Buncombe County’s living wage is now nearly double the minimum wage. That’s according to one local group that makes such calculations, which reports some familiar reasons are creating that gap.
The group Just Economics pegs the living wage for 2019 in Buncombe County at $13.65 per hour for those not receiving healthcare through their employer, up from $13.00 last year. The living wage for those who receive health insurance from their employer for 2019 is $12.15 per hour. Carmen Ramos-Kennedy of Just Economics says one factor weighs heavily in how they determine the living wage. “The cost of housing. The cost of renting a house," she says. "And the only reason Just Economics increases (the living wage rate) is because the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development says the cost has changed at least three percent.”
The cost of housing continues to climb in Buncombe County, as the minimum wage has stayed still for almost a decade at $7.25 per hour. Ramos-Kennedy adds there’s a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that aren’t going to slow the cost of housing. “First of all there’s a shortage. We don’t have workforce housing here. And we have all the drivers of people coming in, people from other areas being able to afford more. That drives the cost up. It drives the taxes up. The landlords have to pay more so they want more from the workers that are living in their places. And quite frankly, I think a lot of people are making a lot of money on real estate they rent out.”
North Carolina is one of 21 states – which includes all four states that neighbor it - that have a $7.25 minimum wage, the rate that was set by the federal government in 2009.