Being able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Bangor requires nearly 6 percent more income than it did last year, according to a national study released this week.
That’s a tough ask in an area where 38 percent of households were renters from 2017 to 2021. The gap between rent and income is growing across Maine, with all major metropolitan areas showing more expensive rents and the higher salaries needed to afford them, according to a National Low Income Housing Coalition study released Wednesday.
This problem is even more pronounced in Portland, where a majority of voters rejected a referendum Tuesday that would have removed a 5 percent cap on rent rises when an apartment is vacated, reflecting the statewide high demand for apartments and rising costs for them.
MaineHousing has estimated the state is up to 25,000 units short of affordable homes and apartments. The state is working toward a goal of having 1,000 affordable housing units produced every year, but it will take time to close the gap.
Here are some of the numbers from the coalition’s study showing the challenges renters face in Maine.
That’s where Maine ranks nationally among the highest wages needed to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Renters would need to make $24.73 per hour, while minimum-wage earners would have to work 72 hours weekly. Maine ranks between Georgia at 23rd and Illinois at 25th.
Compared with the other five New England states, Maine is still the most affordable. Massachusetts ranked third nationally and required the highest earnings of $41.64 per hour or 111 hours of work weekly at minimum wage. Connecticut was 9th, New Hampshire 13th, Rhode Island 16th, and Vermont 20th.
The price rise in the past year for a two-bedroom, fair-market-rate apartment going for $1,286 monthly on average across Maine.
An equal bump in earnings would be needed to afford it, assuming that 30 percent of income is spent on housing. Maine’s minimum wage is $13.80 per hour and the average wage for a renter is $16.76, far below the $24.73 needed to truly afford that apartment.
That’s the size of the additional income needed over last this year to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Bangor, or $46,640.
Those wanting to live in greater Portland, the state’s largest and most expensive metropolitan area where apartment shortages sparked the state’s first rent bidding war, would have to earn $5,520 more, or $74,360.
In the Lewiston-Auburn area, prospective renters would need to earn $2,440 more, or $42,300. Even the lowest income needed among Maine’s 16 counties, in Aroostook, would need to rise $2,400 annually to $33,640.
Assuming you must set aside one-third of earnings for housing, this is the median hourly wage needed for a one-bedroom apartment in Maine. That is far higher than the $14.71 that cashiers make on average, and higher than wait staff make at $17.95.
The median hourly wage needed for a two-bedroom apartment in Maine using one-third of earnings for housing is $24.73. Carpenters making an average of $24.86 could afford that, as could secondary school teachers making $30.54 on average and registered nurses making an average of $38.80.