Housing Costs Increasingly Out of Reach

Dave Norris writes:

Every year around this time, the National Low Income Housing Coalition releases a report called Out of Reach, which analyzes housing costs vs. wage levels in communities all across the U.S. The report focuses on a statistic they call the “Housing Wage,” which is the amount of money that a worker has to earn in order to afford an average two-bedroom rental unit in his/her community.

Well, Out of Reach 2006 was released today. And the 2006 Housing Wage for the Charlottesville area has been calculated at…(drum roll please)…$15.23. Know many retail or service jobs around here that are paying that much?

The good news is that somebody can pay their rent here with a minimum wage job. They just need to work five days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 23.6 hours per day in order to make the necessary $31,680/year. And they’d be wise to get a job for the remaining 24 minutes each day, so they can start saving for their next rent increase.

Presumably the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce will drop their opposition to a living wage now. I kid, of course: they have their head so far up their collective ass that, last month, they shot down a program envisioned by members of their own leadership program that would have acknowledged those local businesses that choose to pay their employees a living wage. The Chamber, you’ll recall, is opposed to any minimum wage; they think our existing minimum wage is just too darned high. Let’s put their staff on minimum wage and see how long that lasts.

53 Responses to “Housing Costs Increasingly Out of Reach”


  • Well, considering housing was appreciating at an unsustainable rate, and salaries were … not … this is hardly surprising.

    What is surprising (to me, being fairly new here) is that the Chamber of Commerce supports those positions.

  • The Chamber of Commerce seems to function on an entirely different plane of reality. They live in a world of candyland cottages and magic fairy dust where housing prices are low, income is sky-high, employment is universal and the sun is always shining. (On the birds and the bees / and the cigarette trees / the lemonade springs /where the bluebird sings…)

    The Chamber reminds me very much of President Bush in their one-note solutions to what ails us. Is the economy bad? We need tax cuts! Is the economy good? We need tax cuts! Peacetime? Tax cuts! Wartime? Tax cuts! The Chamber, likewise, is completely tone-deaf to the community at large, and even to the business community.

    I was once a member of the Chamber, when I ran a business. I only had to go to one meeting to discover that I didn’t fit in. Their meetings are for old Republicans running businesses nobody’s ever heard of. I considered going back, but the weeks of fax spam that I received from them ended any question of that. I don’t know if they actually believe that their member businesses are representative of the community or if they’re aware that their vocal members are as disconnected from the community as they are.

    They’ve managed to make themselves the least-cool organization that any of my business-owning peers are aware of. Their cluelessness on things like a living wage has left them so far out of the mainstream that they’re completely incapable of speaking for the business community. Lord knows that doesn’t stop them from trying, though.

  • Waldo,

    The things you point out are simply a matter of the chamber being an organization for the owner class. It is hard to convince people that the general welfare of society comes around full circle to the benefit of all. It is much simpler to defend the owners.

    I keep wondering when you will come over to the socialism camp. You would be most welcome.

  • A correction.

    I’d originally written, at the end of the article:

    (Sorry, Larry.)

    But somebody’s pointed out to me that the Larry no longer works for the Chamber. So never mind. :)

  • Frankly, I’m surprised the housing wage is that low. I make a little more than that, however, I’m trying to find a one-bedroom apartment for next year and the pickings are pretty slim. I could never do a two-bedroom. I always wonder if those calculations factor in the expenses that most lower-middle-class people have, like car payments, student loans, etc, and the fact that while it is possible to eat for about $25 a week most of us prefer to spend more than that.

    I’ve looked into some of “tax credit” apartments such as Mallside Forest and discovered that I made too much money to qualify. The max. income that one person can make and still rent a one-bedroom there is $28,020. Seems to me that someone making less than that would have a hard time even affording these subsidized units, which start at $664 with cold water, sewer and trash collection included.

    I’ve seen efficiencies that rent for $700. It’s insane what you get for your money around here.

    I frequently wonder how in the world someone making min. wage or slightly higher – even the “living wage” of $9 and some change – can afford anything in this area.

  • I wish I knew which companies pay their employees more than the norm(at least $12) so I could give them my business. Ditto for benefits. When I become aware of a store that mistreats it’s workers, I never shop there again. We need a way to make it good business to pay employees well.

