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An Austin, T.X. nonprofit organization is asking the nation’s mayors to abolish the federal minimum wage, and replace it with a “universal living wage.”

The group, House the Homeless believes that its plan to index the minimum wage to county and regional housing costs would help end homeless among working Americans.

The group offers a “universal living wage” formula, calculated so that employees working 40 hours a week, would need to spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing, allowing them to afford at the very least an efficiency apartment.

“Whatever county you live in, you will be able to afford the housing in that area if you put in your 40 hours of work,” Richard Troxell, the president of House the Homeless, said.
More than 3.5 million Americans worked hourly jobs at or below the minimum wage in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While mayors cannot change federal policy, Troxell believes that they will understand the initiative and advocate a change in the current minimum wage policy.

“The mayors are the ones who are dealing with the fallout of not appropriately addressing this problem,” Troxell said.

In Nashville, Tennessee, the average apartment rent-excluding utilities rose to $892 dollars in October of 2013, the highest ever. A 40 hour workweek leaves minimum wage workers with only $1,256.57 per month. This issue is understood by Rusty Lawrence, who is the executive director of Urban Housing Solutions in Nashville.

“The idea of indexing the minimum wage in locality to the cost of housing is an excellent way to reduce the housing cost burden on our lower income families and individuals and provide more opportunities for those without housing to obtain it,” Lawrence said. “Right now, we’re giving them so little that people are homeless with a check in their pocket.”

And while Troxell understands that this change will take time, he believes that the universal living wage is possible.

“It would devastate the existence of homelessness in this nation,” Troxell said. “It would no longer even be a term anymore.”

*Based on an article originally published in The Contributor, Nashville T.N.’s street newspaper.