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Report shows affordable housing out of reach for many Carroll renters

A single person residing in Carroll County needs to earn $24.08 per hour at a full-time job in order to afford to rent an average two-bedroom apartment, according to "Out of Reach 2014," a report released earlier this week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This figure makes Carroll County one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

The report, now in its 25th year, calculates Housing Wage - the income a person needs to earn to afford rental housing - by surveying the fair market rental rate of apartments in each state and metropolitan area.

Because the standard costs for housing and utilities is 30 percent of a person's income, the coalition used that figure to extrapolate the amount.

Nationwide, the Housing Wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $18.92; $5.16 lower than in Carroll, according to the study.

The Housing Wage statewide is $24.94 per hour, 86 cents higher than Carroll, and Maryland ranks fourth for most expensive housing in the country behind Hawaii, Washington, D.C. and California.

In Maryland, the report states, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,297 a month.

To afford this rent with utilities without paying over 30 percent of income, a household must earn $4,323 monthly, or $51,871 annually.

The report states the average hourly wage for renters in Maryland is $15.31, which leaves a gap of about $500 per month between what the average Maryland renter can afford to pay for rent and what a fair market apartment costs.

The report shows an average two-bedroom apartment in Carroll costs $1,252 per month, for which an individual must earn $50,080 annually to reasonably afford.

About 17 percent of the households in Carroll are renters who earn an average wage of $8.45 per hour, according to the report, a figure much lower than the state average.

The report also states the average renter in Carroll can only afford to pay $440 in rent monthly, which is more than $800 short of the average two-bedroom cost.

Rita Zimmerman, deputy director for the county's Bureau for Housing and Community Development, confirmed the findings of the report.

She said housing is a huge issue for those making minimum wage in the area.

"It takes multiple people and multiple jobs to be able to afford a two-bedroom rental unit," she said.

Zimmerman said a family of four must earn less than $25,050 in order to qualify for Section 8 assistance. Her agency currently has 649 vouchers issued to assist low-income individuals and she said the City of Westminster currently has 289 issued.

"A lot of people cannot afford to live here because of the cost of housing," Zimmerman said. "We are always looking for any and all opportunities to create affordable housing."

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