  • I couldn’t agree more, Gail. Opponents of raising the minimum wage say that the market should dictate wages. Fine. But the market must be informed. Make aggregate wage data public, or provide a voluntary mechanism to do so, and we’ll see how the market responds.

  • First, let me say that I agree that the minimum wage is FAR overdue for an increase and it’s due for a VERY large increase.

    That said, I don’t understand why this argument is always one-sided. The reason it takes $15.23/hour to afford housing in Charlottesville is because housing in Charlottesville is so ridiculously overpriced.

    Seriously, $792 for a 2-bedroom apartment?! You could start thinking about owning with that kind of monthly payment on the other side of the mountain. In fact, the “living wage” for Augusta County is just $11.31/hour and a 2-bedroom apartment averages over $200 less at $588.
    (http://www.nlihc.org/oor/oor2006/data.cfm?getcounty=on&county=2791&state=VA)

    Like I said at the beginning, I heartily support an increase in the minimum wage and I heartily support a large increase in the minimum wage, but to pass off this issue as simply being about minimum wage is turning a blind eye to what I believe is an equally, if not more, important issue to Charlottesville: outrageous housing prices.

    As someone who rented in Charlottesville and opted to buy in Stuarts Draft (hey, the 40-minute commute to Stuarts Draft has far fewer cars and traffic lights than the 40-minute commute from downtown to Forest Lakes), I can assure you that Charlottesville has a very serious problem on their hands in terms of housing. The more they push out the working class with high housing costs, the tougher it’s going to be to find the people to do the minimum wage jobs, regardless of if it pays $5, $10, or even $15 an hour.

  • I don’t know why everyone’s obsessed with increasing the minimum wage when we can just as easily deal with this problem by enforcing maximum housing prices. Since the city assessments are becoming more expressive than many folks can afford, maybe the city could pass a law that would require home owners to sell their property at, say, 75% of it’s assessed value. And how about rent controls?! And then why stop with an individual’s housing? We need maximum prices that restaurants and grocery stores can charge for food and drink items… and automobiles are far too expensive in this town too. Cap car prices! Come on people, we’re suppose to be progressive in this town. Let’s start thinking outside the box!

  • And a blog tax! Don’t forget the blog tax, scifi_wabobby! :-)

  • Wow! I am shocked that people earning well below median incomes can’t afford median housing!

    Ending my sarcasm, momentarily of course, I have seen good arguments here for a living wage, and I’m not entirely against people trying to create low cost housing opportunities. However, while the Out of Reach results are interesting, they aren’t a great measure of, well, anything.

  • Exactly, nobrainer. Waldo’s original argument assumes that a single minimum wage-earner should be able to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment in an expensive city. Why do they need 2 bedrooms? Can they get a roommate or two? Maybe settle for something a little below average? How about moving to a cheaper area?

    Nobody (well, almost nobody) is arguing that housing here isn’t overpriced or that the minimum wage shouldn’t be substantially higher, but this entitlement attitude really gets to me. When I was first out of college about 15 years ago, I was making barely above minimum wage, but it was fine because I rented a tiny dump of a house along with 2 roommates.

  • Waldo’s original argument assumes that a single minimum wage-earner should be able to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment in an expensive city. Why do they need 2 bedrooms? Can they get a roommate or two? Maybe settle for something a little below average? How about moving to a cheaper area?

    Remember: There are a great many minimum wage-earners in this world, this country, this state and this town who are parents with children. Both parents work hard but, as we can see from this study, they need a third earner to get by. But let’s pretend that they manage to get that two-bedroom rental apartment — the parents take one bedroom, their two kids take another. And let’s pretend that they’re really lucky, and they get an apartment for 2/3 of the median market price, or $522/month. Your advice to them is…what? Leave town? Get a roommate? Get a one bedroom apartment?

    Now attempt to explain that logic to the teachers, firefighters, and police officers who make less than that. They will see only one viable option: to leave. And when our teachers, firefighters, and police officers move to Waynesboro, attempt to explain why our children are 40 to a classroom, our home insurance rates are so high, and our crime rate is so high.

    I’m reminded of the problem endemic to really wealthy areas that are also geographically isolated. (Parts of the Outer Banks come to mind most readily, though Wintergreen has been dealing with this.) There’s no lower class and virtually no middle class. So who cleans the toilets? Who picks up the trash? Who bags the groceries, delivers the pizzas, and washes the dishes? It’s a serious problem that many towns haven’t figured out how to solve.

