Housing affordability worsens for renters

By: Leslie Black-Plumeau

Despite reports of lower housing prices associated with the recent economic recession, housing affordability has continued to worsen, particularly for the nation’s working and lower income renters, according to several reports released recently.  

According to the Center for Housing Policy, median housing costs increased 4% between 2008 and 2010 while incomes declined by 4% for the nation’s working renter households (as shown in the graph from the Center’s Housing Landscape 2012 report).

Nearly 1 in 5 working Vermonters spends at least half of their income for housing, according to the report’s state-level analysis. This level of housing cost burden, particularly for lower income households, leaves dangerously few resources for other necessities, such as food, transportation, and medical care.

Housing problems can also lead to other non-housing problems, according to the Center’s Jeffrey Lubbell:  Health problems (when children in poor quality housing get asthma or lead poisoning); education problems (when high housing costs force families to move from one unstable living environment to another); and transportation, infrastructure and environmental problems (when people locate far from their workplace to find housing they can afford).

For detailed Vermont and county level statistics regarding housing affordability among the state’s renters, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s recent “Out of Reach” report describes the gap between rents and incomes for various households.

For example, Vermont’s Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $976. Households spending this much for rent would need to earn an hourly wage of at least $18.77 to limit their expenditure for housing to the advised 30% of income. For the many Vermonters earning the minimum wage of $8.46, this prevailing rent level is far out of reach.