Rental Housing, Too, Becomes Less Affordable — Americans Continue to Downsize and Use More Storage

Posted on Sep 28 2010 - 11:36pm by Tony Gonzalez

Like homebuyers, many renters are having to downsize, putting more things in storage to make it possible to live in a smaller space, as housing prices become less affordable. Putting some things in storage makes downsizing a little bit easier by increasing the amount of space in a home available for use and decreasing the percentage of home space that is used for storage. While some renters use storage permanently as a way of decreasing the amount of living space that they need to pay for every month, others use it temporarily, while they transition to another home or to hold items that they are selling on eBay or Craig’s List.

According to the federal government, housing that costs more than 30 percent of a renter’s household income is too expensive. But in 2009, the number of renters spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent rose from 50 percent (the 2008 level) to 51.5 percent. About 26.4 percent were spending more than half of their income on housing.

The lowest number of renters spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing was reported in Columbus, Indiana. Only 29.8 percent of renters there spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent. By contrast, 68.2 percent of renters in College Station, Texas spent more than 30 percent of their money on rent — the highest rate in the nation.

The housing statistics were affected by two recent trends. In 2009, median household income for Americans dropped by 2.9 percent. At the same time, unemployment rose, sometimes reaching a level as high as 10.2 percent. But median rent and utility costs rose about three percent during the same period, rising to $842 from $818.

On the other hand, renters could can afford to buy housing are in a good position to do so, as the median home price dropped six percent last year. The percentage of homeowners spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing has held steady at about 37.6 percent since 2008. But in 2009, the overall number of homeowners dropped by almost 500,000. Meanwhile, the number of renters increased by almost a million.

“Housing affordability is being challenged by a decline in household income and by the job market,” commented Harvard research analyst Daniel McCue, of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, in yesterday’s USA Today.

Because renters who spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing are less likely to spend money on consumer items, the economy is likely to be hurt by these changing statistics.

In addition, families who spend most of their income on housing are likely to be financially unstable. Many are at risk for homelessness, according to the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, which just released a study on the New Mexico housing crisis.

Florida, too, has been hit hard by rising poverty levels.

“If we have to use more gas, we get less groceries,” said Loretta Fuller in The Florida Times-Union last week. “Sometimes you look at a shirt and think, I could wear that one more time before washing it.”

Sources used:

Conner, Deirdre. “Jacksonville poor caught between bad economy, rising fees and taxes.” The Florida Times-Union. Sept. 21, 2010.

Davidson, Paul and Hansen, Barbara. “Housing cost unaffordable for more than half of renters.” USA Today. Sept. 28, 2010.

Huval, Lisa. “New Mexicans are struggling to pay for housing.” Sept. 28, 2010.

Hsiu, Winnie. “The downsizing boom.” Self Storage Industry News. Sept. 27, 2010.