    In the case of the Outer Banks, they’ve set up a program to import enormous numbers of college-aged kids from western European nations every year. Last year ago it was Ireland. This year it was Poland. They set up special housing for them, transportation, take care of their travel arrangements, visas, etc. It’s an enormous pain in the ass, but it’s all that they can do, because they have neither a lower class nor, in many parts, a middle class.

    If we’re not going to deal with the actual problem facing us, then which country shall we start importing people from seasonally to clean our toilets?

  • Pete,

    I think the people just out of college will do just fine. Like you, they’ll rent cheap apartments and get roommates. As they build their careers, they’ll earn more money and make their way in the world. We don’t have to worry about them. Most of us have had our struggling years and it probably does us good, provided we have something better that we can reasonably aspire to.

    It’s the poorly educated, marginally self-sufficient people who are intellectually incapable of climbing the economic ladder who are the real concern. Imagine a married couple with two or three small kids. One works a minimum wage job and the other cares for the children. Wouldn’t a 2-bedroom apartment be a reasonable hope for them?

    There can certainly be reasonable discussion as to whether it ought to be the role of private employers to insure some minimum standard of living for their employees, but I hope you can appreciate the plight of folks that might not be part of your social circle and find some compassion for them.

  • Seriously DaveNorris, the case can be made that it’s much more beneficial for a community to want to cap housing prices rather than raise a minimum wage. Let me briefly explain…

    Why would we want to negatively affect employers who provide jobs to people with minimal skills/education by forcing those employers to pay above the market wage for that labor? Often these low paying jobs are the first jobs for people, or are jobs for people who have not previously maintained long term employment, which means they have a high cost of risk associated with them. One could argue that these employers should be praised for taking on this significant risk and putting their businesses in such precarious circumstances.

    On the other hand, what local benefit do real estate investors provide to the community? Rental property owners simply want to maintain their property at a level just good enough to be able to find someone to sign next year’s lease. And since the renters don’t own the property, they generally won’t go out of their way to significantly improve it as they don’t get any long term benefit from that investment.

    And if you want to talk about exploiting a situation, house flipping is a blatant example of this. Individuals buy a moderately run down house, take a couple months to paint a few rooms, install some new windows, granite countertops, faux hardwood floors, and stainless steel appliances, throw some sod in the yard, and turn around and charge a 60% mark-up while adding no real long term value to the property.

    Shouldn’t all communities be striving for a situation where each family owns their home? Owning something makes you much more likely to maintain it at the highest level feasible. Removing the opportunities for excessive profits from these markets by Big Real Estate encourages the one family-one house model. Capping housing prices and rents remove the excess profits from this market. The arguments outlining the social benefit from artificially propping up the labor market are flimsy at best.

    Oh, and get to work on that blog tax too. Use the revenue to help bridge the digital divide! :-)

  • Waldo, as I’m sure you know, our firefighters, police officers, and teachers all make a lot more than minimum wage, so I’m not quite sure what your point is. Obviously, this community needs to deal with the disparity in local salaries vs. cost of living, but using a report that says that poor people don’t live in nice houses doesn’t do a lot for your argument.

    Charlottesville has been an expensive place to live for a long time. 20 years ago, a study came out that showed this area to be the most expensive in the state when you factor in prevailing salaries. This is not a new problem.

    Harry, I do have compassion for people who are scraping by. I am strongly in favor of a significantly higher minimum wage. However, the people who are already making so little money as to not be able to afford market-rate housing have plenty of assistance in the city (not sure about the county).

    You and Waldo are talking about 2 different issues. Waldo is talking about the declining middle class, whereas you are talking about the plight of the really poor people. The lower class is going to benefit from a higher minimum wage. The middle class isn’t going to benefit from a higher minimum wage since they already make substantially more than that anyway. In fact, if anything, they’ll likely be harmed by a higher minimum wage as the cost to businesses trickles down to the cost of goods and services.

    People seem to be harkening back to the days when a high-school dropout could get a decent job and provide for a family. Those days are gone, and that is not just a Charlottesville thing.

  • Waldo, as I’m sure you know, our firefighters, police officers, and teachers all make a lot more than minimum wage, so I’m not quite sure what your point is.

