Renters facing expensive challenge

Mar. 30, 2013 @ 05:47 PM

Henderson area housing is too expensive for more than half of the 12,000 renter households in Vance, Granville and Warren counties, according to a national study.

The “Out of Reach 2013” report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition noted median incomes for renter households did not cover average fair market rent levels with enough budget to spare for other priorities such as utility heat and water, plus food and clothing needs, insurance and investing.

The N.C. Housing Coalition partnered with the Washington, D.C., organization on gathering data for localities in the state. State director Satana Deberry said statewide trends show more households turning to rental options because of difficulties affording a home to own.

According to a prepared statement, Deberry said, “More people are renting now because they see it as a less expensive option than owning a home. That means the low-wage workers who have always relied on rental housing are getting squeezed out of the hot rental market.”

According to the study of statistics from 2007 through 2011, in Vance County there are 5,838 rental households out of 16,477 total, meaning that slightly more than one-third, 35 percent, are now renting.

The numbers for Warren County run 2,050 renters out of 7,999 for 26 percent, and in Granville County it is 4,396 out of 19,729, or 22 percent.

Housing leaders in the area notice that the availability of affordable housing is at a critical low.

“What we need is more affordable housing,” said Joel Rice, director of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions. “What kind of job industry do we have here? Bojangles’ and Walmart jobs are not going to sustain household purchases.”

It is a long-standing issue, according to Tampara Whitefield, director of the Vance County Housing Authority.

“We have been facing that issue for many years,” Whitefield said. “There has been a need. There is always a need for more subsidized and public housing, of course, because if someone loses their job, they definitely can’t afford $400 to $500 a month for rent.”

The national study noted fair market rent averages for each county, and stated a budget should not be taxed more than 30 percent by rent and household utility costs. The study included information for one, two, three and four bedroom units.

A sampling of data includes the study’s comparisons on two-bedroom units between localities, median renter-household incomes and minimum wage income households.

For two-bedroom units monthly, Vance County runs $670, Warren County $610 and Granville County $722.

As a comparison with Wake County’s 334,000 households, 33 percent of which are rental households, a two-bedroom unit fair market rent is $878 monthly.

The study states that the household income level needs to be $26,800 annually, or a $12.88 hourly wage, to cover the $8,040 annual rental unit costs with $18,760 left for utilities, taxes, insurance, transportation, food and clothing cost and anything left over for vacation and recreation.

The median income for rental households in Vance County runs $19,300 annually, the study states, leaving 65 percent of wage earning households below the $26,800 annual income level. The study suggests other priorities fall short.

For Warren County, the numbers run at $18,600 median income for renters, with $24,400 annual, or $11.73 hourly, needed for a two-bedroom unit, resulting in the priority skimping by 63 percent of those households.

For Granville, it’s a $30,300 median, with a $28,900 need ($13.88 hourly), resulting in a little less than a half of the renter households cutting back on other priorities.

The study indicates the numbers for the more difficult situation of dealing with the limitations of only having minimum wage job opportunities. In Vance County, it takes a 71-hour workweek income at minimum wage, working all 52 weeks, to maintain a two-bedroom rental household without neglecting other priorities. Granville is 77 hours and Warren 65.

Statewide, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $737. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $29,481 annually. Assuming 40-hours work each week, 52 weeks a year, this translates into a housing wage of $14.17 hourly.

The minimum wage situation statewide is 78 hours work needed per week, 52 weeks a year, for a two-bedroom unit. That means a household must have two minimum wage earners working the nearly 40-hour weeks year-round in order to afford a fair-market rental unit.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.