Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Housing Nickel and Dimed Sample Essay

English 102
January 25, 2007
Housing for the Minimum Wage Worker

How am I going to afford a place to live when I only earn minimum wage? This is the question that many people ask themselves everyday in Yakima. Housing in Yakima can be difficult to afford for anyone regardless of income. For someone who is working for minimum wage this is even more of a challenge. The high cost of housing in Yakima makes it hard for someone to find a quality place to live while earning minimum wage. The current minimum wage in Washington State is $7.93/hour, which is approximately $1,374 per month before taxes for a person working full time. Of that amount no more than 30% or $412 should be used to pay for housing. The availability of housing for a person living in Yakima while earning minimum wage can be difficult, but not impossible to find because of the amount of housing assistance available, wide variety of housing options and the ability to share housing costs with friends or family members.

It is possible to find housing in Yakima while living on minimum because of the numerous types of assistance available to low income families, people just need to know where to look. “Is there help for the hardworking poor? Yes, but it takes a determined and not too terribly poor person to find it,” (101) points out Ehrenreich in her book Nickel & Dimed. To qualify for assistance a person would have to be considered low income, which is determined using the MFI or median family income. According to HUD or Department of Housing and Urban Development the median family income for Yakima County in 2006 was $46,300/year and a single person would be considered low income if they made $30,300/year or a family of four would be low income at $39,900. If they are considered low income they would qualify for low income housing through the Housing Authority of the City of Yakima or rent & utility bill assistance with Opportunities Industrialization Center or OIC of Washington. There is different housing options available based on the level of a persons income.

When someone is determined to be low or very low income they qualify for housing that they can afford. There are four apartment complexes available for individuals or families in Yakima and Selah. Information on them can be found on the Multifamily Affordable Properties website The Park Village and Selah Park apartment complexes is Selah offer one to three bedroom apartments for rent costing up to $484/month. Tenants that qualify can receive a rent subsidy that is based on 30% of their income. In Yakima, the Cascade-Senator and Savoy apartments are available to individuals and families that are consider very low income. These complexes offer studio apartments for up to $350/month, most are furnished and some include a private bathroom. Not all people will meet the income requirements needed to live in these complexes.

Even without assistance there is a wide variety of locations and types of housing available that may help in the search for affordable quality housing. There is currently a one bedroom apartment located at 807 S. 13th Ave for $350 per month. It does have a $20 non-refundable application fee and a deposit of $300. The apartment is inside a remodeled home that has been converted into smaller one bedroom apartments. There is also a one bedroom apartment on N. 15th Avenue available for $425/month with a $300 deposit and $20 non-refundable application fee. If someone has a child and needs more than one bedroom there is a two bedroom apartment on N. 66th Avenue for $475/month with a $300 deposit and $20 non-refundable application fee. In apartments, the utilities are paid by the landlord and can cost from $100-200 per month. Someone can also rent a room at various hotels around town for the week or month, but this should only be a last resort because of the higher total cost per month. Some of those are the Days Inn for $2100/month or the Sun Country Inn for $1800/month; both of these hotels are located on north 1st street. Ehrenreich describes this “On Cape Cod, too, rising rents for apartments and houses are driving the working class into motels, where a room might go for$880 a month in winter but climbs to $1,440 a month in the tourist season.” (55) The ability to live with friends or family can increase the chances of finding affordable quality housing in Yakima.

Living with a roommate or having a family with two incomes allows people to have greater access to quality housing and can reduce the burden on each person in the home. The location of an apartment or house can be in a safer and more desirable neighborhood such as listing on Yakima-Homes.Com, it has a home on S. 14th Avenue that has two bedrooms and one bathroom for $575/month and has a washer/dryer hookup. There is also a complex in Selah that can be found on the Home Source of Yakima website, it has a two bedroom, one bath apartment for $650/month with the utilities paid by the landlord. When the utilities are paid by the landlord it decreases the stress involved when it comes time to pay the bills.

While there are many options available, there are also many challenges that face someone looking for a place to live. The initial costs for moving in can be staggering. Most places have a $15-40 non-refundable application fee; deposits range anywhere from $250-400 and some may even require the first and last months rent. This would be a total of approximately $1000-1500 in initial costs. “And where am I supposed to get a month’s rent and a month’s deposit for an apartment?”(27), wondered Gail when she talked to Ehrenreich about her housing situation in Nickel & Dimed. The landlords at apartment complexes usually cover the cost of utilities but not in duplexes or houses. This cost can increase in the winter when heating costs increase significantly when they have to pay extra for gas or oil to heat their homes.

The motels around town that do rent by the week or month may cost less than traditional housing, but are usually not always located in the best neighborhoods in town. The Shady Lane Motel in Union Gap has a weekly rate of $135 or monthly for $600 which must be paid in advance, there is also a $50 damage deposit. This is shown in Nickel & Dimed when Ehrenreich wrote “If you can’t put up two months’ rent you need to secure an apartment, you end up paying through the nose for a room by the week.”(27) While cheaper than traditional hotels, the residents are sacrificing some quality and relative safety issues that they have to be concerned with.

Overall it can be a very difficult task to find a place to live while working for minimum wage. The more informed a person is about the housing market, the more likely they are to find a place they can afford. The housing situation can be overwhelming if they don’t know how to look and not seek help from local agencies, friends or family members. The more people involved, the easier it will be to find affordable quality housing in Yakima.

Work Cited

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001

Home Source of Yakima, Home Source of Yakima,

Multifamily Affordable Properties, Apartment Finder,

United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD Income Limits. FY 2006 Income Limits.


807 S. 13th Ave, Yakima
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, $350/month, $300 deposit, $20 non-refundable application fee

9 N. 15th Ave, Yakima
1 Bedroom, 1 Bath, $425/month, $300 deposit, $20 non-refundable application fee

707 S. 14th Ave, Yakima
2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, $575/month, $400 deposit, $20 non-refundable application fee

308 Valley View, Selah
2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, $650/month, $350 deposit, $40 non-refundable application

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