    Pete, both the blog entry and the study make clear that, in Charlottesville, one must make 300% of minimum wage — or $31,680/year — to afford an average two-bedroom apartment. Not minimum wage. 300% of minimum wage. Let me stress that a little more: We’re not talking about minimum wage. We’re talking about 300% of minimum wage..

    There are innumerable services in this town — I chose three examples, but I named many more further in my post — that are known for not paying well, but are also essential to our city. If we want to make it possible to have those services performed, we must make it possible for such people to be able to afford to live here. Or we can import people. But, one way or another, we need to figure out how we’re going to fill those jobs.

    using a report that says that poor people don’t live in nice houses doesn’t do a lot for your argument.

    You’re misrepresenting what this report says. This report is not about poor people or about nice houses. It’s about median cost rental two-bedroom apartments. “Nice” is, by definition, better than “median.” Rental is, almost be definition, worse than owned. This is a report about what one must earn in order to live in Charlottesville. It’s not about poor people. It’s not about nice houses.

  • Let’s remember that many low wage jobs provide absolutely essential services. The nursing assistants who do the nittygritty of healthcare in our hospitals and nursing homes are usually paid well below a living wage. The childcare providers taking care of the next generation are also extremely underpaid. The schoolbus driver taking your precious child to school may have been working a nightshift to feed his/her family. Should these workers have to live in one room all their lives? Or choose between food and gas?

  • Scifiwahoobyhobby,

    Isn’t capping housing prices unfair to real estate investors in the same way that you claim imposing a living/minimum wage is to employers? you say employers should not be forced to pay more than the market wage–so why should real estate investors be forced to accept less than the market price for the homes they sell? if the market is God (which we as a nation seemed inclined to believe), it should probably be God for everyone. (Note: I do not think the market is God.)

    it sounds like essentially the same thing, except that you happen to be pro-low-paying employer and anti-real estate investor.

    in regards to low-paying employers, you write, “One could argue that these employers should be praised for taking on this significant risk and putting their businesses in such precarious circumstances.” in some cases, maybe–but I don’t think Wal-Mart and Taco Bell are in precarious circumstances. Aren’t the lowest paying employers the ones with the most massive enterprises and the near-monopolies in their market segment? it seems to me that the “little guy” employers that you probably mean to invoke are the ones who are MORE likely to pay a more decent wage than a Wal-Mart, which has the power to say “take it or leave it, I don’t care.”

  • Pete wrote,

    “However, the people who are already making so little money as to not be able to afford market-rate housing have plenty of assistance in the city (not sure about the county).”

    I’d really like to hear more about all these assistance programs that make affordable housing a non-issue for poor people. So would poor people.

  • Thanks for the math lesson, Waldo. I now realize that I was completely wrong and take back everything I ever said. />sarcasm

    Pointing back to what you said:

    “Now attempt to explain that logic to the teachers, firefighters, and police officers who make less than that.”

    I know for a fact that starting teachers in the city make more than the minimum mentioned in the report, and after a number of years, they obviously make far more than that. I don’t know the numbers for the police and fire department; if beginning police officers and firefighters make less than that, that’s something that should simply be rectified by the city government. I’d have no problem with that.

    What would be more helpful would be to know how the median cost of housing compares with median salaries as opposed to rock-bottom salaries. It seems to me that that would be a better marker of the extent of the problem.

    The bigger issue is: what do you propose doing about it? Almost any government intervention will hit the middle class the hardest. Isn’t one of the problems that we’re facing is the fact that the middle class here is shrinking?

  • I know for a fact that starting teachers in the city make more than the minimum mentioned in the report, and after a number of years, they obviously make far more than that.

    Pete, there’s a reason why I’ve been emphasizing facts after you overlook them even after they’ve been restated. Like this one:

    So who cleans the toilets? Who picks up the trash? Who bags the groceries, delivers the pizzas, and washes the dishes?

    […]

    There are innumerable services in this town — I chose three examples, but I named many more further in my post — that are known for not paying well, but are also essential to our city.

    Or consider Gail’s examples — nursing home assistants, school bus drivers and child care providers. There are many such jobs that are essential to our town that somebody has to do.

    What would be more helpful would be to know how the median cost of housing compares with median salaries as opposed to rock-bottom salaries.

    Is $31,680/year a “rock-bottom salary”?

