Report: How much do you need to earn hourly to afford rent in Sonoma, other North Bay counties?

Sonoma County residents need to earn at least $38.38 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The annual “Out of Reach” report examines how much a full-time worker needs to earn to afford rental housing in the U.S. without spending more than 30% of their income. The report uses fair market rent, which are estimates determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to determine the cost of monthly rent in counties nationwide.

About 30% of households in Sonoma County are renters whose estimated average hourly wage is $20.05, according to the report. A resident would need to earn $38.38 per hour (or $79,840 per year) to afford a two-bedroom rental unit that costs $1,996 per month. To cover the cost of rental housing, a worker earning minimum wage would need 2.7 jobs.

Many of the most common industries in Sonoma County, such as hospitality and home health care, pay workers less than $40,000 per year. Servers, for example, earn an average of $36,530 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nursing assistants earn an average of $39,340 per year.

Without enough money to pay for rent, workers are forced to live in overcrowded housing, commute from more affordable areas or forego medical and dental care or other necessities, said Jenni Klose, executive director of Generation Housing.

Even residents who earn between $60,000 and $70,000 “are teetering on the edge of deciding to move somewhere else,” she said.

“We’re not going to have the people needed to support the industries we have,” she said. “It’s going to become a place where wealthy people live and lose its ongoing sustainable industries.”

The high cost of rental housing has disproportionately affected people of color who live in Sonoma County, she added.

Based on IPUMS data, 54% of the county’s Latino population and 71% of the Black population are spending more than 30% of their income on rent.

“Unless we really decide to take this seriously and be innovative and bold in our solutions, it’s going to get worse. It’s unsustainable,” Klose said.

The hourly wage needed to afford rental housing is similar in Napa County, where 36% of households are renters who earn an estimated average hourly wage of $19.29, the data shows. To cover the $2,018 fair market rent of a two-bedroom unit, a resident would need to make $38.81 per hour (or $80,720 per year). A resident earning minimum wage would need to work 2.8 jobs to cover the cost.

In Lake and Mendocino counties, residents would need to earn about half of what they would in Sonoma and Napa counties to afford rent.

A Lake County resident would need to make $20.62 per hour (or $42,880 per year) to cover fair market rent of $1,072. To afford that, a worker earning minimum wage would need 1.5 jobs. A Mendocino County resident would need to earn $23.85 per hour (or $49,600 per year) to cover fair market rent of $1,240. A minimum wage worker would need 1.7 jobs to pay for rent.

Marin County’s fair market rent is about three times more than Lake and Mendocino counties’ rental housing costs, according to the report. It also is tied with San Francisco and San Mateo counties as the most expensive in California. With fair market rents for two-bedroom units at $3,553, residents need to earn $68.33 per hour (or $142,120 per year). A worker earning minimum wage would need to have 4.9 jobs to cover the cost.

In Solano County, 39% of households are renters. They would have to make $64,680 a year ($31.10 an hour) to afford a two-bedroom unit, whose average fair market rent is $1,617 monthly. Solano renters would need 2.2 jobs to pay for such a flat at minimum wage.

California has the highest housing wage in the country, followed by Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, the report said. An hourly wage of $39.03 would be needed to cover California’s fair market rent of $2,030.

Renters make up nearly half of California households, and the average renter wage currently is $24.89 ― over $14 less than what is needed to pay for fair market rent.

To read the report, visit To explore data by ZIP code, visit

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