In the local newspaper today it stated the average selling price of a single family home this year in Denver is over $400,000.
Single-family homes are up 15.9 percent in value in metro Denver the past year. At $338,600, the average cost is out of reach for many first-time buyers.
So I did some research and calculations. The monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage at 4.25% plus interest and insurance is approximately $1,988. (That's assuming you were lucky enough to qualify with only putting down $33,800, which is 10% instead of the usual 20% required.) A couple -- both wage earners -- each making two and half times the minimum wage, still could not afford to buy a home in Denver. A household needs $36/hour to qualify.
So what does it take to rent in Denver? I know from personal experience, the average rental rate for a one bedroom, and nothing terrific, is around $1,300 a month. The rental industry requires proof a tenant makes 3 to 4 times the cost of rent. That means a tenant must net about $28/hour assuming only 3 times the rent is required. One person would need to make 4 times minimum wage to rent or a couple would each need to make twice the minimum wage. Where are those jobs? Few and far between.
This is why Denver is having an employment crisis. It's on the front page of the Denver Post today. Nearly everywhere you look, companies are hiring. The problem is they are not paying enough for people to live in Denver or the Denver metro area. Where are the 4 times minimum wage jobs? Even for college graduates, the jobs aren't out there. Take 20 minutes to read through the want ads under "all jobs" and you'll get proof of what people are paying. Most are not paying a living wage. And what a living wage is, might surprise you.
I found a job in the legal field requiring a college degree with a paralegal certificate who can speak Spanish and English that pays $15.38/hour after taxes. At that wage, he/she won't qualify for an apartment. Even a $1000 studio (a rare find) requires a minimum income of $3000 a month up to $4000 a month. If a person is hugely lucky, maybe a studio apartment could be landed. Maybe. And just how long does this person work at this job to save enough to buy a home? I don't need to do the math to tell you that this person in this job, and even in this field, will not be able to save the $40,000 to $80,000 it takes to purchase a home, nor will the pay rise high enough over the years to ever qualify to buy a home unless prices go down or wages significantly increase.
Here's another job, but it only pays minimum wage to start. That's $7.25 / hour in case you didn't know. What does a minimum wage earner net after 40 hours a week for one month? It's right around $1,000. One thousand dollars is supposed to put food on the table and a roof overhead, but you can clearly see that just doesn't do it; not even close. Add in utilities, a phone, co-pays on medical care, personal products, must have household products, transportation expense, a bare minimum business wardrobe and eating out once every two months. Even twice minimum wage doesn't get a person into an apartment, much less allow for these other near necessities. We haven't even begun to talk about quality of life, we're still just trying to survive.
Back to the guy hiring for the legal position. He says he is a doctor and an attorney. Where does he expect employees to live? Not only where but how?! (I paid $7/hour to my employees in a retail shop in the 1990's!!) His ad in part reads:
"Candidates should be well spoken and present well. Prior experience is preferred. Bilingual (spanish) is preferred as well. We do have a fairly large spanish speaking client base. Solid references and a stable employment history are also pluses. Our Firm is a team of all-stars and only all-stars seem to fit in with us. We are looking for a high energy, team players who are motivated to go above and beyond traditional standards. We are looking for candidates with a proven track record of success and those with superior computer skills. You must have a positive attitude and be excellent at talking with clients, adjusters, attorneys and your colleagues. You must also have attention to detail. If you frequently have typos in your work product, you should not apply."
Here's some good news. I found a job on Craigslist that pays $19 - $20 hour + overtime. Yearly, at the higher end of $20/hr it comes to a net (after taxes) of approximately $33,800 a year. If this person could find a studio for $933, he/she could take this job. There will likely be no hope of ever owning a home, but at least this person could work very hard and afford to stay in Denver, and with a lot of overtime, maybe save to rent a one bedroom place eventually.
This on-your-feet-for-8-hours assembly job at a factory requires:
• Able to pass a background check. No felonies.
• Able to pass a pre-employment 9-panel drug screening.
• High School Diploma or GED, education verification.
• Reliable and dependable.
• Hard-working with good work ethic.
• Able to stand for 8+ hours.
• Availability to work overtime as needed.
• Able to lift 50lbs on a regular basis.
•Able to bend and twist on a frequent basis.
• Good written and oral communication.
• Previous Forklift, Wave, and Overhead Crane Experience.
• Hand Tools Required.
• Able to work in a factory environment, loud noise, high speed equipment while maintaining a safe work environment. Steele toed shoes/boots required.
I could give you job after job and after job examples of how what's out there isn't a living wage.
Tell me what your reasons are for not supporting a $15/hour minimum wage? You can't rent an apartment in Denver on $15/hour job or even on $20/hour if you want a one bedroom. This country needs to wake up and see the reality of what's going on with the majority of people. If a business can't make it while paying $15/hour, then they shouldn't be in business.
Coincidentally, on the day I write this post, there's a disturbing story in the paper about a project to help Denver's homeless. The headline reads:
10 arrested after building 'tiny homes' for the homeless in Denver park
"Today (October 24, 2015) hundreds of people came out to Sustainability Park in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Denver to build a tiny home village where three urban farms are being displaced to build an apartment development," activists said.
"In explaining why they had chosen this site on which to establish the village, the group recounted how the Denver Housing Authority, which owns the property, has torn down hundreds of low-income housing units, and after allowing the Urban Farming Cooperative to use the land for a few years, has agreed this year to sell the land to a private developer, who will build multifamily housing that will support gentrification in Curtis Park but be far beyond the reach of those for whom the Denver Housing Authority is supposed to exist."