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Do renters have it tougher?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis December 9, 2013 05:57 AM

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Home buyers and owners have certainly faced their share of misery over the past decade.

And the return of escalating home prices is fast undoing any minor increase in affordability created after the real estate market - and the world economy - tanked back in 2008.

But all is not well in Renter Nation either.

No, it's not the happy land of footloose and fancy free Millennial types we have all been hearing about, who are choosing to rent because it fits their evolving, earth friendly lifestyles.

What hogwash.

Rather, renters across the country are increasingly finding themselves cash strapped, having to devote ever greater amounts of shrinking or stagnant paychecks just to keep a roof over their heads.

So says the Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies in a new report just out this morning.

Adjusted for inflation, rents nationally have risen by 6 percent over the past decade. Meanwhile, renters have seen their incomes plunge during the same period by an ugly 13 percent, the Harvard study finds.

"The gravity of the situation for the large proportion of renters spending so much of their incomes on housing is plain," said Eric Belsky,
managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, in a press statement. "We are losing ground rapidly against a chronic problem that forces households to cut essential spending."

More than half of all renters across the country now shell out more than 30 percent of their income to their landlords, thrusting them into the land of the so-called "rent burdened."

That's up from a still alarming, but significantly lower, 38 percent back at the start of the 2000s.

Second, 27 percent of all apartment dwellers are shoveling more than half their pay into their monthly rent checks, up from less than 20 percent a decade before.

For the low-income renters, the only way to make ends meet is to cut back on other essentials, such as groceries.

The good news is that the market is responding, with builders starting to put up new apartment buildings and larger developments across the country.

Yet we are dealing with a growing, long-term problem here. While more apartments will help, it's definitely not going to solve the affordability problem overnight.

So what's your solution here? Should we given even more incentives to builders? Spend more money on subsidized housing? Bring back rent control?

What's your take?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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