Rents soar, wages stagnate across nation

More than 25 percent of American renters spend half of their income on housing costs.

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A major drag on the economic recovery has been stagnating wages and skyrocketing rents.

A recent study found that more than 25 percent of renters spend at least half of their income to pay for housing costs.

From the Associated Press:

Enterprise Community Partners’ analysis dovetails with findings from other organizations. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has estimated that 12 million renters and homeowners spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing. And Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found in a 2013 report that roughly 27 percent of renters were devoting half their incomes to rent. Those levels were “unimaginable just a decade ago,” the report said.

Average hourly wages have risen just 2.1 percent in the past 12 months, according to the Labor Department. Over the same time period, rental prices have climbed 3.7 percent, Zillow said last week. Many renters lack the income to pay the cost of maintaining and operating these buildings, said Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America and a trustee at the nonprofit Mercy Housing.

For the working poor, a demographic that earns $15,000-$30,000 a year, one-in-three households suffers from “severe rent burden,” according to GateHouse Media.

For decades, federal public housing programs provided a safety net with low-cost apartments or rent vouchers. Those programs currently help 5.5 million households live in affordable housing, but that’s well below the number of people in need. Congress removed 100,000 rent vouchers in the last two years, and the federal government hasn’t added any new public housing units in more than a decade.

Experts in affordable housing say families buried under high rents need an expansion of federal rent voucher programs. They also need state and local governments to invest in more affordable housing construction. But for now, the affordability crisis facing renters shows few signs of improvement, even as millions more renters are expected to enter the market in the coming decade.

In Southern Oregon, Jackson County officials are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crisis.

From the Medford Mail Tribune:

With a three-year rental waiting list at Jackson County Housing Authority and a 1.89 percent vacancy rate for rentals, Jackson County is facing a serious rental crisis, perhaps the worst in decades, housing officials say.

“There’s a big gap, a big need,” says Scott Foster, executive director of the Housing Authority, which owns and develops rentals for low-income residents. “We have 4,000 people on our waiting list and they’re having a darn tough time. They sleep in cars. Some are homeless. It takes three years to get to the top of the list. It’s really tight and it’s that way now in most communities.”

Foster said the problem persists along most of the I-5 corridor and to “find a rental, you have to live where there are no jobs.”


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