Housing Prices Continue to Squeeze Budgets

Written by Ashley Sutphin Posted On Monday, 23 January 2023 00:00

For people living paycheck-to-paycheck, which is a growing percentage of people, housing is not only their most significant expense, but it’s continuing to put a tight squeeze on their budgets.

This past summer, the average rent hit a record nationwide—24% higher than the same time two years before. According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum-wage worker who was working full-time couldn’t afford a rental with two bedrooms anywhere in the country. That same report showed that every state in the country lacks an adequate supply of affordable housing.

For families who live paycheck-to-paycheck, rent comes first from their paychecks. Wages haven’t kept pace with rent growth. In 2018, an estimated 10.9 million U.S. households were paying more than 50% of their incomes for rent. That’s worse now for these families.

Several nonprofits and housing coalitions are pushing for legislation to help address the shortage of affordable housing nationwide and bring down some soaring costs. Still, many say a lot more work needs to be done.

Families dealing with paycheck-to-paycheck living and high housing costs are getting creative in making it work. They’re moving to cheaper areas, working with legal advocates and organizations to get housing protection, buying homes together, and taking other similar steps.

After paying monthly housing expenses, many low- and moderate-income renters have little money left for other needs, including food and health care.

A study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that based on an average rent increase of $100 a month, there was an associated 9% increase in homelessness in some key areas. Rising rents put more Americans at risk of eviction, living in shelters, and homelessness.

There were certain protections put in place federally and at the state level in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was meant to prevent evictions, but those moratoriums have largely expired.

Advocates say evictions aren’t only a poverty consequence but a poverty cause. When a tenant is evicted from their home, they’re more likely to lose their jobs within the year and experience major setbacks that create a difficult cycle to break out of. When you have an eviction on your record, it is more challenging to get new housing because of the long-lasting effects on your rental history.

There are a number of rental markets where people can’t find anywhere to live simply because there’s nothing vacant. For example, in Asheville, North Carolina, which was recently named the state’s least affordable city for renters, a boom in tourism has led landlords to turn properties into short-term renters, fueling the housing shortage even more.

Even with sizable monthly incomes, people are finding they can’t compete with other applicants for the limited number of rentals in markets around the country. The soaring mortgage rates have also led to a decline in the number of home buyers, putting even more pressure on rental markets as renters are competing for units and trying to outbid one another.

For families struggling with housing costs right now, along with local organizations and outreach programs, advocates encourage people to contact state bar associations who might connect them with resources where they live.

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