Five-year rent increase of 69% an example of staggering housing costs

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(The Center Square) – Rent jumped 69% in some areas of North Carolina in recent years, contributing to one in four residents unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to the North Carolina Housing Coalition.

The coalition recently released 2024 County Profiles that delve into housing need and the impact of rising prices on residents amid a population boom that has added 259,559 new North Carolinians to the ninth-most populous state since April 2020.

“I think what we’re starting to see … is more systematic economic markers that are making the housing crisis worse,” Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, director of Housing Policy, told The Center Square. “It’s really impossible to confine this issue to rural, urban or suburban. This is something happening in all 100 counties.”

The profiles are designed as an accessible tool housing advocates and organizations can use to communicate a snapshot of the housing needs within individual communities.

New metrics in the annual profiles for 2024 include increases in fair market rent since the pandemic and over the last five years.

“We did this specifically to try and communicate and show how much the cost of living has increased both postpandemic and in the last five years,” Watkins-Cruz said in a recent coalition podcast. “In some places, there was an increase as high as 69% in the fair market rents over the last five years, and as high as 34% just in the last year alone.”

Highlights from the research show nearly 1.2 million North Carolina households are cost-burdened, or pay more than 30% of their income on housing. Across all counties an average of 28% of the state’s residents meet that threshold, with Hyde County (47%) at the top.

Metropolitan areas with the largest increases in fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment between 2018 and 2023 include a 69% increase to $1,680 per month in Asheville, 55% to $1,631 in Durham-Chapel Hill, 52% to $1,646 in Raleigh, 51% to $1,554 in Charlotte, and 51% to $1,515 in Wilmington.

“The housing wage that’s needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in many counties is double, and in some places quadruple, the minimum wage, meaning that no one earning a minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom at fair market rent in any county across North Carolina,” Watkins-Cruz said in the podcast.

Other data in the profiles includes eviction filings compared to the total number of cost-burdened renter households. Edgecombe, Nash and Vance counties have the highest ratios at 90.63%, 69.18%, and 48.99%, respectively.

“We don’t believe there’s one solution, because there’s not one factor creating this,” Watkins-Cruz told The Center Square. “Naturally, a lot of the supply that’s being created is not affordable or within reach” of many North Carolinians.

The coalition’s proposed solutions to address the rising cost of housing revolve largely around increasing funding for government housing programs and educating the public about exclusive zoning, land use reforms, and the barriers to home ownership.

The nonprofit’s policy agenda calls for increasing and devoting a dedicated revenue source for the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund and Workforce Housing Loan Program. It also aims for “an office within our state government to focus on coordination of housing programs across state agencies” and increased technical assistance.

Other advocacy centers on changes to screening criteria and processes used by landlords, statewide protections against income discrimination in publicly funded developments, and increased support for rental assistance programs.

On the federal level, the coalition is pushing for the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act to increase low-income housing tax credits, and highlighting “the impact of special purpose credit programs on underserved populations.”

Watkins-Cruz contends support for organizations working to address the housing crisis is also important.

“If we don’t have adequately equipped organizations … a lot of these solutions become even harder to implement,” she told The Center Square.

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