Doubling – or even tripling – the minimum wage is no longer enough to live in Los Angeles.
By Julien J. Metzmeyer, Opinion Editor
Raising the minimum wage has become a priority for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. But even doubling it wouldn’t lift 1 million Angelenos out of poverty. Tripling it might not even do it.
“The minimum wage shouldn’t be a poverty wage. Angelenos working full time should be able to afford to live in our amazing city,” Garcetti told LAMayor.org.
The current minimum wage is $9 an hour, which works out to $18,720 a year. Mayor Garcetti’s “Raise the Wage LA” campaign seeks to lift hourly pay to $13.25 an hour by 2017, which would equal about $27,500 a year.
However, 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 toward solving the problem. $15.25 an hour totals less than $32,000 a year, but in order to purchase the median-priced home in Los Angeles ($570,500), you’d need to earn about $96,500 a year, according to HSH.com, a mortgage information website.
For renters, it takes an income of about $68,500 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. On the other hand, the median income in Los Angeles is about $49,500, according to census numbers from 2009-2013. So it’s no surprise that the “amazing” Los Angeles has been rated America’s most unaffordable city for renters by Harvard and UCLA.
That means renters need to earn a wage of $33 an hour, based on the average L.A. county apartment rental price of $1,716 a month. An apartment is considered affordable when you spend no more than 30 percent of your paycheck on rent, but the average renter in Los Angeles spends 47 percent, according to LAMayor.org.
Raising the minimum wage would affect 567,000 workers in L.A., so it’s hard to be against it, but at the end of the day, it won’t enable those families to afford a life not consumed by working frantically just to stay afloat.
“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.
Those hard-working families who often work two jobs or more deserve better than just surviving in the City of Angels, but it might take divine intervention to get there.