Illinois has most expensive Midwest apartment rentals: Report

By Cole Lauterbach 
Illinois News Network

There isn’t a county in Illinois where a minimum wage job would pay for a two-bedroom apartment, according to a new study. But landlords say people don’t understand that renters here are shouldering the same property tax burden as homeowners, making both unaffordable.

The housing wage, as the National Low Income Housing Coalition calls it, is what someone would need to earn to afford a two-bedroom apartment. It varies from more than $23 per hour in Cook County to $12.60 in Adams County along the Mississippi River. The statewide average is $20.87, more than $4 per hour more than Illinois’ closest neighbor, Wisconsin.

A look at statewide figures from NLIHC’s report.

Andrew Aurand, NLIHC’s VP of Research, said Illinois is much more expensive than the rest of the Midwest, leading people to work more hours and skimp on other staples.

“They often have to sacrifice other basic needs, like health care and groceries, in order to pay for rent,” Aurand said. His organization advocates for more federal subsidies for low-income residents and to use a rollback in the mortgage interest deduction to pay for it.

Paul Arena, Rockford resident and director of Legislative Affairs for the Illinois Property Rental Association, said renters are the victims of Illinois’ high property taxes.

“Between 18 and 22 percent of the rent bill goes to pay property taxes in this state,” he said. “The public, in general, doesn’t appreciate the fact that a tenant is also paying property taxes. We don’t always view renters as taxpayers, but they are.”

In Winnebago County, renters earn an estimated $2.56 per hour below the wage NLIHC says is necessary to afford a two-bedroom unit. A two-bedroom unit at fair market value would run $768 per month around Rockford. But, says NLIHC, renters at the estimated mean wage in the county could only afford $635 per month.

Statewide, those earning minimum wage would need to work 85 hours per week in order to afford “a modest one-bedroom” rental.

Illinois and Colorado are the only non-coastal states requiring more than $20 an hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

–With staff reports

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