    Is it helpful to know that 25.9% of Charlottesville citizens are below the poverty line?

    The bigger issue is: what do you propose doing about it?

    There are many, many proposals about what do to about it. I provided one in the very blog entry that you’re responding to, which I’ll repeat, but not with emphasis yet, because it’s only the first time I’ve repeated it:

    Presumably the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce will drop their opposition to a living wage now. I kid, of course: they have their head so far up their collective ass that, last month, they shot down a program envisioned by members of their own leadership program that would have acknowledged those local businesses that choose to pay their employees a living wage.

  • Cecil(2),
    I’m not pro or con either individual group. Both regulations are unfair to the individual. I’m not arguing which is more fair. I assuming both are equally unfair, and therefore let’s ask which is better for the society (community) as a whole. I say housing price caps are at least as good, if not better than wage manipulation. I’m trying to think out of the box, and be progressive. A minimum/living wage is such a 20th century idea. ;-)

  • The median sales price in Charlottesville (City of) is about $250k. The median sales price in Albemarle is ~$310k.

    Fluvanna and Greene are both ~#250k as well.

    I was told yesterday that the starting salary for some teachers is ~$40k, which puts them pretty well up there, specifically regarding some of the assistance programs, notably the Workforce Housing Fund.

  • Can all local businesses afford to pay a living wage if the living wage is really $15.23? Sure, McDonalds and Wal-Mart can, but a mom and pop shop probably can’t. And if the city and county begin paying all their employees, including the ones who scrub the toilets, $15.23/hr, that money has to come from somewhere as well. Not to mention the domino effect – you can’t pay the people scrubbing the toilets $15/hour if the people one or two ranks above them are making $15/hr, you have to give them a raise too.

    We definitely need a higher min. wage but that is not going to solve this problem. What I’d like to know is why all these condos and luxury apartments (I’ve seen some advertised on BRAC with rent over $2,000) are being built when it’s clear that we need more rentals in the $500-$700 range. I would like to see my BOS, Albemarle County, do something to attract more affordable rentals – or just do SOMETHING, instead of simply saying “Yeah, housing here sure is expensive.”

  • “it’s clear that we need more rentals in the $500-$700 range.”

    Apparently it’s not that clear at all, if nobody’s building them.

    Either some enterprising folks are going to lose a lot of money on $2k/mth places that sit un-rented, because they missed the demand for more economical housing or that’s not want this community wants. . . . . . or perhaps there’s a 3rd option… folks that want and can afford the $2k/mth apartments, and want to live in Central VA, but currently don’t… I guess they’ll be moving here soon.

  • Waldo, since you seem to be getting some mileage by repeating yourself, I’ll repeat myself:

    “People seem to be harkening back to the days when a high-school dropout could get a decent job and provide for a family. Those days are gone, and that is not just a Charlottesville thing.”

    I didn’t overlook the comments that you keep repeating, I just chose not to respond to them. Since you keep asking, though, I’ll repeat something else that I’ve already said that you haven’t responded to:

    “The lower class is going to benefit from a higher minimum wage. The middle class isn’t going to benefit from a higher minimum wage since they already make substantially more than that anyway. In fact, if anything, they’ll likely be harmed by a higher minimum wage as the cost to businesses trickles down to the cost of goods and services.”

    BTW, I wasn’t saying that $31K/year was rock-bottom (you really must have me pegged as a plutocrat!), I was saying that minimum wage is rock-bottom. Your original post said that you were concerned that a minimum-wage employee can’t afford median housing, and I just pointed out that a better comparison would be to see if a median income (the $31K/year) can afford median housing.

    I’m aware of the poverty rate in the city. However, as far as I can tell, the lower class in the city isn’t shrinking, but the middle class is. Presumably, all of the subsidized housing that the city provides the poor is enabling them to stay here, but the middle class is on its own.

    Besides, I don’t see why you think that we’re on opposite sides of the issue. As I said in my original post:

    “Nobody (well, almost nobody) is arguing that housing here isn’t overpriced or that the minimum wage shouldn’t be substantially higher”

  • Pete,
    You say, “(the middle-class will) likely be harmed by a higher minimum wage” and bemoan the shrinking middle-class in the city and then you end your post by restating that clearly the minimum wage should be substantially higher. I’m confused. Am I missing something?

