Friday, December 18, 2015

Regional Changes in the Affordability of Renting an Apartment (2005-2014)

Previously I have posted about the "long and the short" of owning and renting regionally. The American Communities Survey data now lets us look at that trend over the last decade (2005 to 2014) and in this post I wanted to look at the affordability of renting an apartment in the region.

The percentage of the regional population living in apartments is hardly static. In fact it has grown pretty substantially in the last decade. As seen below, while around a quarter of the regional population were apartment dwellers in 2005, last year  almost one in three (32%) opted for living in an apartment.


Apartment living, and the percent of the population who now occupy an apartment, has increased steadily over this period. Whereas some 70,000 people lived in apartments in 2005, as many as 90,000 do now.

Given this growth in apartment living, affordability is something that comes to mind - are people able to find affordable apartments based on their income? HUD defines affordable rental housing on the basis that a household should spend no more than 30% of its income on rent. Fortunately the ACS lets us break out the costs of rent by household income. For the most part, very few apartment based households with incomes in excess of $50,000 find themselves spending 30% or more for rent. As a general rule, fewer than 5% of this upper income apartment dwellers spend 30% or more of their income on rent. For them this pattern varies very little over the past decade.

However, those with incomes of less than  $50,000 find themselves facing a different trend. Below is a chart showing the percent of renters paying 30% or more for rent over the past ten years broken into three household income groups: those making less than $20,000 per year; those making from $20,000 to $34,999, and those making from $35,000 to $49,999.


Two things should be apparent from this graph.

First, the less income you have the more likely you are to spend 30% or more on rent. Typically four out of every 5 households in the "under $20,000 income" bracket continually have to spend 30% or more of their income on housing.

Second, affordability is a growing issue for those in the lower-middle income brackets. While those in the lowest income bracket (under $20,000) have seen a slight increase in the percentage of renters struggling with affordability in the last decade (less than .7% increase per year), those making anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 have seen their numbers grow by 2.1% annually - three times that of the lowest income group!

This has resulted in a doubling (2X) of the percentage of renters who make $20,000 to $34,999 that pay 30% or more of their income for rent, and a quintupling (5X) of renters who have household incomes of $35,000 to $49,999 that now pay 30% or more for rent.

As more ACS data becomes available it will be interesting to see if this pattern changes.