Americans in certain metropolitan areas are spending an “uncomfortably high” share of their incomes on rent, a phenomenon that comes as the residential housing market remains inaccessible for many families, according to an analysis from Moody’s Analytics.
There are currently seven cities where residents pay more than 30% of median income levels to rent an apartment: New York City, and nearby parts of northern New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; and Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, Florida.
“Cost-of-living and shelter affordability concerns are top of mind amongst Americans,” the analysis said. “Not only will rent burdens across median income households remain elevated nationally, but low-income families and those living in the costliest areas will continue to be forced into making difficult trade-offs, often with regard to other life necessities.”
The analysis noted that the only metropolitan area in which residents could expect to pay more than 30% of income on household rent in 1999 was New York City, which had rent-to-income ratios exceeding 53% at the time. More cities have witnessed expensive rental markets as median income grew 77% and rent increased 135% nationwide over the past two decades.
New York City still remains the most expensive rental market in the country with rent-to-income ratios approaching 68% as of last year. Miami follows suit with rent-to-income ratios nearing 42%; cities in Florida have experienced above-average rent growth as an early end to lockdowns and an overall lower tax burden boosted net migration over the past three years.
Increased rental costs occur as home affordability continues to plummet. Public health mandates caused low labor force participation and supply chain constraints, worsening the trend of decreased construction levels for residential real estate, while elevated interest rates in recent months induced high mortgage rates, keeping potential buyers in their apartments.
“Rental demand surged as a result and drove rates sky high,” the analysis continued.
The overall housing market had a shortage of 3.8 million properties as of 2019, according to data from the government-backed mortgage company Fannie Mae, while the National Association of Realtors estimates that homebuilders should have constructed between 5.5 million and 6.8 million more houses over the past two decades to match current demand.
Rental markets are also seeing decreases in unit sizes, indicating a reversal from the desire for larger properties that corresponded with lockdowns as families spent more time in their homes and breadwinners relied more on virtual work. The average size of new apartments was 887 square feet in 2022, constituting a 3% drop from the previous year and continuing a decline of 54 square feet over the past decade, according to a recent report from RentCafe.
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Median home prices recently fell year-over-year for the first time in more than a decade even as elevated mortgage rates are still rendering properties less affordable for prospective buyers, according to an analysis from Redfin. Homeowners who acquired mortgages at low rates in the months after the lockdowns have reason to avoid selling their properties, a phenomenon that could further limit the number of houses on the market and decrease affordability for buyers.
Median home sale prices increased from $322,600 in the second quarter of 2020 to $467,700 in the fourth quarter of 2022, a metric which has since declined to $436,800 in the first quarter of 2023, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.