Explainer video: How much you need to earn to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Pennsylvania

    On average, $14.21 an hour.

    $14.21 an hour is the amount you’d have to earn, on average, to afford a “modest” one-bedroom apartment and utilities in Pennsylvania. That’s assuming you’re working 40 hours a week. Many people, especially workers who make minimum wage, can’t get that many hours.

    This is a statewide figure and varies depending on the city. In the Philadelphia area, a worker would have to earn $18.44. In Pittsburgh, $12.12. In State College, $13.90.

    We talked to people who make less than these amounts about what they do to afford housing.

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    Kristen GonzalezJob: Front desk clerk at the Hampton Inn Williamsport-DowntownWage: $10.50 per hour, 40 hours a weekRent: $550 per month plus utilities


    (Eleanor Klibanoff/WPSU)

    Gonzalez lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her husband in Williamsport. Her family owns the apartment, so they give her a deal.

    “My husband is a pipe fitter, but he’s been laid off for the past two and a half years for a work injury. He hasn’t been able to work and hasn’t brought in any income. That’s probably why my family doesn’t charge me so much.

    You definitely have to have a full-time job, and maybe another part-time job, just in order to be able to pay your rent [and] your bills, and to live. It’s not just rent you have to worry about. You have car payments and insurance. A lot of people struggle.”


    Ashona OsborneJob: Fast food worker at McDonald’s, PittsburghWage: $7.55 per hour, 40 hours a weekRent: $71 a month


    (Irina Zhorov/WESA)

    Osborne has a five-year old son. Unable to afford rent, she sought out subsidized housing in the East End of Pittsburgh, where they now live with her aunt. But she says she still has a hard time getting by.

    “My whole check is gone within the hour after I pay my bills. I know that my utilities and a shut off notice could come any time and get them out the way first. And then it’s, okay, what does my son need? It comes down to [the fact that] we need food.

    I’m tired of having to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet, and that’s me bypassing being a mother for my child. It’s like, when I’m being a mom I can’t be [making] money, and whenever I do be a mom I’m missing out on work. So it’s very, very difficult.”


    Mindy CorceliusJob: Floral designer at Woodrings Floral Gardens, BellefonteWage: $9.50 per hour, 40 hours a weekRent: $480 per month plus utilities


    (Eleanor Klibanoff/WPSU)

    Corcelius studied floral design at Penn College in Williamsport and graduated about five years ago.

    “To be on my own, I have to have roommates. If I wanted a one-bedroom apartment, I can’t afford it by myself.

    I’ve been doing this since college, so five or six years. I can’t really expect to make more money or move up unless I decide to move somewhere and open up a shop, which is hard to imagine right now with the amount of money I’m earning.”


    Ashley LopezJob: Fast food worker at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, PhiladelphiaWage: $7.75 an hour, 15–20 hours a weekRent: $850 a month plus utilities


    (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

    Lopez and her husband have two children. She would like to work full-time but can’t get the hours. Her husband earns $11 an hour, working 50 hours a week as a cook at a small restaurant.

    That means the family doesn’t get to spend a lot of time together.

    “When we do have the opportunity to be with the family we don’t really enjoy it because we’ve been working a lot, and we’re tired.”

    To save money, Lopez and her family just moved from a house, where the rent cost $1800 a month, to a small apartment in South Philadelphia.

    John CalhounJob: Data entry clerk at the Mayor’s Commission on Aging in PhiladelphiaWage: $7.25 an hour, 20 hours a weekRent: $160 a month


    (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

    Calhoun works at Mayor’s Commission on Aging. He’s part of a program that employs seniors part-time, under the condition that they look for full-time work.

    Even if Calhoun worked 40 hours a week, he wouldn’t be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia.

    To get by, he lives with someone who has a subsidized apartment because of her disability.

    “My financial situation is such that I just can’t get up and leave. I’m stuck. Me stepping out of that situation right now would be me stepping into a shelter. And that doesn’t help my employment [prospects]. Because today, with the Internet, when somebody gives you an address, you can Google it and say ‘oh, this is a shelter.’ That’s not a background check, but I know [hiring managers] do it.”


    Will RegisJob: Security guard, PhiladelphiaWage: $14/hour, at least 40 hours a weekRent: $935 a month plus utilities


    (Marielle Segarra/WHYY)

    Regis lives with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment in Northeast Philadelphia. In addition to rent, he has to pay his car loan and insurance.

    “I haven’t eaten anything [except a cookie] today. I’m debating if I should just wait for later instead of just buying something now. I got the whole week ahead of me and I get paid biweekly.

    I’ve been picking up extra hours as much as I can. That’s the only way I’m going to make it. I put everything else to the side. I don’t do nothing but work, really.”

    Video production by Diana Robinson

    Reporting by Marielle Segarra, Irina Zhorov and Eleanor Klibanoff

    Data sources: National Low Income Housing Coalition; United States Department of Housing and Urban Development; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (2009–2013) 

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