  • It should be substantially higher than $5.15/hr (or whatever it is now). It should be far lower than the $15.23/hr that the initial report implies would be needed. We should not ignore the plight of the poor, but beware of the law of unintended consequences.

  • Any artificial wage requirement on business will have unintended consequences. Aside from the inflationary pressures that you mention, there is also the potential of folks losing their jobs as a result of a minimum wage hike.

    And there’s the real (c.f. nominal) value of the wage that is reduced as a result a govt institute minimum wage. Take my friend who worked at a small office for 4 years. She started at $6/hr, but because of her quality work and loyalty to the company she’s worked her way up to $10/hr with $1 dollar raises every year. If the govt comes in and decides, “the new minimum wage = $9.50/hr” what happened to those 4 years of pay raises. They’re worthless, because now some schmoe can come in off the street and make what she has worked 4 years to earn.

  • I recently had cause to look into the correlation between minimum wage increases and unemployment. Here’s a graph of unemployment rates from 1945-2006, with every increase in the minimum wage marked.

    Graph

    Granted, this is an enormous oversimplification of economics, but I certainly see no correlation.

  • Waldo,
    Thanks for the graph, and although you acknowledged it’s an over-simplification, I think it completely misses the mark because it measures the Unemp Rate of the whole economy against min. wage increases, and these wage earners only make up a small portion of the economy.

    What would be slightly more telling, would be the change in employment rate of people earning the min wage before and after a rate hike. But even that data could be deceptive, because if you are a teenager still in high school who gets fired because of the minimum wage hike, you may not look for another job and thus wouldn’t be considered unemployed.

    Moreover, I’ve seen studies, where employment actually increased after a minimum wage hike. Sounds good, right? Well, it wasn’t because although the companies added more employees, they significantly reduced the number of full-time benefit earning employees, because of the increase costs that it incurred after the wage hike.

    All that said, I’m completely open to folks sharing studies or data that can show a net positive effect as a result of a minimum wage increase.

  • I wonder what the effect would be of a split minimum wage — one for adults and one for kids aged X and under? (X being 18, 17, 16, whatever.) I’ve heard the concept tossed around, but I’ve never read any studies on the topic. There’s no need to sweep them up in the need for a living wage.

  • Doah! I’ve been completely taken off-topic. My original point was that housing price caps are better for a community than min. wage increases. Why isn’t that as viable a solution to the cost of living problem as a forced wage hike?

  • I’d hypothesize that everyone would want to hire kids under that age, rather than pay the living wage. I bet it would cause the wages for the kids to be even higher than their mandated minimum (of course still lower than the living wage)… and I also bet that all the folks in the market for the living wage would have trouble finding a job. The ol’ “unintended” consequences.

  • Rent controls have a long and sordid history of drastically decreasing the supply of housing in an area. There’s no incentive for anyone to build anything nice or even maintain what they have since it will have no effect on the rental income.

    A split minimum wage would decrease the incentive to hire folks over the cutoff age, who is exactly who it would be trying to help.

  • Back in NYC, rent controlled apartments are highly prized commodities. I’m not familiar with the entire history of rent control there, but for some reason, certain units are controlled and certain ones aren’t. Those who live in controlled units rarely leave them, which results in almost none being on the market. There are stories of people moving into the apartments of their dead relatives to keep the unit in the family!

    Now, I know it’s hard to compare the markets in Cville and NYC, but thought I’d share. I don’t have the solution to this problem, but I know that rent control is not part of it.

  • Moreover, I’ve seen studies, where employment actually increased after a minimum wage hike. Sounds good, right? Well, it wasn’t because although the companies added more employees, they significantly reduced the number of full-time benefit earning employees, because of the increase costs that it incurred after the wage hike.

    6 of one, half dozen of the other. Benefits aren’t affordable if you’re an employee making less than 10/hour (and if they are affordable- they’re almost the same as “no benefits at all”). plus a lot of times those employers are hiring for positions that are less than full time – which mean no benefits anyway.

    Frankly if an employer cannot afford to pay at least 10 dollars an hour then they can’t afford to hire an employee.

