Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sample Essay Nickel and Dimed, Rent

Mr. Peters
English 102
25 January 2007

Yakima for Rent

Is housing available for the workers earning minimum wage in Yakima? This is what I wanted to know. After figuring how much minimum wage one person would earn for one month, I searched for housing around the city that was affordable and livable. What I have found is very interesting. Although people earning minimum wage in Yakima may not have much money, affordable, livable housing is available.

In the State of Washington, the minimum wage is $7.93 per hour
(U.S. Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division 1). Multiply this by 40 hours per week, as someone would work full time. This equals $317.20. There are 4.29 weeks in a 30 day month (30/7). So $317.20 times 4.29 ($1360.79) is the gross monthly wage of a full-time minimum wage worker. According to Barbara Ehrenreich, rents less than 30% of one’s income are considered “affordable,” (170). Take $1,360.79 and multiply by .3 and you have your 30% pay allocated for rent which is $408.24, which rounds to $400.
Minimum Wage
Hours Per
Weeks Per month

Gross Monthly Wage
30% of monthly wage
$7.93/ Hour

I decided to invest some time in searching for motels that might be a possible place to live for a minimum-wage worker. Cedar Suites cost over $300/week, which is way out of the question for this project (Cedar Suites 1). Most motels charge this or a little less, but still, motels charge way over the 30% of monthly minimum wage. Yakima Inn charges $31/night, which comes to just over $200/week, or $800/month. The Local Motel 6 charges $38.99/night, or over $1,100/month. In Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich found this to be true also, paying $245-$295 for a motel room (150-151). So, motels would not be a possible place to live for minimum-wage earners. I still had to find livable, affordable housing in Yakima.

Yakima has a few houses or apartments available for $400 per month or less. I initially found six in the Yakima area that were listed at $400 or less. has a good listing of houses/apartments available for renting under $400. After further research, I came to the conclusion that one in Selah didn’t exist; there was no such address on that certain road. Then at 1607 McKinley Avenue in Yakima, I discovered that they were asking $350 a month, not for a house or apartment unit, but for an 1800 square-foot shop/barn. Obviously, with no bedrooms or bathrooms, this was not what I was looking for. All others were asking $350 to $400 for rentals.

On S. 9th Avenue, I found #207 and #202. The rental at #207 was in an old apartment complex, but it didn’t seem to be very dirty but actually livable, and affordable at $395/month. Number 202 was an even older apartment, and seemed very small and dirty, but still a possible place for someone to live, costing $350. After these, I found a slightly less appealing abode.
The “Cypress Manor,” as it was called, at 513 N. 2nd Street, was an affordable place to live. It was a two-story apartment building with at most ten to fifteen units. If someone were willing to live in the midst of children’s toys strewn about the front yard, then they could handle living here. This place was not the best place to live, but it was affordable, and to someone earning minimum wage, maybe even an acceptable place to reside. Living here would definitely take some getting used to, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and someone earning minimum wage would be desperate to find an affordable place to live. At $375/month, they could live at the Cypress Manor.

I found a good house for rent at 807 S. 13th Ave. This house was affordable at a surprising $350 per month. This house was a stone’s throw from YVCC, which is in a good location near local businesses. It was very large, for this price range and could house a small family. This house would be one of the better homes in Yakima. It was a very acceptable place to live in my book for someone living on minimum wage.

In my findings, houses were available to minimum-wage workers. But some may argue that it is just not possible to live and rent a house on minimum wage. They say that minimum-wage workers do not make enough money, and that they require a living wage to survive. But Washington State has the highest minimum wage of any state
(U.S. Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division 1). This, coupled with the low cost of living we currently experience in Yakima should make this very possible for a single person with no children. Also, they say that not enough homes are available for rent, arguing that there are 37 available houses for 100 low income families (Ehrenreich 140). I have found plenty of available places to live that are affordable for the minimum-wage worker. People argue that yes, some houses are up for rent, but they are not livable. In Yakima, my findings were that the houses were livable, and clean enough, with some exceptions. Some may argue that houses may be available and livable, but too small for a family, which is just not the case. I found houses/apartments big enough for a small family. I can’t see how one-fifth of the homeless have full-time or part-time jobs, considering that housing is available for the minimum wage workers (Ehrenreich 26).

Low wage workers, even minimum-wage workers, can rent affordable housing for themselves in Yakima. Houses are cheap enough to rent, and they are available after a little searching. Housing is not only available, but livable for minimum-wage earners. The cost of living in the Yakima Valley is bearable. Yes, it is possible to live on minimum wage and find a place to live.

Works Cited
Cedar Suites. 3 August 2006. Cedar Suites at Yakima Convention Center. 21 January 2007. <>.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed. New York: Owl Books Henry Holt and Company, 2001.
U.S. Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division. December 2006. U.S. Department of Labor. 21 January 2007.
<>. January 2007. 21 January 2007. .

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