Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Family Budget/Livable Wage Calculators Use Housing Costs from FY 2014, Understating Today's Needed Wages.

The recently updated EPI family budget calculator and the MIT Living Wage Calculator appear to both be using FY 2014 HUD FMR's to estimate affordable housing costs.  [Note: The 2014 (Worksystems) Self Sufficiency Standard for Oregon also indicates the use of FY 2014 FMR's but uses rent levels significantly below the published FY 2014 FMR's.]

Example: The Portland metro 2 BR housing costs in EPI and MIT calculators is stated at $922 (the FY 2014 level). The FY 2015 2 BR FMR is $944 and the newly published FY 2016 2 BR FMR, effective October 1st, is $1,014.

To pay for the $92 per month increase in the 2 BR FMR from FY 2014 to FY 2016 would require that 1 adult and 1 child full time income would have to increase by $1,014 per year or $.53 per hour for a full time worker. In contrast the Oregon minimum wage increased by only $.15 an hour from 2014 to 2015, so the increase in rental housing costs would require multiples of the annual Oregon rate of minimum wage increase.

[The Worksystems 2014 Self Sufficiency Standard uses an even lower $889 rent for a 2 BR, a difference of $125 a month vs the FY 2016 FMR, or $1,500 per year. This would require an increase of $.72 per hour to update to the October 2015/FY 2016 2 BR FMR level].

Given the difference in housing costs, it seems likely that other expense estimates may be also out of date in these otherwise very useful calculators.

Originally created and posted on the Oregon Housing Blog. 

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