Rents continue to increase, spreading the affordability crisis throughout the U.S.

By Elle Johnson | Mar 4, 2020

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The affordability crisis is starting to move inland, making it so earning $40,000 in Omaha won't be enough to comfortably pay rent, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies research said. 

Households that were paying more than 30 percent of income on rent increased between 2011 and 2018. Some of the top cities that saw this were Nashville, Tennessee, Greenville, South Carolina and McAllen, Texas. Omaha ranked ninth. 

Housing is becoming less and less affordable for those individuals that don't have a large salary. 

“The lowest-income people have always had an absurdly high cost of living,” Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, a research associate at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and lead author of the report, said to Union Leader. “But the affordability crisis that we’re seeing now is hitting middle-income renters, and it’s hitting them across the country.”

The research reported in 2018 approximately 48 percent of renters were cost burdened. This is over 20 million Americans. In 2011, 51 percent of the population was cost burdened. Cost burdens are highest in cities with typically high rent, but the research shows it is becoming worse and worse for those in the middle-class. 

Wage growth has also been failing to increase as rent increases throughout the U.S. 

Rents have been continuing to increase because of a large amount of high-income renters. Young, married, white and college graduates are putting off buying a house – whether it be out of preference or necessity. This increases rents and creates new construction projects aimed for the higher end of the market. 

Those with higher incomes caused approximately three-quarters of renters growth between 2010 and 2018, the research said. 

Rentals at cheaper prices went down from 33 percent in 2012 to 25 percent of the national rental stock in 2017. Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas saw the largest declines in low-cost units. 

“This isn’t just a New York or San Francisco story,” Airgood-Obrycki said to the Union Leader on the decreasing housing options for those with a middle income. “This is everywhere.”

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