    The City of Charlottesville sets the example for other businesses with their living wage of “9.72/hour” (and even then they’re better than the average private employer). Plus or minus that dollar figure is a typical pay range of most of the non-professional support jobs in Charlottesville that people want staffed but no one wants to pay for, and it’s usually minus not plus. That’s “20,217.60” per year – if you get full time hours, and that’s the gross- not the net. And those aren’t the “glamour jobs” (Teacher’s, Police, Firefighters) that get the most P.R. when people think of jobs people have that don’t pay enough. Don’t believe me? Check out the Virginia Employment commission’s Job Listings for Charlottesville at the Automated Labor Exchange.

    Teachers, Police, and Firefighters actually do pretty well by comparison to those other numbers. Police officers in Charlottesville start at “33,904” Teachers in the city school system for the 2006- 2007 school year start at 37,800 (pdf). Charlottesville Firefighters start at 33,999.69.

    As I’ve said before if an employer cannot afford to pay someone at least 10 dollars an hour then they really can’t afford to hire someone. As it is employers already have a very skewed idea of what 8.00/hr should pay for.

    And just for fun…

    Waldo wrote:

    So who cleans the toilets? Who picks up the trash? Who bags the groceries, delivers the pizzas, and washes the dishes? It’s a serious problem that many towns haven’t figured out how to solve.

    Sure they have. The employers import illegal immigrants who’ll do the work for minimum wage, and will live 27 people to a house so they can afford to have money left over to send home. The Outerbanks residents are doing legally what in many communities across the nation is done illegally.

    As an additional note- apologies in advance if some of those links don’t work- the WYSIWYG feature was acting up when I was trying to put them in.

  • Not directly to any point but I think the biggie union contracts usually contain a protection clause which stipulates their lower tier workers must receive wages which is a large multiple of the legal minimum wage. This obviously has an impact on the increase in inflation and probably (maybe) much more significant than the minimum wage rise in various local service industries. These union workers make, in many instances, the big ticket items , which puts the strain on inflation, as when when minimums are raised their wages take a large jump.

  • I assume you mean outside of Virginia, since there ain’t no such thing as a union here, properly speaking.

  • I kinda of skim everyone’s comments. I am surpise no one here has even consider the problem lies with supply and demand. We just don’t have enough housing to support our market demands. And the reason why real estate is so high is that they couldn’t support the demand. CVille and Albemarle have this ongoing fight with anyone who proposes any new type of development or housing. It is almost like clockworth. Hey, lets build 400 houses here and that generates the usual protest and the fight againist growth yada yada. Anyone can tell you that people are still moving here. They are all seem to be the new money or the 45 year retirees from the north. We are not stopping anyone from moving here. We were just having bidding wars with those who moving here. And that in turns screws anyone who lives here to start with.

    Case in point, if I was a recent retiree who was around 50 to 55 years old. And I didn’t want to retire to FL but rather the wonderful foot hills of the Blue Ridge. I would pick Charlottesville so many of my friends have. I would then travel down here to discover the lack of housing. But you know, who cares because i have a big nest egg. I can afford a house that cost 500k that in any other market would cost 200k.

    So what do you tell that person who could sell his house over X amount. Do you tell him that he needs to cut it down to make it reasonable? No, if there is a fool out there willingly to overpay, it isn’t the seller’s fault. I think the problem lies in the head in the sand everyone has in here. Hey lets fight growth head on with the developers. Yet people are still moving here regardless.

  • IamDaMan3 – Thanks for raising this question. With regard to the potential housing supply… are you aware of the pipeline of housing that has already been approved and not built in the City and County? Recent coverage in the Daily Progress is here in an article that starts as follows: ‘About 18,000 proposed units are in the housing pipeline in Charlottesville and Albemarle County…’ You can download the PEC report here.
    Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) is on record saying we now have an oversupply of approved housing units. Also when real estate and developer representatives spoke in October 2006 to the Albemarle County Planning Commission about affordable living choices, they also described an oversupply. If, as you say, ‘we just don’t have enough housing to support our market demands,’ then why don’t the developers build the houses they already have permission to build? They could flood the market and take care of this problem right?
    Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow

  • Point of clarification, and maybe it’s just semantics, but –

    “Affordable housing” is a misnomer – all housing is affordable to somebody.

    “Workforce housing” is a better descriptor, and one of the reasons that the local Workforce Housing Fund is targeted at the workforce segment of our market.

  • Case in point, if I was a recent retiree who was around 50 to 55 years old. And I didn’t want to retire to FL but rather the wonderful foot hills of the Blue Ridge. I would pick Charlottesville so many of my friends have. I would then travel down here to discover the lack of housing.

