Updated: Jul 4
There is a secret crisis that is affecting many households in our communities. More and more families are struggling to pay rent. According to a by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, a record number of Americans are renting homes and are having a hard time paying their rent. The US Census also reported that in 2013 one in three Central Virginia households have more than 30% of their income tied to housing cost (Richmond City 48%, Henrico County 40%, Chesterfield 35%).
As for who is feeling the crunch, while the study finds that low-income households are suffering the most, moderate-income renters earning as much as $45,000 a year are also suffering.
The reasons why families are having trouble paying their rent is a bigger conversation than high rent expenses. But it is often a conversation that when we talk about affordable housing we steer away from. So let’s talk about it.
Rising rents- Rents are rising every month. The main reason behind this is simply supply and demand. The lack of affordable homes on the market means more people are renting. This gives rental property owners leverage to set their market price.
Income-Many Americans have had stagnate incomes for years. They are working longer hours and even picking up second jobs to stay afloat. Unfortunately, chances are the second job usually is another low wage job. This leaves families with little to show for their efforts besides exhaustion, frustration and a few hundred dollars more a month.
Complacency- People are accepting their current reality as their truth. They can connect to the struggle but can’t connect to a new reality without the financial battles they have gotten accustom to. The fear of the unknown, the fear of failing and the fear of change keeps people trapped in their current state and turns their temporary truth into their forever situation.
Policies- When you rent, you sign a lease. In that lease they will have a rent due date and a rent late date. Your rent can be considered late one day after the due amount or six days after the due amount. It all depends on the landlord. With the late payment comes late fees. We have seen the fee range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Some properties even file court papers with just days late which increases late payments by even more. For a family that is living check to check, these are fees that will carry over for months to come.
Expenses- So many landlords and property management companies will have set income requirements. More often than not they will want the rent to be at least 1/3 of your income to qualify to rent their property and they will have you bring in pay stubs to prove you can afford the home. However, what they don’t ask and could care less about is the fact that many Americans have car payments that are equal to rent, have expensive cell phone plans, cable bills and Netflix accounts. All of these things coupled with the rise in food expenses, education expenses and gas prices suck up every dollar that is earned.
Fees – Now you have qualified for rent and are in the lease signing phase when you find out about fees. If you have a dog, there is a pet fee, there is a water fee, there is a sewer fee and any other fee a landlord can think of that is not included in the advertised rent price. So you may qualify for a $800/month rent but after all the fees you could be paying $1000/month. That $200 increase may equal an entire paycheck.
Responsibility- I will keep this short. If you spend more than you earn, you will be broke. If you look for immediate gratification in purchases before you handle your rent, you will be evicted sooner or later.
Usually we offer solutions. But this time, we wanted this to sink in. We wanted our readers to think about their current situation, current choices and how it affects their ability to pay rent. There is no need to talk home ownership if you can’t make the right choices, think in the future and prepare yourself for a better tomorrow.