NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Decent Apartments Are Out Of Reach For Low-Wage Workers In Texas, Report Says

A tall apartment building is under construction. A construction crane is nearby.
Stock Photo

There is no county in Texas where a minimum wage worker can work 40 hours a week and comfortably afford a mid-tier rental home, according to a new reportfrom the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The report uses fair market rent as a baseline. That’s what someone can expect to pay for a modestly priced rental in decent condition.

In Texas, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,143. A household would have to bring in almost $46,000 a year to pay for that without being overburdened by housing costs, the report states. That’s a wage of about $22 per hour — far more than the state’s $7.25 minimum wage.

Christina Rosales is deputy director of Texas Housers, an affordable housing nonprofit and member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“We’re talking about someone needing three full-time minimum wage jobs to afford a modest two bedroom apartment,” she said.

A person would have to work 121 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom at fair market rent in Texas, the report states. Even a one-bedroom would require 100 hours of work per week.

That’s too much, Rosales said, whether a renter is a single parent or splitting those hours with a partner.

“We can’t expect them to continue that level of labor and take care of kids, take care of the household, be a productive member of their community,” she said.

According to the report, the most expensive areas in Texas are:

  1. Austin-Round Rock, where a person would need to make $27.58 an hour to afford that decent two-bedroom.
  2. Midland, at $26.75 an hour.
  3. Dallas, at $26 an hour.
  4. Kendall County, at $24.87 an hour.
  5. Fort Worth-Arlington, at $23.88 an hour.

These are mostly major metropolitan areas, where business is booming and growth is rapid, Rosales said.

“Midland, at first glance, it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher,” she said. “But if you think about the oil boom and the industry there, it makes sense. There’s a lot of growth because of the oil industry in Midland.”

The problem is a stagnant minimum wage, Rosales said, along with a low supply of affordable housing, especially in big cities. Building mid-tier apartments is not always the most appealing option for developers.

“They profit more off of building luxury housing with all of the amenities, and they can charge more for it, so it suits their needs,” Rosales said.

Some solutions are already in place, but need to be administered better, Rosales said. Existing rent relief has seen major delays making it to renters.

Cities can also put policies in place that encourage developers to build cheaper units. Austin allows developers to build bigger if they make some units affordable, or contribute to an affordable housing trust fund.

The pandemic’s economic burdens have made it even harder for some renters to hold on to their homes. To Rosales, when tenants are burdened with rent costs, the whole state suffers.

“The rent eats first,” she said. “They skimp on food, they skimp on health care, they skimp on medicine, on stuff for the kids, on activities for the kids. Everything else just falls by the wayside when folks have to just pay more and more for their rent. That is not a recipe for a healthy community, for a healthy Texas.”

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.