GRAND FORKS — Residents of Grand Forks need to earn $16.42 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental unit on the local market, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s latest annual report, which tracks the housing affordability for minimum wage workers.

That might seem relatively achievable, especially compared to states like Connecticut with a housing wage of $27.80, but it can still be a tough wage to support yourself or a family, especially. for service and retail workers, students, or young professionals with entry-level positions in Grand Forks.

The estimated average tenant wage in Grand Forks is $16.39, according to the report, slightly lower than the housing wage.

Bridget West, a 26-year-old operations specialist at the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation, pays $1,090 for her apartment in downtown Grand Forks, which accounts for about 30% of her income.

Downtown Grand Forks and the 58201 zip code are the most expensive neighborhoods to live in the city, requiring a housing wage of $17.31, according to the report. The cheapest is East Grand Forks, which has a housing wage of $15.38.

West expects his rent to rise — when his lease expires in December — due to inflation.

While Grand Forks’ cost of living index is lower than the national average and affordable rents can be found throughout the city, West said she recognizes wages need to rise to keep up with rent and prevent young professionals to move elsewhere, such as Minneapolis or Fargo.

The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Grand Forks is up 15.6% from July 2021, according to a report from Dwellsy, a rental listing site. Comparatively, Fargo’s median rent is lower than Grand Forks’ and has only increased 1.3% over the same period.

“There’s a lot of talk in the community about us having to pay better wages,” West said. “It has a lot to do with job mix, because there are a lot of entry level jobs, but not a lot of middle management. Do we offer jobs with wages that meet the rising cost of living? »

There are efforts in the city to make rents affordable and raise salaries to entice young professionals to stay in Grand Forks, West added, such as the Regional Workforce Impact Program grant. The grant is working with five area counties to support benefits and resources that would attract talent and build a strong workforce.

But there’s still work to be done, said Blue Weber, president and CEO of the Downtown Development Association.

It’s imperative that businesses pay affordable wages to retain workers and keep Grand Forks growing as a city, Weber said. It is also important that residents who qualify for low-income housing use these programs.

Inflation is up 9.1% year-over-year across the country, with energy prices up 7.5% from June to July 2022 alone. has risen 5.8% over the past year in the United States, the largest increase since 1986, leading to a wave of evictions and housing assistance needs across the country.

“(A salary of) $16.42 is getting more affordable,” said Weber, who rented for years before moving to a permanent home with his wife near downtown. “It’s starting to move in that direction, but a lot of small businesses in Grand Forks wouldn’t believe you had to hit that number to afford housing.”

In Grand Forks, the estimated median income of renter households is $37,432. An affordable rent at this salary would be $696 per month. The current fair market rate in Grand Forks is $669 for a one-bedroom home, $854 for a two-bedroom home, and $1,213 for a three-bedroom home.

Grand Forks workers who earn an average hourly wage below the reported housing wage of $16.42 include those in personal care and services, building cleaning or grounds maintenance, and restaurant staff, according to the Bureau. of Labor Statistics of the United States.

The NLIHC housing wage is estimated using the hourly wage needed for a full-time worker to afford a “modest rental home” at fair market rent from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development without spending more than $30 % of their income in housing costs, which is the accepted standard of affordability.

HUD Fair Market Rent is calculated as the 40th percentile of gross rents for standard quality units in a local housing market. It excludes “poor quality housing”, housing already subsidized and housing built within the last two years. The FMR calculation analyzes data, including gross rent data from the US Census Bureau, gross rent information from the HUD US Housing Survey, and telephone surveys.

As West plans to move to the Northwestern United States next summer, which factored into her decision to pay higher rent in Grand Forks to prepare for a higher cost of living where she will be moving, she thinks Grand Forks is a great place to live and can continue to grow.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” West said. “I don’t know if it’s ideal right now, but I think we’re taking steps to make it that way.”