Low-income renters outnumber affordable housing in Minnesota

Low-income renters outnumber affordable housing in Minnesota

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Source: Minnesota Housing Partnership Source: Minnesota Housing Partnership
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

A new report from the Minnesota Housing Partnership shows there are more low-income renters than affordable units in all but three of the state's counties -- a lot more.

Affordable housing is defined as rent that is less than 30 percent of a household income, but at least half of Hennepin County and Ramsey County residents are paying 30 percent or more of their income on housing alone.

In both counties, there are only 34 apartments that are affordable and available for every 100 residents making less than $20,000 a year.

Rental rates are highest in the Twin Cities metro, but Stearns County and Kanabec County have the fewest number of affordable units available, with 26 and 27 affordable units per 100 low-income renters.

THE NUMBERS: RENT IN MINNESOTA

- 1 in 2 renters pay more than what they could afford for housing.

- Rent takes up half of the income of over a quarter of Minnesota renters.

- Rental rates have increased about 6 percent statewide since 2000, while personal incomes of renters have dropped about 17 percent

- Those working full time at the median income for their occupation -- food preparation workers and retail salespeople -- cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in any county across Minnesota.

- Almost half of Minnesota's 84 counties with housing shortages need to at least double their affordable rental stocks to meet basic needs.

WAITING LISTS TO LENGTHEN

As the population ages, the rental housing situation is only expected to worsen. While Larry James is one of the lucky ones who has access to affordable housing via a new development run by Episcopal Homes on the corner of University and Dale, he had to search for nearly a year to find it. 

"This was, I think, the answer to some of the people's prayers who wanted affordable housing in the Summit and University area, but at the time, it wasn't that forthcoming," James said.

It's still not forthcoming. Low-income housing is at a premium.

"Right now, the waiting list for King's Crossing is 245 for 50 apartments," Paul Hagen, of Episcopal Homes, explained. "So, that says a lot."

Those types of numbers aren't solely limited to that location either. Episcopal Homes is currently building more apartment units along the site of the old Porky's restaurant on University Avenue. Although it won't be finished until next year, there is already a waiting list of 225 for the 63 affordable-housing units.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

According to the Minnesota Housing Project, dropping incomes are a significant challenge for renters in today's market.

The report incorporated federal census data from Hennepin County to determine that renter income has fallen 19 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, rent rose 3 percent.

Census data from Ramsey County showed a 21 percent decrease in renter income during the same timeframe, with rent increasing 2 percent in that area.

"A lot of the jobs being produced now are ones that really don't allow the incomes needed to afford rent -- or, of course, ownership," Chip Halbach, of the Minnesota Housing Project, explained.

Construction is also lagging. Few apartments were built during the housing boom of the early 2000s, and virtually no apartments were built during the foreclosure crisis.

MINNESOTA LAST IN MIDWEST

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment, a person would have to make at least $16.08 an hour because Fair Market Rent is estimated at $836. Add in utilities to that sum, and a household must earn $2,786 monthly -- or $33,438 annually -- to afford the rental without paying more than 30 percent of total income on housing.

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