Some residents spent the week celebrating after Initiative 77, which will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for tipped workers, passed this week. But others were shocked to learn that despite measures to make the city more affordable, the cost of housing in the District is still exorbitant.
Here’s the best and worst from this week’s headlines:
Hotels and restaurants around the District will soon be expected to pay workers a full $15 an hour for their work, rather than paying a wage of $3.33 an hour and expecting them to rely on tips.
The passage of Initiative 77, while highly controversial, is good news for D.C. residents. Raising or abolishing tipped minimum wages can help ease growing income inequality in the city, which is important as D.C. has the widest gap of any state.
Two of the occupational groups expected to be most affected, bartenders and servers, made a median annual salary of less than $22,000 per year in 2017, according to statistics from the Department of Labor. That income is beneath the federal poverty line if the worker is supporting a family of four.
Initiative 77 is also designed to protect groups that face discrimination. The majority of tipped workers in the city are women or people of color. Female tipped workers are also twice as likely to live in poverty compared to their male co-workers.
Despite these statistics, the biggest criticism of the measure is that it will damage the District’s restaurant industry, which is one of the city’s biggest employers. However, other cities that have nixed the tipped minimum wage like San Francisco and Seattle still have booming restaurant industries.
This proposal is a huge step toward bringing thousands of District workers above the poverty line and closing the city’s income inequality and gender pay gaps.
While residents might be celebrating the pay bump tipped workers are expected to receive, it comes as a disappointment that cost of living in D.C. is still skyrocketing.
District residents have to earn $34.48 an hour in order to afford a two bedroom home, according to a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. While anyone who has looked for housing in the city might not be shocked by this, we should all be appalled.
While this report compares D.C., which is just one major city, to entire states – the only state with a higher housing cost than the District is Hawaii. When factoring in residences in Maryland and Virginia, housing prices still remain too high, as both states would require someone to earn at least $24 an hour to afford a two bedroom home.
These numbers are particularly troubling for students and recent alumni of the University. While many GW students come from affluent backgrounds and can afford housing in the District with support from their families, there are many that can’t. This adversely affects students who often start in lower wage jobs.
The high cost of living could also prevent students from living in D.C. over the summer to take internships needed to gain job experience.
For minimum wage workers, it’s nearly impossible to afford to live in the District. The report states workers would need to clock in 104 hours at the federal minimum wage to support a two bedroom home.
With that in mind, the city must continue enacting measures, like Initiative 77, that will make living in D.C. more affordable for those bringing in lower wages.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a sophomore majoring in political science, is the Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.