Has Housing Become More Affordable? No!

Apr 02 at 10:29am - emily
The Ventura County housing market remains unaffordable to the majority of its renters, according to Out of Reach 2012, a nationwide comparison of housing wages. The data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that a Ventura County worker must earn $27.62 hourly, or over $57,400 annually, to afford the $1,436 rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment. The median Ventura County renter household income is only $49,625, putting a two-bedroom apartment out of reach for 56 percent of the renting population.

Two additional reports show how dismal the affordable housing situation is for low-income households in this country.

According to the Center for Housing Policy’s "Housing Landscape 2012” report, nearly one in four working households spends more than half of its income on housing. Even as home prices declined, housing affordability worsened sharply for both homeowners and renters between 2008 and 2010, said Laura Williams, a research associate at the Center and author of the report.

Renters saw their incomes decline by 4 percent while their housing costs increased 4 percent during the two-year period. Rents continued to go up because of strong demand for apartments.

The situation also worsened on the homeownership side. For homeowners, housing costs dipped 2 percent, but their incomes decreased by 5 percent. The drop in earnings was attributed to many homeowners being laid off or having their hours cut. In addition, many families bought their homes before the sharp fall in prices so their housing costs do not reflect today’s lower prices.

Not surprisingly, California is the state with the highest share of working households with a severe housing cost burden (34%) while Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif. is the metropolitan area with second highest share of people with a severe housing cost burden in the country at 38%.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) provides another way of looking at the affordable housing need. It found through an analysis of the 2010 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample that the gap between the number of renter households with very low incomes and extremely low incomes and the number of rental housing units that are affordable and available to these households is widening.

For every 100 extremely low-income renter households, those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income, the NLIHC found that there are only 30 affordable and available units. For every 100 very low-income renter households, those earning between 31 percent and 50 percent of the median family income, there are only 58 affordable and available units.

With the shortage of affordable housing units and the severe housing cost burdens, the consequences for some of the nation’s most low-income households could be severe. NLIHC President Sheila Crowley sums it up well, saying there are millions of families whose incomes are so low and whose housing costs are so high that all it would take is a few days out of work with a sick child or one high heating bill to push them into homelessness.

Crowley adds: "I would hope that public officials could be as concerned about this housing crisis as they are about the foreclosure crisis. The scarcity of affordable rental housing for poor people is of similar consequence as the foreclosure crisis for the people affected and the larger economy. Yet, it remains one of the most neglected areas of public policy.”

The California legislature is currently reviewing a bill, SB 1220, that will create a permanent funding source for affordable housing. It is the Housing Opportunity and Market Stabilization (HOMeS) Act introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. It proposes a modest fee to real estate document recordings, a small fraction of any transaction. Other states have it. If Californians are tired of being at the top of the Out of Reach list, we should let our State Senators and Assembly Members know.

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