour)

That's why L.A. residents wind up spending an average of 47 percent of their income on rent, which is the highest percentage in the nation, according to UCLA's Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Naturally, people who earn the current California minimum wage of $9 an hour ($18,720 a year) would fare even worse in trying to afford an average apartment.

Raising the minimum wage to $13.25 would equal a $27,560 salary; raising it to $15.25 an hour totals $31,720 a year.

What about buying a home?

In order to afford to purchase the median-priced home in Los Angeles, you'd need to earn $96,513 a year, according to HSH.com, a mortgage information website. 

The median home price in Los Angeles is $570,500, according to the real estate website, Trulia.com.

But consider that the median income in Los Angeles is about half that: $49,497, according to census numbers from 2009-2013.

So it's no surprise that Los Angeles has been rated as the most unaffordable city to rent in America by Harvard and UCLA

The cost of housing has gone up so much that even raising the minimum wage to $15.25 an hour – as some on the city council have proposed doing by 2019– would not go very far in solving the problem.

“Every little bit helps, but even if you doubled the minimum wage, it wouldn’t help most low-income families find affordable rental housing in Los Angeles,” said Schwartz.

What percentage of your income to you spend on housing in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments, on our Facebook page or on Twitter (@KPCC). You can see how affordable your neighborhood is with our interactive map.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly calculated the hourly pay rate, based on the estimated $68,640 annual pay needed to afford the average rent in L.A. County. KPCC regrets the error.

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