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Families making $30,000 or less can't afford to rent in Minneapolis or St. Paul

Data compiled by HousingLink turned out absolutely nothing in either city for families making 30 percent of the area median income.

Data compiled by HousingLink turned out absolutely nothing in either city for families making 30 percent of the area median income. Glen Stubbe/Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune

Minneapolis and St. Paul are different in many ways, but right now, at least, they have one thing in common. If you and your family make $30,000 or less, you can’t afford to rent in either of them.

Every month, researchers at HousingLink—an affordable housing listing service in Minneapolis—put together reports on what’s actually available on the Twin Cities market, and to whom. In June, if you happened to be in that $30,000 bracket and have a family of four, it was exactly nothing.

That’s not to say affordable apartments don’t exist in either city, says marketing and outreach manager Josh Dye. They do. They’re just taken—inaccessible behind phalanxes of waiting lists and maxed-out occupancy. And he can’t confess he’s particularly surprised.

“There’s been a tremendous gap in housing availability for a very, very long time,” he says. But this has been the longest stretch of low vacancy for a while, and both cities are starting to take notice. Addressing the affordable housing crisis has become a top priority in the Twin Cities as well as the surrounding metro.

But in the meantime, it’s bad news for Twin Cities residents. Census data shows that in both cities, a little over 20 percent of people live in poverty. And as the Pioneer Press pointed out, the minimum wage in St. Paul is currently $9.86 per hour, or about $20,000 a year, which is close to half of what it takes to rent a two-bedroom in the city.

Even Minneapolis, which has a minimum of about $11 an hour, doesn’t get you much closer. According to HousingLink’s report, 47 percent of Minneapolis renters live in housing they can’t technically afford. The same is true of nearly 50 percent of St. Paul renters.

This housing crisis is hitting low-income residents the hardest, but even people of moderate means are struggling a little, Dye points out. If you make $50,000 instead (that’s half the area median income), you can only afford to rent 14 percent of what’s on the market in St. Paul, and 9 percent of available stock in Minneapolis. If you make $60,000, that bumps up to a modest 52 percent in St. Paul and 37 percent in Minneapolis.

Competition is fierce to get your hands on any kind of housing at all, which only makes it tougher the lower your income gets.

Dye can’t say whether we’ll hit some kind of equilibrium sometime soon. All these reports are designed to do are give a snapshot of what each city is going through at the moment, so consumers can make good housing decisions and legislators can make smart policies going forward.

“It’s hard to say when that light at the end of the tunnel will come,” he says. “It all depends on what new units become available, what units are preserved, and what investments are made.”

But he does know this: For the last year or so, Gen Z has been graduating from college, joining the workforce, and—you guessed it—looking for housing. So it doesn’t look like that stiff competition’s about to go away on its own.