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Affordability Issues Extend to Low-Cost Areas

residential segregation in housingRenters are generally more cost-burdened than homeowners, especially in high-cost coastal cities, but people in lower-cost communities are also paying a large part of their income for rent because their wages are often much lower than the national average, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

This includes communities such as Las Vegas and Reno, where nearly half of renter households are cost-burdened, paying 30% or more of their annual income on housing, KNPR reports.

“The good news is that when it comes to homeowners the share that is cost-burdened have been coming down steadily over time and as fallen nationally from about 23 million to about 17 million households," said Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.  "Among the renters the situation became much worse, in the years after the recession, as many people struggled to get into home-owning and remain renters for a longer period of time and rents are escalating rapidly."

According to Herbert, much of the problem is not just housing prices, but incomes as well. For example, in some places people making $30,000 to $40,000 a year are struggling to afford housing and in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco the same is true for people making even more money.

He said local governments can use zoning laws, building codes and the building approval process to improve the situation. 

“I think what local governments can certainly do is look and check their own processes to approving development to make sure that they’re allowing sufficient places for developers to come in and put up smaller buildings that can be more cost-effective,” he said.

He adds, “The growing affordable housing problem really in a basic way comes down to the fact that housing costs over some number of years now have increased faster over time than incomes have.”

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a contributing writer for DS News. He is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing, and has studied abroad in Athens, Greece. An East Texas native, he also works part-time as a photographer.
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