Urban Institute: Mapping America’s Rental Housing Crisis

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From the start of the housing bubble to now, there is virtually no place left in the U.S. unaffected by housing costs, regardless if you are currently looking to buy or rent. While there are many reasons for this occurring, the mainstream media has perhaps focused more on home buyers than on renters.

Our neighbors to the south in Oregon made national news earlier this year as they were the first state in the nation to impose rent control, adding weight to discussions in Washington State. Oregon’s new law caps annual rent increases at 7%.

While the 7% annual increase outpaces both inflation and wage growth, if Oregon’s law was applied to $800 monthly rent during year-one, rent would increase to $1,122, or by just over 40% in five-years While slightly different than the average rent, fair market rent increased for both one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments by 20% and 16% respectively in the last 5-years.

National inflation rates ranged from a low of 0.7% (in 2015) to a high of 3.0% (in 2011). Wages are even slower growing based upon the Average Wage Index (AWI) offered by the U.S. Social Security Administration Over the last 10-years (2009-2018), the average annual increase of the AWI was only 2.36%, with the lowest annual increase (-1.51%) occurring in 2009, and the highest annual increase (3.62%) in 2018.

The Assisted Housing Initiative, a project of the Urban Institute, has another way to show the housing cost burden of renters. Offering an interactive called Mapping America’s Rental Housing Crisis, the project is self-described as the “best estimate of the affordable rental housing gap and federal assistance for extremely low-income (ELI) renter households at the county level in the United States.”

The main premise of the project is since 2000 in the U.S., rents have increased in the U.S. while at the same time, the number of renters needing affordable housing has also increased.

Using HUD and USDA housing assistance options on for the 5-year period of 2010-2014 in the U.S., the Urban Institute estimates that there were approximately 11.775 million (ELI) households, with only about 5.374 million adequate, affordable, and available housing units. Reducing to its lowest terms, this is 46 adequate, affordable, and available housing units for every 100 ELI renter households in the U.S.

In Benton County during 2014, there were approximately 6,040 ELI households with 2,031 adequate, affordable, and available housing units. In  lowest terms, there were 34 adequate, affordable, and available housing units for every 100 ELI renter households in the county. It’s estimated an ELI family of four in Benton County during 2014 earned a maximum of $23,850.

During 2014 in Franklin County, there were approximately 2,371 ELI households with 731 adequate, affordable, and available housing units. In lowest terms, there were 32 adequate, affordable, and available housing units for every 100 ELI renter households. During 2014, an ELI family of four in Franklin County earned a maximum $23,850.