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Rent prices are getting further out of reach for many Arizona workers

Minimum wage earners would need to work at least 73 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental in Arizona, according to  a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

Renters are considered cost-burdened when they’re putting more than 30% of their income toward housing and utilities. The annual  Out of Reach report points out there is no state in the U.S. where 40 hours a week at minimum wage is enough for a worker to stay within that budget. But soaring rent prices have pushed Arizona higher in the rankings of the most expensive states for renters — it’s now 18th.

As Arizona's rent prices rise, the gap between the state’s wages and housing costs is becoming wider. Arizona’s minimum wage is $12.80 per hour, but a worker would need to earn at least $23.44 per hour to afford the average two-bedroom here, according to the report.

"What it reveals is that our state’s retail and hospitality workers, nursing assistants, teachers, secretaries and first responders don’t make enough to live here," Joan Serviss, executive director of the Arizona Housing Coalition, said in a press release.  

In this year's state budget, Arizona lawmakers pledged $60 million for the state's housing trust fund. And the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has used federal pandemic relief funding to  make historic investments in housing initiatives this year.

But the  report's authors write that reigning in runaway housing costs will require increasing wages, expanding renter protections, and making sustained investments in affordable housing. 

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.