Affordable Rent Slips out of Reach for Majority of Renters

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Renting apartments and other dwellings have become increasingly unaffordable for the majority of Americans who can’t purchase a home.


Housing experts have long determined that renting could only be construed as “affordable” if the cost (plus utilities) didn’t eat up more than 30% of an individual or family’s income. But with rents increasing to rise in many U.S. cities, the 30% threshold is often being eclipsed.


A report (pdf) from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found half of all renters in the U.S. now spend more than 30% of their income on housing.


In 2000, only 38% of renters were confronted with this situation.


Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that the median rent (minus utilities) in at least 90 cities is now more than 30% of the average gross income.


No wonder the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, said late last year that the U.S. was experiencing “the worst rental affordability crisis” in its history.


For renters, the problem is unlikely to abate anytime soon.


Capital Economics says it is a landlord’s market out there, explaining why rents overall are likely to go up 4% this year. In 2013, the national average increase was 2.8%.


Since the financial crisis of 2008, demand for apartments has soared as millions of homeowners lost their properties while young Americans, struggling to get established financially, have turned more often to renting than buying.


The country added 6.2 million renters from 2007 to 2013, but only 208,000 homeowners, Stan Humphries, chief economist the real estate website Zillow, told the Times.


Developers are constructing new apartment buildings in many cities. But, all too often, the structures going up are for high-end, luxury rentals.


“Increasing the supply is not going to increase the number of affordable units; that is a complete and utter fallacy,” Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition, told the newspaper. “People say if there really was a great need, the market would provide it; the market would correct itself. Well, the market has never corrected itself and it’s only getting worse.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

In Many Cities, Rent Is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class (by Shaila Dewan, New York Times)

Rental Housing Affordability (Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University) (pdf)

America’s Rental Housing: Evolving Markets and Needs (Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University) (pdf)

As Homeowners become Renters, Poor Americans Spend more for Rentals (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Renters Still Feeling Increasing Pressure of Economic Crisis…Record Level Spends Half of Income for Housing (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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