As 2017 comes to an end, the U.S. real estate market has continued to be strong overall—all while housing affordability remains a big issue both nationally and locally. As a millennial and realtor, I regularly encounter people in my age group who are unable to buy a home because they cannot save money and have been spending half their incomes on housing for many years. Lower interest rates and access to capital have helped with the growth of some affordable housing, but the need for relief continues to grow as rents and home prices increase and interest rates increase, but wages remain relatively stagnant.
According to sources, including Enterprise and the Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than one in four families who rent their homes are cost-burdened. Translating to about 11.4 million renter households nationwide, the group has increased by 30 percent in the last decade. This is expected to increase into the next decade, even were rent and income growth to match.
Many renter households are young families or senior citizens with limited resources, for whom rising rents are a serious challenge, many being single-person households with only one income. The JCHS report states that the share of renter households that are cost burdened is about 47 percent. Cost-burdened families are often faced with the choice of paying for a roof over their heads, over basic needs such as food, health care and transportation. These choices also affect our economy, when people choose poor nutrition and less health care and have less money to spend.
Too often, those who are financially burdened are looked upon as a separate segment of society and forgotten. Policy makers, government and society as a whole need to look at everyone as part of a system, and to come up with solutions when there are failures or shortcomings. One person's dysfunction affects everyone else in one way or another.
I am grateful Bend has an affordable housing program and that there are many citizens concerned about this issue. With proposed cuts in Housing and Urban Development funding and tax law changes for the new year, there can be both positive and negative consequences to this affordable housing crisis. The general consensus is that more will be required at the local level, as opposed to federal levels which will pose additional burdens close to home. I can only hope 2018 will be a better year for affordable housing and that things keep improving rather than getting worse.