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It’s Impossible to Afford Rent on the Minimum Wage

Minneapolis and St. Paul both recently passed municipal minimum wage ordinances that were intended to lift up the working poor. In Minneapolis, the current minimum wage is $11.25 for large businesses, and that is scheduled to increase to $15.00 by July 1, 2022. The current minimum wage in St. Paul is the state minimum of $9.86. St. Paul’s phase-in starts in 2020, with a $15.00 minimum wage by July 1, 2022.

Even with these higher wages, it is still impossible to afford rent in each city.

The federal standard for housing affordability is 30% of income. While an arbitrary standard, it is most often used as the benchmark for housing affordability.

For a minimum wage worker in Minneapolis working 2,000 hours a year, an affordable rent is $563 per month. For a minimum wage worker in St. Paul, that figure is $493 per month.

On April 19, I created a map (see above) of median rents in neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I used KML polygon files from each city’s GIS office for the neighborhood boundaries, and merged it with corresponding median rent data from

The map shows what many would expect: high rents in the downtowns and wealthy neighborhoods, and low rents in marginalized neighborhoods.

The most expensive neighborhood of Minneapolis to rent was Downtown East at a median price of $2,045 for a 1-bedroom. In St. Paul the most expensive was West 7th at $1,325. The least expensive neighborhoods were McKinley in Minneapolis at $625 and Greater East Side in St. Paul at $788 for a 1-bedroom.

For studios, there were no studios in McKinley in Rentometer’s dataset. In Greater East Side, there were no studios in the dataset, but the minimum price of a 1-bedroom in the dataset was $500 at 1581 Ivy Ave E. Thirty percent of income at minimum wage is $493 per month.

Whatever your preferred policy prescription, the data is clear: rents are too high.

Of note: the Rentometer dataset is not a complete view of the rental market. It is unclear what the dataset includes, because the technology is proprietary, but Streets.MN commentators have said it likely does not include some rentals from the “missing middle” of duplexes, triplexes, and other mid-rise apartments.

Check out the median rent map on a new tab here.

What do you pay for rent or housing costs? What would you do as a policy-maker to bring down rents or increase affordability? Share your observations and your proposals in the comments.

Conrad Zbikowski

About Conrad Zbikowski

Downtown Minneapolis resident covering local issues including parks, transportation, zoning, and development.