    There are actually two large “Age Restricted” developments “in the pipeline” that cater specifically to the 55 plus crowd. Although they are not in Charlottesville proper they are “in the area.” One is in Greene County One (link here) which is now being advertised as ‘discounted’ by 75k and the other in Orange County (specifically Gordonsville). And this website has a listing of what’s under construction and consideration in Orange County they have the number of units estimated at 8000 (Caveat: I’m not sure how current it is).

    If, as you say, ‘we just don’t have enough housing to support our market demands,’ then why don’t the developers build the houses they already have permission to build? They could flood the market and take care of this problem right?

    That argument is not entirely honest.

    If the issue is “affordable housing” or as Jim phrases it “workforce housing.” Then that’s what they should do so that housing prices correct themselves by lowering to ranges of affordablity for “workforce housing.” Keeping them off the market by not building approved and in the pipeline units, is market manipulation so that the existing housing stock stays expensive. Although I honestly can’t fault them for that.

  • Why build a $80,000 house and make a $10,000 profit when you could build a $500,000 house and make a $100,000 profit?

  • or in this area, just build a 200k and sell it for 500k because someone will buy it.

  • Brian Wheeler seems to make a good point. With over 18,000 dwelling units already “in the pipeline,” the burden of affordable housing supply seems to rest on the shoulders of developers. They are more than entitled to time the market and make a proffit, but at what point do their development strategies for making a proffit begin to adversely affect the supply of truely affordable housing? Maybe the County’s affordable housing regulations aren’t strong enough?

  • I wonder what the effect would be of a split minimum wage — one for adults and one for kids aged X and under? (X being 18, 17, 16, whatever.) I’ve heard the concept tossed around, but I’ve never read any studies on the topic. There’s no need to sweep them up in the need for a living wage.

    Something came down the pipeline today that actually had that concept in it – a plan through 2008. Can’t find any independent verification on the web, but I thought it was a Virginia state mandate.

  • Let’s see, 33,900 for cops and fire fighters. This is still 2,000 bucks behind Charlottesvilles stated PCI in the Daily Progess recently. Chesterfield and Henrico, with slightly lower COL start at 36,000. Fairfax over 40,000. Are we a “world class” city? If so, public safety is one of the basics. Do you want bottom of the barrel cops and firefighters in this town? You need to pony up to get the best and keep well trained people.

    Now the City has a budget surplus. Let’s see if some of the public safety workers get a decent bump this time. Starting pay is not the issue, huge compression is. Also mid level supervision pay is really bad compared to other cities in Virginia with similar COL.

    Teachers, cops, and fire fighters used to have a little parity, but with the VEA and NEA, teachers are pulling ahead. But that’s probably also due to the City tending to ignore the importance of their public safety personnel, until they really need them of course.

  • Teachers make WAY more than minimum wage. Why is this urban myth so resilient?

    With Bachelor’s Degree only:
    0 years experience: $37,695
    30 years: $61,308

    Let’s not forget they work 9 months of the year and have many benefits not available to the community they “serve”.

    Here’s the Albemarle Payscales link:
    http://www.albemarle.org/department.asp?department=hr&relpage=2039

  • Teachers make WAY more than minimum wage. Why is this urban myth so resilient?

    Whose point are you refuting, Sympatico? Nobody here ever claimed that teachers make minimum wage.

  • 2 teachers with 5 years experience (27-29 years old) each marry…
    $40, 753 x 2 = $81,506*

    If they work during the summer, they can each drive a Benz too! ;)

    They can even get divorced the next year and have a 2 bedroom apartment each no problemo.

    The point I am making is there is indeed a cost of living issue (a BIG one) in cville, but it is important not to look to the wrong people for either who’s being affected most (teachers are not suffering IMO) or advice (you got the Chamber of Commerce evaluation right). Sure, your point about them moving to less onerous locations is a possibility, but then, that’s true for everyone who counts on a paycheck to pay the bills.

    As a side note, Whole Foods just increased everyone earning less than $12 per hour to that.

    I find it mediocre Americans generally look at Europe’s socialized environments with a sneer. But their *transfer payment” system is far more transparent and equitable than ours, which counts on boom and bust cycles to identify only the worst problems AFTER they’ve done the most damage.

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