The world has changed and renting has changed right along with it.
Renting has long been the traditional first-step toward home ownership and, in later life, a lifestyle-simplifying option for long-term property owners intent on liberating equity.
- The latest Report by The Pew Charitable Trusts reveals that the lingering legacy of the 2007-09 Great Recession is more households making a slower transition to homeownership because they are “rent burdened.”
- This research also showed that senior-headed households were more likely to be rent burdened than households headed by people in other age groups.
In the Pew Report, “American Families Face a Growing Rent Burden: High
Housing Costs Threaten Financial Security and Put Homeownership Out of Reach for Many,” authors define “rent burdened” households as those spending more than 30 percent of their pretax income on housing. Such
families are usually “more financially fragile” than those spending a lower percentage of their income on rent and than those who own their own homes. “Severely rent burdened” refers to households spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent.
- Rent Burdened: The Report examined how, between 2001 and 2015, increasing rent cost affected the ability of American households to use financial services, accumulate savings, and transition to homeownership. In 2015, 38 percent of the more than 40 million U.S. renter households were rent burdened, an increase of about 19 percent from 2001.
- Severely Rent Burdened: In the same period, the share of renter households that were severely rent burdened increased by 42 percent. Escalating rent burdens were driven in part by year-over-year growth in housing costs — rent plus utilities — that far exceeded increases in pretax income. This means that after paying rent, many Americans have less money available for other core needs than similar households did 20 years ago.
- Data Source: Pew research was based on the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the longest running (since 1968) longitudinal household survey in the world. This survey of 18,000 in 5,000 American families has generated data about household finances that is free and broadly accessible.
- +55 Renters: Pew Project Director Erin Currier said she was most surprised to learn that, although the share of renter households has increased by 10 percent for all age groups, the current rental spike is propelled by renters 55 and older. In 2015, about half of senior-renter families were rent burdened with more than one-fifth severely rent burdened.
What’s the eviction picture in your community?
The Eviction Lab The Eviction Lab at Princeton University explains rent-burden patterns this way: “Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend over half of their income on housing costs (rent plus utilities), and eviction is transforming their lives. Yet little is known about the prevalence, causes, and consequences of housing insecurity.”
Sociologist Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, discovered that eviction, incredibly prevalent in low-income communities, functioned as “a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.”
In 2017, Desmond established The Eviction Lab with the shared conviction that “a stable, affordable home is central to human flourishing and economic mobility.” The Lab’s nation-wide data bank of more than 80 million eviction records going back to 2000 is accessible to the public and researchers at no charge.
The Lab’s open invitation to policymakers, community organizers, professionals, and anyone interested in real estate encourages the use of online tools like The Map to understand how eviction, and the associated traumatic and financial loss, are shaping individual communities. The intent is that this participation will contribute to laws, policies, and programs that are effective locally in reducing poverty and eviction and fostering residential security.
How are evictions affecting value in your community?
Researchers believe that sharing data about local housing, eviction, and poverty patterns will raise awareness of local issues and stimulate development of new solutions. This in turn should improve understanding of what drives poverty in America and what can be done to strengthen housing stability for low-income families and communities.
Two Faces of Rental…
Real estate investors, property owners, and related service providers see rising rents and increasing rental demand as investment opportunity:
- At its best, this investment drive will lead to the construction of more rental units which may stabilize demand and pricing.
- At its worst, this could result in evictions — already considered at crisis levels by many — rising above the almost 1 million evictions annually.
As research raises awareness of the social impact of rent burden is there room for both sides — landlords and tenants — to benefit from decreasing eviction and creating healthy stable rental markets?
After more than 40 years in property management, Jeff Cronrod developed LeaseGuarantee, a cosigner product that guarantees tenant performance to protect landlords from financial loss through eviction. This product helps landlords, but I asked Cronrod whether tenants may benefit, too.
Cronrod responded by email: “As for tenants, LeaseGuarantee may be used to offset all or part of the required move-in money, thus significantly reducing the cash required to secure a new rental. Additionally, a tenant who has had some credit challenges in the past can use LeaseGuarantee to help them qualify for a unit without seeking a cosigner. A tenant who successfully completes their tenancy without delinquency may also have their credit bolstered if reported to the credit bureaus.”
Renting is no longer the cheap, easy-to-arrange housing alternative in many communities. Rents continue to steadily increase, demand is continually growing, homeownership is on the decline, incomes have not kept pace with rising real estate and rental costs, and short-term rental is monopolizing housing stock. What’s next?