By Barbra Murray, Contributing Writer
Washington, D.C.–Employers are slowly adding to their payrolls when it comes to certain positions, but those who are grabbing these new jobs will struggle to pay for housing with their new salary, according to a recently released report by the Center for Housing Policy.
The CHP study–Paycheck to Paycheck: Is Housing Affordable for Americans Getting Back to Work?–is based on what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently determined are the five most common jobs for which employers are doing the most hiring: accountants, groundskeepers, janitors, office clerks and security guards. In the apartment sector, “afford” is defined as the ability to pay monthly rent with no more than 30 percent of one’s monthly income. Based on those terms, only accountants can afford to rent at average prices. Accountants also constitute the only one of the five employment groups that can afford to buy a condominium or single-family home at today’s typical prices, despite presently low interest rates.
Out of 210 affordable metro areas assessed in the report, an accountant could afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment in each of those markets, while an office clerk could fund such accommodations in just 129 of the markets. A security guard, groundskeeper or janitor would be able to spare the money for a market-rate one-bedroom rental in 116, 98 and 49 of the markets, respectively. Of course, location matters. Springfield, Mo., tops the list as the least expensive rental market, followed by Wheeling, W.Va.; Brownsville, Tex.; Bay City, Mich.; and Fort Wayne, Ind.
The jobs that are becoming available simply do not provide salaries that are sufficient for workers to house themselves in an average-price apartment or single-family residence.
The situation is not one that can be resolved quickly or easily. “I think it’s going to take quite a bit of change,” Jeffrey Lubell executive director of CHP, tells MHN. “Particularly, as a society, we really need to make a decision that we are going to think about our housing market as something that needs to be addressed holistically so that families of all incomes can afford to have a place to live. That really requires a series of different policies, particularly at the local level, in a coordinated fashion to help low- and moderate-income families be able to afford a place to live.”
Much of the problem concerns obstacles to development. In any given city across the country, there can be numerous challenges for apartment builders especially, from land restrictions to community preferences. “We need to take a real, good, hard look at all of the rules we’ve set up to make development difficult,” he says. “But then, we need to go on the opposite side and say how do we actually encourage the kind of development that we really need, which is development for families of low to moderate incomes. So we need a permanent process for the development of housing affordable to lower incomes, policies that either encourage or require that a share of new development is affordable for low-and moderate-income families.”
And while the credit market is no longer frozen solid, it remains frosty, so moving a new apartment project from the drawing board to the ground continues to be a quite a challenge. “We really need to make sure that we’re making the financing available to allow these projects to move forward because I’ve seen that we’re going through a disruption in the market now where there’s not enough multifamily coming online, Lubell says. “So, while it’s definitely important to think about single-family, too, for low- and moderate-income families it’s particularly important to be thinking about multifamily–for both affordable housing and market-rate housing. We definitely need to make more supply available and then we also need to think seriously about how we ensure that a share of that supply is affordable to low- and moderate-income families.”